By Jeff Jones
ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) will go into this Sunday's Züri-Metzgete (Championship of Zurich) with a comfortable grip on the white jersey, and also as one of the favourites for the victory. Di Luca is coming back into form after a mid-season lull, and should have no problems keeping his grip on the ProTour lead, as most of his nearest rivals have called it quits for the season. On the provisional start list, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) is the only other rider in the top 10 of the ProTour who will be in Zurich on Sunday.
Victory candidates are many for this race, which is often difficult to predict. Despite the severity of the parcours, last year a group of over 30 riders came to the finish, with Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha winning the bunch sprint ahead of Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step). Both those riders are in play again this year, with Bettini probably wanting some revenge after his good-legs-but-no-result World Championships last Sunday.
Looking at some of the other players, Lampre-Caffita is bringing a star-studded team to Zurich, with the likes of Giro winners Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni, sprinter Daniele Bennati, and classics man Alessandro Ballan. T-Mobile also has some firepower, despite lacking stars Alexandre Vinokourov and Jan Ullrich, with 2003 winner Daniele Nardello, 'Swiss' Steffen Wesemann, and Russian hardman Serguei Ivanov.
Cyclingnews will be covering the Championship of Zurich live, with coverage starting at 15:00 CEST (Europe)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Australia East).