GENEVA, Switzerland -- Germany's Jan Ullrich will use the Tour of Switzerland starting in Baden on Saturday as a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France.
While many Tour favorites opted for this week's Dauphine
Libere race in the French Alps, Ullrich has chosen the Tour of
Switzerland because it offers nine days racing and ends closer
to the July 1 start of the Tour de France.
"I have enjoyed success in this race in the past and feel
very much at ease there," the 32-year-old T-Mobile team
captain Ullrich said.
"I live in Switzerland and so it's like I'm racing on home
roads. I was originally planning to ride the Tour of Asturias
race in Spain and then train in the Alps, but racing more will
get me in better shape."
After an injury-affected spring, Ullrich got fit by riding
most of the three-week Giro d'Italia in May. He won the time
trial stage in Pontedera but pulled out with two days to go
because of a back problem.
He has now fully recovered and his team director Rudy
Pevenage considers the Tour of Switzerland a key test of
Ullrich will be backed by a powerful team with
world time champion Michael Rogers, expert climber Giuseppe
Guerini and Andreas Kloden all in the eight-rider T-Mobile
"A good result is a key pointer to the Tour de France,"
Pevenage said. "We're sending a strong squad, with ambitions for
a top overall placing. We won the Tour de Suisse in 2003 with
Alexandre Vinokourov and in 2004 with Jan."
Ullrich snatched victory in the 2004 race by one second
after winning the final time trial stage to Lugano.
This year the race also ends with a similar 30-kilometer time trial
around Bern on June 18 for a total of 1,468 kilometers of racing.
The opening four stages suit the sprinters with current
world champion Tom Boonen, Australia's Robbie McEwen and
Germany's Erik Zabel expected to clash in the fast finishes in
Baden, Einsiedeln, Arlesheim and La Chaux de Fonds.
The mountains begin on stage five with an uphill finish at
Leukerbad. Stage six from Fiesch to La Punt includes three major
climbs and stage seven from St. Moritz to Ascona has two.
Whoever wins the overall race will be automatically become a
favorite to take over from the now retired Lance Armstrong at
the Tour de France.