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Zülle against the Italians

Can Zülle go one better than in 1997?

(Keystone)

Switzerland's Alex Zülle will be aiming to provide some home-grown cheer on this year's Tour de Suisse, but the rider from St Gallen faces some stiff Italian competition.

The 33-year-old Swiss, who finished second on the 1995 Tour de Suisse, appears to be one of Switzerland's strongest hopes this time around, following the withdrawal through illness of 2000 champion Oscar Camenzind.

This year's race will be without 2001 winner Lance Armstrong, who has decided to complete his final preparations for the Tour de France on the Dauphine Libere race. In Armstrong's absence, Zülle's biggest challenge is likely to come from a trio of Italians.

Savoldelli in form

Giro d'Italia winner Paolo Savoldelli will be chasing his second major tour victory of the season, while his compatriot Francesco Casagrande is likely to be a highly-motivated challenger.

Winner of the Tour de Suisse in 1999, Casagrande will be keen to bounce back from his Giro disappointment, having been thrown out of the prestigious Italian race for deliberately causing an opponent to crash.

Danilo Di Luca is also one to watch. The 26-year-old Saeco rider chose to skip the Giro to concentrate on his preparations for the Tour de France. But a positive doping test on team colleague Gilberto Simoni subsequently saw the entire Saeco team disqualified from the sport's biggest race, leaving Di Luca to now shift his attentions to the Swiss tour.

Revenge over Russian?

Zülle will also be looking out for Russia's Pavel Tonkov, the man who denied him victory in the Swiss event seven years ago. Apparently cruising towards the title in 1997, Zülle underestimated a breakaway by the Russian at the start of a climb over the Albula pass.

Tonkov then held onto his lead to snatch the overall title by 12 seconds from the Swiss rider.

Along with Zülle, canton Vaud's Laurent Dufaux will be bidding to become the 16th Swiss winner of the country's biggest cycling race, while canton Uri brothers Beat and Markus Zberg and Neuchâtel's Steve Zampieri will be among the Swiss outsiders.

swissinfo with agencies


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