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Tour de Suisse Cycling News for June 11, 2006

Edited by Jeff Jones

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Tour de Suisse stage 1 wrap-up

Another bouquet for Boonen

By Shane Stokes in Baden

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step)
Photo ©: AFP
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World champion Tom Boonen has done it again, winning the opening stage of the Tour of Switzerland to take his seventeenth win of the season. The Quick.Step rider outsprinted Lampre's Daniel Bennati, former rainbow jersey Oscar Freire (Rabobank) plus 79 other riders at the end of the mainly flat 154.8 kilometre stage to Baden and took the first yellow jersey in the process.

Sprint rivals Robbie McEwen (Davitamon Lotto) and Erik Zabel (Team Milram) were part of a 67 man group which lost contact with the peloton on a short but very steep fourth category climb, which came on the second of two finishing laps.

The sunny first stage was marked by a long distance lone break by Astana Würth rider José Antonio Redondo Ramos. The Spaniard broke clear 24 kilometres after the start in Baden and opened up a maximum lead of 8 minutes and 45 seconds by kilometre 66. The gap dropped to 4 minutes 30, after which Michael Albasini (Liquigas) and compatriot Steve Zampieri (Phonak) rocketed away from the bunch on the fourth category Baldingen/Rüti climb, with around 60 km to go. They bridged up to the leader 20 kilometres later and then dropped him on the second ascent of the steep Hertenstein climb. However the main bunch reeled them in with six kilometres left. Lorenzo Bernucci (T-Mobile) tried his luck two kilometres later but the teams of Freire and Boonen were too strong, delivering their leaders to the finish where they and Bennati scrapped it out between them for the win and the first yellow jersey.

Click here for the results, report and photos

Davitamon-Lotto dry run for Robbie

By Shane Stokes in Baden

Freddy Rodriguez
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Former US national champion Fred Rodriguez is one of several riders at the Tour of Switzerland who are expecting to accompany team sprinter extraordinaire Robbie McEwen to the Tour de France next month. Speaking to Cyclingnews before the start of stage one in Baden, Rodriguez explained that they will be using the race to test things out.

"Things are going well," he stated. "I am just beginning my buildup for the Tour de France. This is the first race to test the team and see how we are going with a view to the Tour. So we will try to get a good race in."

"This is basically the same group which did Switzerland and the Tour last year. We are here to support Robbie. Gert Steegmans has been riding really well this year so I think we will have a slightly stronger leadout team [in the Tour]. We are going to play around with it a little and see what kind of combination we can come up with."

McEwen was one of those who got tailed off on the tough finishing circuit climb towards the end of the opening stage. Listed as a fourth category ascent, the steepness of Hertenstein's slopes showed that this rating was deceptive. However the team will try again tomorrow.

July is the big target for McEwen, and Rodriguez says that a victory in Switzerland would give him an important psychological boost prior to the Tour. "You have some big contenders here, such as Tom Boonen and Zabel," he points out. "So we want to show we are ready. It is not just about the Tour, though – Switzerland is a big race in itself, it is a ProTour event. A good result here is important for that reason too."

Rogers over teeth problems, building form for Tour

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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Bounding back after bad teeth problems forced him out of the Giro d'Italia, Australian Michael Rogers is hoping for a strong ride in the Tour de Suisse. He was second overall last year, only losing the race lead when final winner Aitor Gonzalez went on a bit attack on the final stage, and says that if he has the form he would try to do a good ride again.

"I will do the best I can," he stated. "I don't know how I am going, though. In training I have been feeling alright but racing is a different thing. So it is a bit of a case of finding my legs and seeing how I go here."

"I am not feeling too bad after the Giro. I had quite a few problems with my teeth and had an operation to fix that. I had some really bad gum infections, basically. In fixing it, I had my wisdom teeth out and then had a lot of work done under the gums, so I hope everything goes a bit better now."

Rogers is here due to those dental problems. He was due to follow a different path to the Tour, but he and team had a rethink after he pulled out in Italy. "I was originally supposed to finish the Giro and then maybe do Asturias in Spain. But I missed the last ten days in the Giro and so I feel I need a bit more racing to get into my best shape."

The 26 year old was with the Quick.Step team last year but now has changed to the magenta jersey of the T-Mobile squad. He feels that the team can do something big this July. "The team morale is really good," he stated. "Jan [Ullrich] is in really good shape and when he is good, everyone is motivated and willing to ride well."

Freire back in action

Former world champion Oscar Freire
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
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The good 2006 results notched up by Tom Boonen and Robbie McEwen so far means that they will be receiving most of the pre-race attention vis-à-vis the bunch sprints here in Switzerland, but another who could well be up there in big finishes is triple world champion Oscar Freire. He hasn't competed much of late but was in good form before the stage start, saying he was looking forward to the week.

"I am feeling very good but I haven't raced. So it impossible to know my condition now. After today I will know whether I will be good for the week or not."

The talented Spaniard duly placed third on the opening leg behind Tom Boonen and Daniele Bennati and with a little sharpening of form, could get a win in Switzerland.

Freire missed much of last year due to a big cyst in the saddle area but with that successfully treated, he's set some big goals for 2006. Should he take the rainbow jersey again, he would be the pro rider with the most such victories in the history of the sport. "I am targeting the Tour de France, then the remaining Classics and the World Championships. My biggest goal is in September, though." [The Worlds – ed]

When asked if he would be looking at stages or the maillot vert in the Tour, Freire gave a logical answer. "Maybe both! If you can win stages there, then you can win the Green Jersey too. But the problem is to start winning… That's the first priority."

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