2004 Tour de France runner-up Andreas Klöden kicks off his racing season at this weekend's Swiss double-header: Saturday's GP Chiasso and Sunday's GP di Lugano. The Swiss resident returns fresh from a three week camp in balmy South Africa, where he trained with Jan Ullrich.
"I am delighted to finally get my season underway. I have made huge strides in recent weeks towards building up my form. Now I want to see where I stand relative to the competition," said Klöden, who hasn't raced in the seven months since crashing out of the Tour with a wrist injury.
Despite Klöden's encouraging preparations, T-Mobile's Mario Kummer is keen to play down any high expectations. "Andreas is just coming out of training. He has trained well but racing is a whole lot more intense."
T-Mobile will look to its new recruit, Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, for results on the weekend. Last year's GP Chiasso winner showed in the final stage in Algarve, that he is a force to be reckoned with on a lumpy race route. Linus Gerdemann, Patrik Sinkewitz and Thomas Ziegler also approach the Swiss weekend in good shape and, according to sporting director Frans van Looy, the trio are keen to "show what they can do".
Like Klöden, the Italian duo of Eddy Mazzoleni and Giuseppe Guerini, who also arrives from South Africa's Cape region, kick-off their racing season this weekend. Ukrainian veteran Serguei Gonchar rounds out the eight-man TMobile roster.
The GP di Lugano features one 174.3 km loop around the Lago di Lugano and along the Lago Maggiore in Switzerland's Italian speaking region, while the GP Chiasso is raced over two distinct circuits (12.7 km and 16.8 km long) in the same region.
"The routes are extremely demanding. These races are about much more than just rolling the legs in the bunch," says van Looy.
T-Mobile Team roster in brief: Linus Gerdemann, Giuseppe Guerini, Serguei Gonchar, Kim Kirchen, Andreas Klöden, Eddy Mazzoleni, Patrik Sinkewitz and Thomas Ziegler. D.S.:Frans van Looy.