Stage racers looking for success at the Tour de Romandie

Froome, Porte, Gesink, Basso and Talansky in action in Switzerland

The Tour de Romandie officially marks the start of the stage race season and coming in the week before the countdown to the Giro d'Italia, it is the perfect race for riders to fine tune their form before the first Grand Tour of the year.

The six-day race route covers the western, French-speaking part of Switzerland, with stages near Lake Geneva and in the hills and mountains between the lake and the border with Italy.

Big-name contenders

It is testing race, with hilly and mountain stages balanced by the opening prologue time trial and the final 18.5km test against the clock in Geneva. Grand tour contenders usually emerge to win overall. Last year Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) dominated as he completed his en plein of stage race wins. This year the Briton is focusing on the Giro d'Italia and so Team Sky have Chris Froome and Richie Porte as leaders.

They will face Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Pierre Rolland (Team Europcar), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and teammate Andrew Talansky, who was second overall last year, and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol).

The sprinters will also be out in force, sharpening their speed and working on their climbing for the hilly Giro stages. Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge), Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Jacopo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan).

A testing route

The racing kicks on Tuesday with a uphill 7.45km prologue from Le Châble to Bruson in the foothills below Verbier.

Stage one, two and three are perfect for breakaways but include some testing climbs that could mean the sprinters will miss out.

Stage four will surely shape the overall classification before the final 18km time trial on Sunday around Geneva. The 188km route starts in Marly and includes four category one climbs, including the 1752m high Col de la Croix that is covered twice. The stage ends in Les Diablerets after a high-speed descent.

The final time trial follows the lake edge on an out and back route that will crown the 2013 winner.

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