By Anthony Tan
The first of August marks the next stop on the ProTour calendar, as 22 teams head to Germany's Deutschland Tour, beginning next Tuesday in Düsseldorf.
Held a week later than last year, the nine-day race begins with a 5.5 kilometre prologue in Düsseldorf's Burgplatz. The following day, the riders traverse the Rhine valley to Bielefeld, which will most likely end in a sprint after 198 kilometres' racing.
Three more fairly straightforward sprinters' stages follow, before Stage 5 takes the peloton over the border into Austria's high Alps for the race's queen stage. The 189 kilometre climb-fest from Bad Tölz to Seefeld crosses the 'roof' of the Tour along the way, the 2,017 metre-high Kuhtai, before the ten kilometre mountain-top finish sees the peloton face 600 metres of vertical climbing.
A day later, and another tough mountain stages in store: 180 kilometres from Seefeld to Sankt Anton, with the finish again in Austria, this time with a summit finish on the Arlbergpass, and likely to give the leaderboard a vigorous shuffle.
However, the final GC may still be in the balance until the penultimate stage, a 38 kilometre time trial in and around Bad Säckingen. Here, the specialists against the clock will get their chance to reverse any time lost to the pure climbers, before the final stage to Karlsruhe on Wednesday.
In last year's edition, American Levi Leipheimer beat Jan Ullrich and team-mate Georg Totschnig to capture overall honours, and the 2006 Dauphiné Libéré champion will be returning to Germany with the aim of defending his title. After a below-par performance at the Tour de France, Leipheimer will be keen to show his new Discovery Channel team he's still got the goods to be a Grand Tour contender.
Prologue - August 1: Düsseldorf ITT, 5,5 km
Stage 1 - August 2: Düsseldorf - Bielefeld, 198 km
Stage 2 - August 3: Minden - Goslar, 209 km
Stage 3 - August 4: Witzenhausen - Schweinfurt, 202 km
Stage 4 - August 5: Heidenheim - Bad Tölz, 192 km
Stage 5 - August 6: Bad Tölz - Seefeld (Austria), 189 km
Stage 6 - August 7: Seefeld - Sankt Anton (Austria), 180 km
Stage 7 - August 8: Bad Säckingen ITT, 40 km
Stage 8 - August 9: Bad Krozingen - Karlsruhe, 182 km
Total distance: 1.390,5 km