British sprinters Mark Cavendish and Ben Swift will go head-to-head in the nine-day Tour de Suisse, which starts on Saturday (June 11).

The race may give fans a glimpse of what’s to come in the Tour de France in July. Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) has already been confirmed for the Tour and is aiming for the green jersey. Sky has yet to announce its roster for the Tour, but Swift must be in the running after an excellent season so far.

Both riders were present at the Tour Down Under in January, but it was Swift who bagged two stage wins and third place overall as the Manxman was still in an early-season training phase.

Cavendish then won a stage of the Tour of Oman in February, and both riders took wins in April: Cavendish won the Scheldeprijs with Swift taking a stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.

Last month the two Brits continued the run of wins, Cavendish scoring two stages of the Giro d’Italia and Swift winning a stage of the Tour de Romandie and a stage in the Tour of California.

Cavendish and Swift face stiff opposition in the bunch gallops from former Tour green jersey winners Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Robbie McEwen (Radioshack) as well as Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas).

Although the start list is a who’s who of world-class sprinters, flat stages are pretty scant. Only stages four, five and eight offer the definite possibility of a bunch finish. The remaining stages feature either high mountains or are individual time trials.

Along with the Critérium du Dauphiné in France, the Tour de Suisse is seen as a serious warm-up for the Tour de France in July, but is also a prestigious WorldTour-category race in its own right.

Several Tour de France contenders will use the Tour de Suisse to test their form, including Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek), Andreas Kloden and Chris Horner (Radioshack), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step). 

The 2011 Tour de Suisse starts in Lugano on Saturday, June 11, and finishes in Schaffhausen with a 32.1km individual time trial on Sunday, June 19.

Mark Cavendish in race lead, Giro dMark Cavendish

Team: HTC-Highroad

Age: 26

From: Isle of Man

2011 wins: four

Tour of Oman; stage six

Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen

Giro d’Italia; stage 10

Giro d’Italia; stage 12

Mark Cavendish: Rider profile>>

ben swift, team skyBen Swift

Team: Sky

Age: 23

From: Rotherham

2011 wins: five

Tour Down Under; stage two

Tour Down Under; stage six

Vuelta a Castilla y Leon; stage five

Tour de Romandie; stage five

Tour of California; stage two

Ben Swift: Rider profile>>

Related links

British pro road wins 2011

Critérium du Dauphiné 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index