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92nd Meisterschaft von Zürich - Championship of Zurich - ProT

Switzerland, October 2, 2005

Di Luca keeps his eyes on the prize

By Jeff Jones

Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) takes a surprise victory in the 2004 Züri-Metzgete.
Photo ©: Reuters
Click for larger image

ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca (Liquigas-Bianchi) will go into this Sunday's Züri-Metzgete (Championship of Zurich) with a comfortable grip on the white jersey, and also as one of the favourites for the victory. Di Luca is coming back into form after a mid-season lull, and should have no problems keeping his grip on the ProTour lead, as most of his nearest rivals have called it quits for the season. On the provisional start list, Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) is the only other rider in the top 10 of the ProTour who will be in Zurich on Sunday.

Victory candidates are many for this race, which is often difficult to predict. Despite the severity of the parcours, last year a group of over 30 riders came to the finish, with Fassa Bortolo's Juan Antonio Flecha winning the bunch sprint ahead of Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step). Both those riders are in play again this year, with Bettini probably wanting some revenge after his good-legs-but-no-result World Championships last Sunday.

Looking at some of the other players, Lampre-Caffita is bringing a strong team to Zurich, with the likes of 2004 Giro winner Damiano Cunego, classics man Alessandro Ballan and all-rounder Eddy Mazzoleni. T-Mobile also has some firepower, despite lacking stars Alexandre Vinokourov and Jan Ullrich, with 2003 winner Daniele Nardello, 'Swiss' Steffen Wesemann, and Russian hardman Serguei Ivanov.

For the Spanish teams, Alejandro Valverde (2nd in the World's) will head the Illes Balears challenge in the absence of Paco Mancebo. Saunier Duval's Constantino Zaballa and Chris Horner should be at home on this sort of course, though, and Zaballa will be looking to repeat his win in San Sebastian. Allan Davis (Liberty Seguros) will be a danger if he makes the final cut, while Spaniard Oscar Pereiro will try to keep his end up for Swiss team Phonak.

Team CSC appears to have brought out the big guns, with both Carlos Sastre and Ivan Basso down to start, along with Jakob Piil, who rode an excellent World's last week for sixth place. The hilly terrain may not suit Piil down to the ground, but his form appears to be good. Rabobank's Michael Boogerd showed that he has good legs again in Madrid last Sunday, getting into the almost-winning break and going head to head with Bettini and Vinokourov. The lean Dutchman is due for a big win, and Zurich might be it.

Discovery's chances will probably rest with Tom Danielson and Yaroslav Popovych, with Viatcheslav Ekimov providing back up. The Disco team is full of younger riders, who will be looking at gaining experience in this tough one-day classic.

Davitamon-Lotto can count on Mario Aerts, Koos Moerenhout, and perhaps Cadel Evans and Serge Baguet to be there at the finish. Finally, Frenchman Anthony Geslin (Bouygues Telecom) will be looking to capitalise on his good form, which saw him pick up the bronze in Madrid last week, while American Saul Raisin (Credit Agricole) will also be an interesting rider to watch.

Live coverage

Cyclingnews will be covering the Championship of Zurich live, with coverage starting at 15:00 CEST (Europe)/9:00 EDT (USA East)/6:00 PDT (USA West)/23:00 AEST (Australia East).