Tour de Suisse 2013: Who will win?
Tejay Van Garderen, Tour de France 2012, prologue
Although the Tour de Suisse is often categorised as just a warm up for the Tour de France, winning the race is considered a major result in itself. In fact, recent winners are made up of riders who peaked just before July, with Lance Armstrong's (now voided) victory the only one to be followed by the yellow jersey in 39 years.
With the Tour de France favourites mostly riding at the Critérium de Dauphiné, this year could continue this trend at the Tour de Suisse, and we can therefore expect an open race.
Tejay van Garderen, 24, BMC
Unlike last season, Van Garderen has opted for the Tour de Suisse over the Critérium de Dauphiné to build up to the Tour. July may be his main goal, but don't expect him to hold back in Switzerland; this is van Garderen's last week of racing to persuade the management to elect him as leader over Cadel Evans. His win at the Tour of California suggests he's favourite to win, but should he fall short then Swiss rider Mathia Frank will look to impress on home roads.
Rui Costa, 26, Movistar
For some reason, Rui Costa loves riding in Switzerland. Last year he won the Tour de Suisse, one of his first ever wins was a stage in the 2010 edition, and he has finished third in the last two Tour de Romandie races. He's riding well enough this year to gain further success this time round, especially as he expects not to have the chance to lead his team at the Tour next month.
Dan Martin, 26, Garmin-Sharp
Dan Martin has elevated himself into one of the world's leading riders in recent months, with wins at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Volta a Catalunya. He will ride alongside Ryder Hesjedal, but whereas the Canadian tends to hold back his best form for the grand tours, Martin has a tendency to perform very well in week-long stages akin to the Tour de Suisse, such as the 2008 Route du Sud and 2012 Tour of Poland that he won.
Thibaut Pinot, 23, FDJ
It will be fascinating to see how France's bright new hope goes in Switzerland. The youngster has shown strong climbing legs sporadically this season, and we'll have a better idea of what form he'll take into the Tour after the Tour de Suisse. He'll likely impress on the climbs, but lose time in the time trials and lack the consistency to win overall.
Andy Schleck, 27, RadioShack
Encouragingly for Schleck, his form has been improving recently, with 25th overall at the Tour of California a vast improvement on the results he had been posting. However, the Tour de Suisse is almost certainly too soon for the Luxembourg to reach top form, so don't expect him to tussle with the other contenders.
Others to watch
Fabian Cancellara, 32, RadioShack
National hero Fabian Cancellara returns following his exceptional Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double earlier this season. With Tony Martin not riding, he's favourite to win both time trials.
Peter Sagan, 23, Cannondale
The Slovak took an extraordinary four stages at last year's Tour de Suisse, and with a handful of hilly stages on this year's route there's no reason to believe he won't manage a few more this time around.
Philippe Gilbert, 30, BMC
Surprisingly, the world champion has still not won a race in the rainbow jersey. He'll be eager to compete with Sagan on the hilly stages to undermine any questions that the curse of the rainbow jersey has struck again.
Alexander Kristoff, 25, Katusha
Kristoff has quietly emerged as one of the peloton's most complete sprinters, with a bronze at London 2012 and fourth at the Tour of Flanders the highlights of his past twelve months. He'll look to carry his form from the Tour of Norway, where he won three stages, into the Suisse sprints.
Johann Tschopp, 20, IAM Cycling
IAM Cycling is the only team riding not have been selected for the Tour, which, added to the fact that this is their home race, gives them more incentive than the rest to perform. Tschopp is their most likely candidate for a high placing overall, if he can find his best climbing legs.
Tour de Suisse 2013: The Big Preview