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Joseba Beloki (Liberty- Seguros)
For many riders the Tour of Romandie, which runs from today to May 1, is a final warm-up for the...
For many riders the Tour of Romandie, which runs from today to May 1, is a final warm-up for the Giro d'Italia, but for the Liberty Seguros team it represents a handover event. Most of Liberty Seguros' riders at Romandie will take a break after May 1, concluding their spring campaign, except for one: Joseba Beloki will go on to the Giro.
Liberty directeur sportif Manolo Saiz expects a "complicated" tour. "We will come up against everyone who is coming into better form for the Giro, while we are suffering from weariness at the end of the first [racing] cycle, with our sights already on the Tour de France," he said.
Saiz believes the Giro will be decided in the second and third weeks, which is why he is not sending his Giro team to Romandie. Instead, he expects they will ride themselves into form in the Giro's first week after slightly less preparation.
For Beloki, it's his second attempt this year at a comeback, after he dropped out of the Vuelta a Murcia and Tirreno-Adriatico with respiratory infections. Beloki has just completed four days of training in the Pyrenees but says he is "calm" and has no aspirations at Romandie beyond, "helping my team-mates, because the team is good and can do important things. My aims are beyond, in the Giro d'Italia."
Liberty Seguros for Tour de Romandie: Joseba Beloki, Alberto Contador, David Etxebarria, Roberto Heras, Jörg Jaksche, Sergio Paulinho, Marcos Serrano and Ángel Vicioso.
T-Mobile directeur sportif Frans van Looy says the team has selected "a good blend of young and experienced riders" for the Tour de Romandie, headed by veteran Italian Giuseppe Guerini and Andreas Klier. Guerini is fine-tuning his form ahead of a possible start in the Giro d'Italia, while Klier is on the comeback trail after falling at Gent-Wevelgem and finishing second three days before at the Tour of Flanders.
Van Looy thinks Romandie will be more competitive than ever this year. "The race has clearly profited from its ProTour status and its proximity to the Giro, in that the race has rarely attracted as strong a field as this year," he said. "For that reason, it is not going to be easy to grab stage wins, but we might just cause the odd surprise."
T-Mobile hopes that the surprises will start with the prologue, where Olaf Pollack is looking to improve on his 2004 second place behind La Francaise des Jeux's Brad McGee. But as well as McGee, Pollack will also have to beat 2004 Tour de France prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bartolo).
After a couple of relatively flat stages, the race hits the mountains on Friday and Van Looy expects this stage, with three cat 1 climbs, will determine the outcome. "This stage is a real killer," he says.
T-Mobile for Tour de Romandie: Giuseppe Guerini, Torsten Hiekmann, Andreas Klier, Bernhard Kohl, André Korff, Olaf Pollack, Jan Schaffrath, and Sergey Yakovlev.
The champion of Italy, Cristian Moreni will return to racing for Quick Step at the Tour de Romandie after a break forced by a knee injury he sustained in a crash at Milan San Remo back in March. "Romandie will be a good test to return competitive for the Giro," said Moreni in a team statement. "In this race I hope to find again a good feeling and the race rhythm after 20 days of training at home. I would like to honor the [Italian champion's] 'tricolore Jersey' with a good performance during the Giro."
Quick Step for Tour de Romandie: Davide Bramati, Mads Christensen, Ad Engels, José Antonio Garrido, Cristian Moreni, Sebastien Rosseler, Patrik Sinkewitz, Jurgen Van Goolen.
Lampre-Caffita's Damiano Cunego will also be using the Tour de Romandie to warm up for his first big target of the year: a repeat victory in the Giro d'Italia. Team manager Giuseppe Martinelli says Cunego's ninth place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège bodes well. "Damiano's result at Liège-Bastogne-Liège is great, thinking about the Giro but also about future: yesterday he has understood that he is able to win this race," said Martinelli.
Lampre-Caffita for Tour de Romandie: Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Paolo Fornaciari, Gerrit Glomser, David Loosli, Evgeni Petrov, Marius Sabaliauskas, Alessandro Spezialetti.