Spaniard Alberto Contador lines up for the Eneco Tour on Monday, his first race back after serving a suspension for testing positive for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
Contador heads up Saxo Bank-Tinokff Bank’s squad for the race, which he will use as a warm-up for the Vuelta a Espana in August/September.
Five British riders take part in the WorldTour-level, seven-stage race that takes place in Belgium and the Netherlands. David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), Adam Blythe (BMC Racing), Alex Dowsett, Jeremy Hunt and Luke Rowe (all Sky) are on the start list.
Millar placed third overall in last year’s race behind winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma, now BMC). Neither Boasson Hagen nor Gilbert are riding in the event this year.
This year’s Eneco Tour sees a bit of a shake-up with the formula, particularly with the introduction of a team time trial.
After Monday’s flat opening stage that is likely to end in a bunch gallop, the team time trial comes on Tuesday – one of two tests against the clock along with a 17.4km individual time trial around Ardooie on Saturday.
Wednesday’s climb-packed third stage from Riemst to Genk promises to re-jig the top order of the overall classification for the second time in two days.
The race concludes on Sunday August 12 with a stage to Geraardsbergen, a stage that will please the classics men with its three ascents of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, iconic climb of former editions of the Tour of Flanders but missing from this year’s course.
Eneco Tour 2012: Stages
Stage one: Monday August 6, Waalwijk to Middelburg, 203.9km
Stage two: Tuesday August 7, Sittard-Geleen, 18.9km TTT
Stage three: Wednesday August 8, Riemst to Genk, 188km
Stage four: Thursday August 9, Heers to Bergen op Zoom, 213.3km
Stage five: Friday August 10, Hoogerheide to Aalter, 184.6km
Stage six: Saturday August 11, Ardooie, 17.4km ITT
Stage seven: Sunday August 12, Maldegem to Geraardsbergen, 214.5km
Eneco Tour: Last year’s top ten
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky in 22-30-58
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 23 secs
3. David Millar (GB) Team Garmin-Cervelo at 29 secs
4. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing at 36 secs
5. Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank at 58 secs
6. Joost Van Leijen (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM at 1-05
7. Dominique Cornu (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator at 1-08
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep at 1-09
9. Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack at 1-10
10. Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Leopard-Trek at 1-14