Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins will ride together
for the first time
in competition for Team Sky at the 2012 Tour de Romandie, starting on Tuesday.
Cavendish comes back to racing after the birth of his daughter on April 4, and Wiggins starts a new block of racing ahead of his bid for the Tour de France overall classification in July.
Originally, Wiggins and Cavendish weren't due to meet in competition until the Tour itself, but the Swiss WorldTour stage race gives Sky a chance to test out what is almost its Tour de France line-up.
Cavendish and Wiggins are joined by a very strong line-up, including 2011 Vuelta a Espana runner-up Chris Froome, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Geraint Thomas.
Only Cavendish's right-hand man Bernhard Eisel appears to be absent from this Tour-ready roster. Thomas will miss the Tour to prepare for the Olympics, where he'll ride in the team pursuit on the track.
Cavendish will look to train through the Swiss race, building up to the Giro d'Italia, while for Wiggins the race is one of the three key stage races in his Tour build-up. "After [Paris-Nice] it's Romandy and the Dauphine. Those are the big hits in terms of going there to trying to win."
Cavendish has some history at Romandie, having won the prologue in 2008 and famously gave a two-finger salute aimed at journalists after winning a sprint stage in 2010.
Both Cavendish and Wiggins have started the season well. Cavendish took two stages of the Tour of Qatar, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. Wiggins took arguably the biggest victory of his career in March, winning Paris-Nice.
The two Sky stars are both aiming for success in the Tour de France and London 2012 Olympic Games. Wiggins is aiming for the Tour's yellow jersey and Olympic time trial; whilst Cavendish will attempt to defend his green jersey at the Tour and take on the London 2012 road race.
However, in March Team GB and Sky principal David Brailsford said that trying to aim for everything was a 'recipe for failure' and hinted that it's likely that Wiggins will concentrate on the Tour and Cavendish the Olympics. Anything else will come as a bonus.
Grand Tour big hitters line-up for Romandie
At the Tour de Romandie, Sky will come up against some stiff opposition as several teams put in Grand Tour-worthy teams ahead of the Giro d'Italia next month.
The mixture of short, punchy time trials, hilly stages and mountains provides plenty of opportunity for riders to test their form and observe the form of their rivals.
Defending 2011 Romandie champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) comes back from illness at the race. The Australian Tour de France winner was forced to withdraw from the Ardennes Classics and is unlikely to be in top form.
Other contenders include Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda), Denis Menchov (Katusha), Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar), Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar).
We'll also put Chris Froome's name forward. The Sky rider came a close second at the 2011 Vuelta, and proved that he can climb and time trial as well as anyone. Given a free rein in Romandie, Froome could easily finish on the podium.
Tour de Romandie 2012: Stages
Prologue, Tuesday April 24, Lausanne to Lausanne, 3.34km ITT
Stage one, Wednesday April 25, Morges to La Chaux-de-Fonds, 184.5km
Stage two, Thursday April 26, Montbéliard to Moutier, 149.1km
Stage three, Friday April 27, La Neuveville to Charmey, 157.6km
Stage four, Saturday April 28, Bulle to Sion, 184km
Stage five, Sunday, April 29, Crans-Montana to Crans-Montana, 16.5km ITT
Brailsford: Trying to win everything is a recipe for failure
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