One for the climbers

The Tour de Romandie, the traditional final-preparation race for the Giro d'Italia favorites, is...

61st Tour de Romandie - PT

Switzerland, May 1-6, 2007

The Tour de Romandie, the traditional final-preparation race for the Giro d'Italia favorites, is presenting a difficult and mountainous course this year which should sort out the contenders and pretenders before a final time trial.

The race opens with a 3.5 kilometre prologue which runs through the old town in Freiburg on a twisting, turning and hilly course.

Things get right down to business in the first stage, which runs 157.8 km from Granges-Paccot to La Chaux-de-Fonds, with two category one and two category two climbs.

The climbing continues in the second stage, with a rugged course that features one climb each of category one and two. It is 166.9 km, from La Chaux-de Fonds to Lucens.

Stage three features the usual number of ups and downs, but only one category two climb, and two category three climbs, on the 162.6 km course from Moudon to Charmey en Gruyere, ending up with a Cat. 3 mountaintop finish.

That only serves as a warm-up before the peloton takes on the race's Queen stage. The fourth stage, over 155.9 kilometres, goes from Charmey en Gruyere to Morgins-Portes du Soleil-Chablais. It boasts no less than four category one climbs, including another mountaintop finish.

If those mountains aren't enough to select a winner, the overall title could again depend on the results of the final stage time trial. This year it once again is being held on the traditional, technically demanding, 20.4 kilometres long course through Lausanne.

Last year's winner, Cadel Evans, is leading his Predictor-Lotto team in the race. He won the closing time trial in 2006 by 22 seconds, catapulting him into the overall victory over Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, neither of whom are riding the race this year. Many other big names are also skipping the race - there are no Simoni, Cunego, Pereiro, Contador, or Valverde to be found on the preliminary starting list.

Instead, the biggest names include Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Bobby Julich and Carlos Sastre (CSC), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), and Astana's Paolo Savoldelli and Andrej Kaschetschkin.

In addition to Rogers, two other Australians will be seeking their luck in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Robbie McEwen of Predictor-Lotto looks to be the strongest sprinter in the field, while FdJ's Bradley McGee is the favorite to win the prologue.

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