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Saxo Bank Sungard and Leopard Trek do battle in Denmark

The 21st edition of the Tour of Denmark gets underway on August 3 with an intriguing tactical battle in prospect between the Saxo Bank Sungard and Leopard Trek teams.

Bjarne Riis’ Saxo Bank squad have dominated the event for much of the past decade, and following the defection of a number of his riders and directeur sportif Kim Andersen to Leopard Trek, the Dane will be keen to reassert his supremacy on home roads.

Chris Anker Sørensen leads the Saxo Bank squad, where he will be strongly supported by Richie Porte. After working for Alberto Contador at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, the young Australian gave notice of his form with a strong showing in the Tour’s final time trial, and he should shine in the 13.2km test in Helsingør on the penultimate afternoon.

The Leopard Trek challenge will be led by Jakob Fuglsang, and the Dane is chasing a fourth consecutive victory in his home tour. Widely expected to be a key lieutenant to Fränk and Andy Schleck at the Tour de France, Fuglsang never quite found his rhythm in July, but he has a chance to bounce back here. Last year, he snatched the overall lead in the time trial, but he showed in 2009 that he is well capable of seizing the initiative on one of the earlier road stages should the opportunity present itself.

Breschel gets back on track

Another home favourite hoping to sparkle in Denmark is Matti Breschel. The Rabobank rider has endured an injury-plagued season since leaving Saxo Bank at the end of last year, but he has considerable pedigree in his home tour. With the world championships taking place in Copenhagen in September on a course well-suited to his talents, Breschel’s build-up begins in earnest here.

Another man with Copenhagen in mind, Oscar Freire, will be on hand to complement Breschel, along with Dutch sprinter Theo Bos. Steven Van Kruijswijk and Peter Weening also set to ride for a very strong Rabobank squad.

Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervélo) will be expected to make an impact in the time trial, while his teammate Roger Hammond was third overall in 2009. Sky are set to field a strong team including Simon Gerrans, Chris Sutton, Alex Dowsett and young Italian sprinter Davide Appollonio.

Outside of the ProTour squads, Colnago-CSF Inox could be prominent if fast men Manuel Belletti and Sacha Modolo hit form, Sebastien Chavanel (Europcar) will aim to be in the mix in the sprints and László Bodrogi (Team Type 1-Sanofi) will hope to be in contention come the time trial.

Michael Rasmussen’s Christina Watches-Onfone outfit succeeded in securing an invitation to the race; while the course is scarcely suited to his characteristics, Rasmussen is sure to be the centre of much attention as he makes his first appearance in the race since his return from suspension in 2009.

The route

The topography of Denmark means that, as ever, the route is one that will be appreciated by rouleurs and sprinters alike. The race begins in Esbjerg on the west of the Jutland peninsula and heads across country for to finish in Aarhus on stage two ahead of the most rugged stage to Vejle.

The final two days take place on the island of Zealand, with a short road stage on Saturday morning followed by the potentially decisive afternoon time trial in Helsingør. Traditionally, the flat route, controlled peloton and short time trial means that the time gaps are rarely more than a handful of seconds entering the final stage, and the yellow jersey will have to be vigilant throughout Sunday’s grand finale to Frederiksberg to ensure overall victory.

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