The Italian-Spanish connection of Eddy Mazzoleni and Oscar Sevilla will lead the T-Mobile challenge at the Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré (June 4-11), which starts this Sunday. "The race is a serious test for both riders before the Tour de France," said T-Mobile sport and technical director Mario Kummer.
Team director Frans van Looy believes, "The parcours is very difficult and will really test the riders' climbing abilities." Besides the two Tour de France candidates, van Looy will be looking to Bernhard Kohl to make an impact at the Dauphiné. Van Looy believes the young Austrian has proven his "strengths in the mountains" with a string of solid performances this season. And having crashed out of the recent Bayern-Rundfahrt with an injured knee, Kohl is fully recovered and raring to go.
Jörg Ludewig (Germany) and Scott Davis (Australia) travel to France, 'fresh' off finishing the Giro in Milan, while Stephan Schreck, Bas Giling (Ned) and Daniele Nardello (Ita) round out the magenta roster.
The Dauphiné once again starts on a Sunday, this time with a 4.1 km prologue in Annecy. After two flat stages, things get serious on Thursday with a summit finish atop the legendary Mont Ventoux. A day later, the peloton tackles the Col d'Izoard at 2,360 m. The climbing-fest continues on Saturday's stage from Briançon to La Toussuire, which takes the riders over the race's highest point; Col du Galibier at 2,556 m and is almost identical to the Tour de France's 16th stage. The seven-day race concludes on June 11 in Grenoble.
"The Spaniards have been very at home at this race in previous years," said van Looy, referring to Iñigo Landaluze's (Euskaltel) overall win in 2005, following compatriot and team mate Iban Mayo's big win a year earlier.
20 ProTour teams line up this year, with the race’s only wildcard entry going to French Continental team Agritubel.
Full team roster: Scott Davis (Aus), Bas Giling (Ned), Bernhard Kohl (Aut), Jörg Ludewig (Ger), Eddy Mazzoleni (Ita), Daniele Nardello (Ita), Stephan Schreck (Ger), Oscar Sevilla (Spa).
June 4 - Prologue: Annecy ITT, 4,1 km
June 5 - Stage 1: Annecy - Bourgoin-Jallieu, 207 km
June 6 - Stage 2: Bourgoin-Jallieu - Saint-Galmier, 203 km
June 7 - Stage 3: Bourg-de-Péage - Bourg-de-Péage, ITT 42 km
June 8 - Stage 4: Tain-l'Hermitage - Le Mont-Ventoux, 186 km
June 9 - Stage 5: Sisteron - (Col d'Izoard) - Briançon, 155 km
June 10 - Stage 6: Briançon (Col du Galibier - la Croix de Fer - Mollard) - La Toussuire, 169 km
June 11 - Stage 7: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne - Grenoble, 131 km
Total: 1,097 km