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93rd Züri Metzgete - Championship of Zurich - ProT
Switzerland, October 1, 2006
By Jeff Jones
Sunday's 93rd Züri-Metzgete (Championship of Zurich) will feature both of the recently crowned men's world champions at the start: Paolo Bettini (road) and Fabian Cancellara (TT). The pair head a high quality field that also includes Vuelta a España winner Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), a rider suited to the tough climb of the Pfannenstiel that is usually the key point of the race.
Bettini won the race last year in imposing style, riding away from the field in wet conditions on the last 42 km lap, putting 2'57 into second and third place getters Fränk Schleck (CSC) and Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo). Whether he can repeat that performance this year remains to be seen, but without a doubt, he will be one of the top favourites after his win in the World's last week. He hasn't been off the podium in Zurich for the last five years.
Fabian Cancellara heads a very strong CSC line-up, that includes 2005 runner-up Schleck as well as Stuart O'Grady (fifth at the World's) and Karsten Kroon. The Danish team seems to have plenty of options, and maybe can go one better than last year. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) is more of an unknown. After his Vuelta triumph, he won a bronze medal in the World's time trial and was certainly a factor in the finale of the road race, but did not manage to get clear in the end. He has Andrey Kashechkin as a co-leader in Astana.
Gerolsteiner has a past winner of this race in Davide Rebellin, and the Italian was a key man at the finish of the world's last week. His late attacks put pressure on the rest of the peloton, and gave the Azzurri a few more options at the end. His teammate Fabian Wegmann is also in excellent form: he was the only rider to go with both of Paolo Bettini's attacks on the last two laps in Salzburg, and would have finished with a better result had someone not destroyed his wheel on the final lap.
Rabobank's main options seem to be Michael Boogerd and Juan Antonio Flecha (2004 winner). Both were in evidence in the World's, and Boogerd did make it into one of the most important breakaways on the final lap. The Liquigas team will feature Danilo Di Luca and Luca Paolini, neither of whom have managed a podium finish in Zurich, but there's always a first time.
Belgian Stijn Devolder is probably Discovery's best bet along with Vladimir Gusev. Euskaltel has fourth place getter in the World's, Samuel Sanchez, as its main rider. Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) seemed to be slightly off his best in Salzburg, while Lampre's Alessandro Ballan was an important pace setter for the Italians. Both of those riders are ones to watch on Sunday.
The course for the Züri-Metzgete is the same as last year: one 72.5 km circuit followed by four 42.1 km laps for a total of 241 km. Each of the finishing circuits contains the Pfannenstiel climb (17.5 km from the end of the lap) and a slightly easier climb up to Forch, and a short uphill at Wetzwil. The final eight kilometres are flat as the riders race along the Zurichsee to the finish.
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).