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The final tune-up ahead of the favorite race of kolo t.c.

The Giro d’Italia is probably  the best bike race on the planet. That’s just the truth. The Tour of Romandie is the last stage race ahead of the Giro, and teams and riders are both heading into tomorrow’s stage with agendas looking forward to the big one.

Team Sky will send Wiggo to altitude training, instead starting Romandie with Chris Froome and Richie Porte as leaders in Switzerland. The duo had lackluster performances at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but knowing the Sky ethic, that was just a long training day ahead of the stage race season. Froome in particular will be looking for a result, and though Romandie lacks a true mountain finish yet again, it has constant undulations that test riders for nearly every kilometer of the race.

The GC men will be at the start, including Tony Martin. The OmegaPharma-QuickStep rider will be looking to put a positive spin on a spring that didn’t go according to plan. The Belgian squad enjoyed early success, but with Tom Boonen behind and eventually out, the Classics didn’t go nearly as well as hoped for. Martin will be a big part of turning it around, with an uphill prologue and a final time trial serving as bookends. He’ll also feature as a big part of the leadout for Mark Cavendish, who’s returning after over a month off from racing. Cav will be fine tuning his sprint ahead of the Giro, which begins May 4.

Matt Goss will serve as the main adversary against his former teammates, and do so with a completely devoted team who will hunt stages. Orica certianly has the firepower to test the race and provoke the GC riders, though Goss will be the centerpiece of their race. Note: His middle name is “Harley”. It is kolo t.c. policy to mention that every time.

The GC won’t be easily won, and Alejandro Valverde is the pick aside from Froome or Porte. Valverde is a great all-around rider who is capable of taking in the rolling terrain and big climbs in stride, and he’s proven himself possessed of the quick and snappy attacking style that can sometimes put Froome in difficulty. With no true mountain top finish, his descending skills could prove the difference on the dive to the line on Stage 4.

There are a number of other contenders, including Robert Gesink, Ivan Basso, Andrew Talansky, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, and Pierre Rolland. Two picks, aside from Froome-dog, that kolo t.c. is hoping have big rides. First of, the very, very Czech Amstel Gold winner Roman Kreuziger of Team SaxoBank-Tinkoff. The other is Janez Brajkovic of Astana. Both riders have careers with very similar stories. The Czech and the Slovenia both rose from obscurity at a young at, signed with big teams with big responsibilities, and actually delivered a big result. Kreuziger has won stages at the Giro and finished top ten at the Tour, and even won this race in 2009. But the Grand Tours, and even these races have proven tough to tackle again. Brajkovic won the Criterium du Dauphine in amazing fashion against Alberto Contador. But since then, he’s crashed out of the Tour and won almost nothing worth writing home about. He even got shuffled out the door at RadioShack, ending up with his old Astana outfit. Now c0-leader with Jakob Fuglsang and Vicenzo Nibali, he needs to capitalize on this chance at having the full team’s support.

The Tour of Romandie starts today with an uphill time trial. Check the Facebook page for links every morning.