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Grand Tour clues on offer in Switzerland
So much of Sky's ambitions for 2012 rest on Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish
The 66th Tour de Romandie promises to be one of the most illuminating yet, with a world class field lining up at the start in Switzerland eager for WorldTour points and hoping to lay down some markers for the Grand Tours and the Tour of California, which are set to follow over the next couple of months. The six-stage race features time trials at the start and the end, with four challenging stages in between across the beautiful scenery of the French speaking region of the country and tough climbs also thrown in.
Liquigas-Cannondale's Ivan Basso will continue his recuperation from injury here, as he tunes up for another crack at his beloved Giro d'Italia on May 5. Also present is BMC's Cadel Evans, who won his second Tour de Romandie title last year on his way to Tour de France success. The Australian is favourite with the bookmakers to successfully defend his Tour de France crown this July and he proved his wellbeing last month ahead of his bigger targets by winning the Critérium International.
Other leading contenders include 2011 Vuelta a Espana winner Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Nissan) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana), who has enjoyed a very consistent 2012 so far.
However, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that most eyes will be on Team Sky over the course of the week. The British team have taken a very strong squad to Switzerland, featuring Paris-Nice winner Bradley Wiggins, road world champion Mark Cavendish, Vuelta runner-up Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas, who is fresh from gold medal success at the 2012 Track World Championships in Melbourne. Team bosses have clearly identified this race as one of Sky's major targets ahead of the Grand Tours and with this race representing the first time that Wiggins and Cavendish have raced together in Sky colours, there is much to look out for.