Leading international cyclists gear up on Tuesday for the first big tour of the season, the Giro d'Italia, with a major warm-up event in Switzerland. The 55th Tour de Romandie will take the riders from St Urban to Geneva in five stages and one prologue.This content was published on May 7, 2001 - 14:28
The Tour is the second most important stage race in Switzerland after the Tour de Suisse, and this year boasts a particularly strong field including six of the world's top 20 riders.
World number one Francesco Casagrande and last year's Tour winner Paolo Savoldelli are among the Italian contingency hoping to find their rhythm in time for the Giro. Germany's Olympic gold medallist Jan Ullrich will also be among the stars racing through Romandie, in preparation for his Tour de France bid.
Switzerland's best hopes appear to rest on Laurent Dufaux and Oscar Camenzind. Fresh from his stage win in Trentino, the 31-year-old Dufaux is looking to repeat his success in winning the 1998 Tour. "But I won't be risking everything this time," he has already insisted, "because the Giro is one of my main aims this season."
Camenzind has also made a good start to the current season, and recently celebrated victory in the classic one-day Liège-Bastogne-Liège race. But last year's winner of the Tour de Suisse may not be at his best in Romandie after battling with a fever last week.
In keeping with a trend of recent years, the Tour de Romandie actually starts in German-speaking Switzerland with a 6.9 kilometre prologue from the old St Urban monastery in canton Lucerne to Pfaffnau.
Serious business begins on Wednesday with the first stage taking the peleton 168 kilometres to Tramelan in canton Bern. The second stage heads to Vevey with a possible sprint finish.
The third stage will be one of what could be two decisive days on the Tour. Payerne will host the event's 25-kilometre, flat, time trial.
If that effort hasn't sorted out the men from the boys, the fourth stage will. One hundred and sixty-seven kilometres, a mountain pass and a steep climb to the finish line in Nendaz will certainly favour the mountaineers.
The 178 kilometre final day should offer some consolation to the sprinters after two tough stages. The race heads to its traditional finale in Geneva on what should be a relatively quiet day for the race leaders.
swissinfo with agencies
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