A question of loyalty?
By Anthony Tan
Bunch sprint or breakaway? Team or country? Right now, the latter appears to be the biggest issue concerning Madrid's blue-ribbon event, the elite men's road race, where potential hidden factions are likely to play a role in the final outcome.
First, let's focus on three of the strongest teams - Australia, Belgium and Italy - and their line-ups:
Australia: Baden Cooke (Française des Jeux), Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros), Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwen, Henk Vogels (Davitamon-Lotto), Simon Gerrans (Ag2r), Matthew Hayman (Rabobank), Brett Lancaster (Panaria), Michael Rogers (Quick.Step).
Belgium: Mario Aerts, Björn Leukemans, Peter Van Petegem (Davitamon-Lotto), Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel), Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux), Tom Boonen, Wilfried Cretskens, Nick Nuyens (Quick.Step), Marc Wauters (Rabobank).
Italy: Alessandro Petacchi, Marco Velo, Matteo Tosatto, Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo), Paolo Bettini, Filippo Pozzato, Luca Paolini (Quick.Step), Daniele Bennati, (Lampre), Giovanni Lombardi (CSC)
As far as the team from Down Under is concerned, sprinter Robbie McEwen enjoys an enviable support network, with his some of his most important men for the final kilometres showing excellent form of late. Baden Cooke won the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne, Simon Gerrans clinched his second major one-day race at the end of last month, Allan Davis won a stage of the Benelux Tour, and Michael Rogers spent the majority of last month preparing to defend his time trial crown, and is obviously in good form after creating history on Thursday.