The 2011 Tour MÃ©diterranÃ©en wraps-up this weekend with two stages along the sea that gives the race its name.Â Saturdayâ€™s 155-kilometer trip from La Londe Les Maures to Biot presents two climbs early in the day, but theyâ€™re not enough to prevent Romain Feillu from taking his third stage and perhaps adding a few bonus seconds to his lead.Â Other challengers for the victory include FDJâ€™s Yauheni Hutarovich, Skyâ€™s Davide Appollonio, and
Cofidis’ FDJâ€™s Remi Pauriol.
The real action comes Sunday with the raceâ€™s traditional queen stage ending atop Mont Faron.Â The Med Tour has experimented with the placement of this stage in the past before settling on keeping the 5-kilometer, 10-12%-grade climb as the last five kilometers of the race.Â Last year, Francesco Mascarelli won the stage while Alejandro Valverde took the overall (before being retroactively DQâ€™ed).
Rinaldo Nocentini took last yearâ€™s honors following Valverdeâ€™s DQ; he returns this year perfectly positioned to win the race outright. The Italian sits a mere 20-seconds behind Feillu, an easy gap to overcome on Faronâ€™s steep, narrow slopes. Europcarâ€™s Thomas Voeckler is another interesting overall candidate with a 13-second cushion over Nocentini thanks to his Stage 1 victory.
But while Nocentini and Voeckler are attractive options, my moneyâ€™s on Garmin-Cerveloâ€™s Daniel Martin.Â The Irishman finished 2010 in the form of his lifeâ€”he sits 20-seconds behind Feillu as well and is possibly the strongest climber in the race.Â Look for him to claim his first race of 2011 on Sunday, continuing Garminâ€™s impressive start to the season.
Other men to watch include Cofidisâ€™ Leonardo Duque, Garminâ€™s Michel Kreder, Vacansoleilâ€™s Wouter Poels, Europcarâ€™s Pierre Rolland, and FDJâ€™s Thibaut Pinot.
So whoâ€™s your pick for Sunday atop Mont Faron?Â Share your comments below.