Team T-Mobile has announced its final per-Tour de France testing line-up for the Tour de Suisse, in its 70th edition this year. Starting next Saturday, June 10, the mountain challenge is a traditional build-up for Jan Ullrich in his preparation for 'D-month', July. After considering riding the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias instead, the German decided to stick to old habits and head the magenta outfit in Switzerland.
"I have enjoyed success in this race in the past and feel very much at ease there," said Der Kaiser, who won the 2004 edition of the race after a dramatic final time trial.
Accompanied by Andreas Klöden and Aussie Michael Rogers, the 32 year-old will be joined by two other riders from T-Mobile's 'Le Tour' core squad. Last year, Rogers had to let go of the overall win on the final stage, when he was overhauled by Basque rider Aitor Gonzalez, as Jan Ullrich finished third overall. This year, Rogers abandoned the Giro d’Italia on stage 13 with severe toothache. Since then, he has been getting treatment at the University Clinic in Freiburg and has now been given the go ahead for the challenge in the Swiss Alps.
Another rider coming back from injury is Andreas Klöden. After an eight-week lay-off because of a fractured shoulder, the 2004 Tour runner-up was back in action at the recent Bayern-Rundfahrt, where he placed third in the time trial.
Linus Gerdemann, who has good memories of the Tour de Suisse, will also form part of the team. The 23 year-old pulled off a surprise stage win on his debut last year. Riding with the CSC team at the time, Gerdemann soloed to victory on stage seven from Einsiedeln to Lenk. The runner-up on that stage was Italian Lorenzo Bernucci, then in the colours of Fassa Bortolo and now part of the magenta squad at the nine-day tour.
Luxembourger Kim Kirchen, Patrik Sinkewitz and climbing specialist Giuseppe Guerini round out the eight-man roster, but they are certainly not only domestiques. The Italian Guerini was the 2003 runner-up behind Alexander Vinokourov. "We're sending a strong squad into action, with ambitions for a top overall placing," said sports director Rudy Pevenage. "We won the Tour de Suisse in 2003 with 'Vino' and in 2004 with Jan. Last year, Jan was third behind runner-up Michael Rogers. A good placing is also a pointer to the Tour de France."
The 1,468km Tour de Suisse kicks off on Saturday with a 154km loop starting and finishing in Baden and concludes on June 18 with a 30km final time trial in Bern. After four undulating, but not too demanding stages, the peloton will hit high mountains for the first time on Wednesday, June 21, with a summit finish at 1,376m in Leukerbad on the menu. The queen’s stage follows a day later, taking in the leg-breaking Furka (2,436m) and Albula passes (2,315 m).
Stage 1 - June 10: Baden - Baden, 154 km
Stage 2 - June 11: Bremgarten - Einsiedeln, 165 km
Stage 3 - June 12: Einsiedeln - Arlesheim, 160 km
Stage 4 - June 13: Niederbipp - La Chaux-de-Fonds, 151 km
Stage 5 - June 14: La Chaux-de-Fonds - Leukerbad, 210 km
Stage 6 - June 15: Fiesch - La Punt, 210 km (Furka, Oberalp and Albula)
Stage 7 - June 16: St. Moritz - Ascona, 233 km (Julier and Lukmanier)
Stage 8 - June 17: Ambri - Ambri, 155 km
Stage 9 - June 18: Kerzers - Bern ITT, 30 km