Roger Hammond and Mark Cavendish will make their season debut in the South of France on Tuesday in the traditional early season GP La Marseillaise and then ride the five-day Etoile de Bessege stage race.
The pair will be part of a strong T-Mobile team but will face some stiff early-season competition from fellow Brit Jeremy Hunt and his Unibet.com team mate Baden Cooke, Nick Nuyens (Cofidis) and 2006 UCI Europe Tour winner Niko Eeckhout (Chocolade Jacques), Sebastien Chavanel and Philipe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux). Tyler Hamilton will make his return to racing with the Tinkoff team after his two-year ban for blood doping.
The T-Mobile team will also include Axel Merckx and sprinter André Greipel. Alan Peiper will direct the team and is confident Cavendish can do well against more experienced sprinters.
?Mark is really fast. I was watching him during sprint training on Majorca and the way he sprints is very aggressive,? Peiper said on the T-Mobile web site.
"He could be our 'secret weapon' this season. He's also interested in developing as a classics riders and I think he can do that if he concentrates and works for it.Roger can help him adapt and take advantage of that. All the lads put in the hard work in training on Majorca. Now I am keen to see how the training efforts pay off when the races begin.?
Tuesday : Grand Prix La Marseillaise,126 km
Wednesday: Stage one l'Etoile de Bessèges: Pezenas-Palavas-les-Flots, 147 km
Thursday: Stage two : Nîmes-Saint-Ambroix, 149 km.
Friday: stage three: Grand Prix du Pays Grand'Combien, 138 km.
Saturday: stage four: Grand Prix Casino Les Fumades, 151 km
Sunday: stage five: Grand Prix de Bessèges, 148 km
18 teams: Francaise des Jeux, Landbouwkrediet, Chocolats Jacques, T-Mobile, Auber 93, Credit Agricole, Unibet.com, Agritubel, Bretagne Armor Lux, Roubaix Lille Metropole, Tinkoff Credit Systems, Cofidis, Flanders, AG2R, Jartazi, Storez-Ledecq, Bouygues Telecom, Predictor-Lotto.
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