The five-day Ster Elektrotoer will kick off on June 17, looking for another closely contested race. Last year, Paul Martens headed into the final stage with a lead of a slim two seconds over Sebastian Langeveld from Rabobank. But Langeveld out-sprinted Martens for the time bonifications offered during the stage and ended up taking the overall title by the same margin he had trailed going into the stage – two seconds.
Back then Martens, riding for the Skil-Shimano team, was disappointed, as he thought he knew the abilities of his former team-mate Langeveld. But he admitted that the Dutch rider, who was not known for his explosiveness, must have worked on his sprinting abilities.
Rabobank took notice, however, and a year after Langeveld also hired Martens. The latter will be back to try again, although he is more likely to play a support role now in a strong Rabobank line-up, with Graeme Brown hoping for sprint victories, while Joost Posthuma is dreaming of another stage race victory, after the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. Langeveld, who had a great season already and rode extremely well in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, will not take the start in Holland.
With the flat racing and the six-kilometre prologue, Mark Cavendish will be among the favourites for the overall title. He has shown he can time trial well in those short races against the clock. Of course, with the second stage finishing on top of the famous Cauberg, where the Amstel Gold race ends each year, it could be his versatile team-mate Bernhard Eisel instead, to take the race leader's jersey.
Quick Step has made a last-minute change and Tom Boonen will participate. He initially was scheduled to race the Tour de Suisse but the organisers prevented him from that, following his cocaine case.
Other teams that have chances of victory are CSC (Goss, Breschel) and of course Astana, which has been doing well since being prevented from riding the Tour de France, starting each race doubly motivated. Belgian team Silence-Lotto is also a good bet in this kind of race. Robert Hunter from Barloworld will be looking for stage wins in the sprints while Milram's Markus Eichler and Tinkoff's Mikhail Ignatiev are likely candidates for breakaways.
Of course you can never count out any rider of the Skil Shimano team. Maybe they will have another future Rabobank rider on the start.
Stage details and a preliminary start list are available.