Rory Sutherland. Podium or no podium? It’s Baldy time.

Sutherland and Millan.

Is Rory Sutherland ready to step up onto the podium at the Tour of California? We’ll find out today after he rides stage 7, the big, bad summit finish on Mount Baldy.

The Aussie sits in their place on the general classification, behind Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer of Radio Shack and then one second ahead of Christian Vande Velde.

After a seventh overall last year, this is the biggest object of the year for SUtherland and the entire UnitedHealthCare Squad.

In the last 12 months he’s improved his time trialing, hardened up his racing schedule with trips to Europe and prepared himself for what would be the biggest result in his career. The team has busted tail all week for him and now Baldy beckons.

We’ve spent most of the week watching this team and the feeling is, it’s going to happen. DS Mike Tamayo and team doctor and physiologist Inigo San Millan believe in him and they have the power meter results to back that up. The pressure on Sutherland is high but so is his confidence after a third place on stage 4 up Sierra road where only Schleck and Horner beat him to the line.

A strong 9th place showing in the time trial yesterday set him up for today’s final battle. Even bike sponsor and time trial master Chris Boardman flew in from England for a few final pointers. Everything is in place and we’ll be the fly on the wall in the team bus for the team meeting. Somewhere there is probably some champagne chilling.

Will he have legs strong enough to take that one difficult step off the ground and onto the podium?

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