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The spring classics are over and we’ve seen Cancellara clean up on the cobbles and we then we saw the Ardennes classic and a statement of intent from a certain world champion – Mr Cadel Evans (so much so for the world champion curse). Now we see Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) leading the UCI world standings and it’s still only April!

Next we move into the stage race season and the pro teams have a demanding schedule ahead which starts today with the Tour of Romandie. With the Giro d’Italia starting on the 8th may and the Amgen Tour of California starting a week later on the 16th, today’s race provides the first real test for the pros and the teams as they start a picturesque and (often) painful journey into high summer. Traditionally, Romandie is the first race on a holy grail like journey to the Tour de France in July.

The race will see the pros tackle some tough undulating terrain in the Eastern and French speaking part of Switzerland through the old Romandie region. Over the course of the race, the riders will undertake a prologue, five stages and cover a total of 654.8km and climb 8918m of tough alpine and Jura Mountains. Not for the faint hearted.

The race always highlights a crop of riders who may be worthy contenders for the leaders and the king of the mountains jerseys in the Giro in May and there is a good representation of the usual suspects (team wise) and a nice proliferation of talent. Cavendish needs to use this race as preparation for the Tour of California and find some form, but the hilly aspects will not be to his liking. Last year’s winner, the Czech rider Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) is on the start list and he’ll want to make it two in a row, whilst testing his form for the Giro.

The Americans will be looking out for Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Transitions), who may be a bit of a wild card, but a solid rider in stage races. Along side him on the team is Dan Martin from Ireland. He is an aggressive climber and if on form, could be yet another rider to watch. Both men know how to climb and Romandie is a race that needs this skill en mass!

Nicolas Roche (Ag2R-La Mondiale) can’t be ignored, as his climbing ability and growing status as a pro rider means he should make a good showing. The Irish always like a good climb, so he could be a dark horse.

The Aussies have a good number of riders to watch out for over a number of teams and Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) is definitely one we think has a chance. It will also be nice to see the ‘interesting’ Footon-Servetto kit trying for a stage win if nothing else.

Don’t think of this race as simply a warm up for other, grander competitions either. The Tour of Romandie is a tough and uncompromising race in its own right and merits its place on the season’s roster. Look out for some new talent previously unheard of as well and you might just see a big name for the future!

Trying to concentrate at work is becoming increasingly difficult with all this racing. Lets hope your bosses are as understanding as ours!

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