dpa

Levi up for title defence

Levi up for title defence
By Eurosport

31/07/2006 at 13:40Updated

Gerolsteiner’s Levi Leipheimer returns from a disappointing Tour de France to defend his title in the Tour of Germany. The 33 year-old American will start as favourite in a field shorn of any of the top ten finishers from this month’s Tour.

Leipheimer, who has already signed a deal to join Discovery Channel as their team leader next season, looked set to challenge for the yellow jersey in the “grande boucle” after taking victory in the Dauphiné Libérée, though after a disastrous first week he could manage no better than 13th.

„It's a mixture of top Tour riders and younger cyclists with potential. Of course, we want to defend our title. If that happens, I'd be thrilled” said team manager Hans-Michael Holczer.

Sinkewitz's former team-mate Alexander Vinokourov will also be looking for a repeat of his victory in 2001, though he will not be helped by the absence of team-mate Jörg Jaksche. The Kazakh tried a number of times to break away in the final few kilometres of the Cyclassics event in Hamburg, though in the end the race came down to the sprinters.

Team CSC's Bobby Julich will also take part in his first race since suffering a wrist injury in a nasty crash in the first time-trial of the Tour. The veteran American started the season promisingly with a third place in the Tour of California and a win in the prologue of the Paris-Nice. Since then, he has suffered from bad luck, with a pollen allergy affecting him in the Giro d'Italia and the aforementioned crash in the Tour de France.

THREE MOUNTAIN STAGES

The first mountains coming in the shape of two second-category climbs at the end of the second stage, while the highest point is reached at Kühtai Pass on Sunday's fifth stage at the end of a beyond category climb.

There will be no time to recover on the sixth stage as the tour takes in a further alpine stage, ending in a first category ascent to St. Anton am Arlberg, while the time-trial specialists can struggle through in the knowledge that a 38.2km race against the clock awaits them the next day in Bad Säckingen.

The final stage brings the riders northwards through Baden Württemberg to the finish in Karlsruhe, where the sprinters should once again come to the fore.

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