Tour de Suisse preview

This year’s 76th edition of the Tour de Suisse is the last big stage race before the Tour de France. Riders who aren’t racing the Critérium du Dauphiné will be using this to do their last bit of form racing. Sprinters, in particular, use this race to prepare for the Tour de France.

What kind of race is it?

The Tour de Suisse is a nine-day stage race which, like the Critérium du Dauphiné, combines mountain climbs with time trials to give the riders a flavour of the upcoming Tour de France. The Tour de Suisse is one of the 12 European stage races in the UCI WorldTour Calendar. The last five winners of the race were:

2007 Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d’Epargne)

2008 Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)

2009 Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)

2010 Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank)

2011 Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack)

What happened last year?

Fabian Cancellara won last year’s two TTs, as expected. (Image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) stormed through the opening 7.3km ITT around Lugano. Resplendent in his white world champion’s skinsuit, this was the fifth opening TT he’s won in this race.

Mauricio Soler, a former Tour polka-dot jersey winner, took stage two, outwitting Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) with a surging attack in the last kilometre. Stage three was another also-ran for Cunego, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas) outsprinting him for the stage win, but the Little Prince did take over the yellow jersey from Soler, to hold it until the last day.

Rainbow jersey wearer Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) took his first victory of the year in stage four, giving us a taste of what he would go on to do in the Tour de France a month later – and he did it by outsprinting SuperSagan. The improbably named Borut Bozic (Vacansoleil-DCM) also bested SuperSagan as well as Oscar Freire (Rabobank) in an uphill sprint to win stage five.

Stage six was one for the climbers, with a mountain top finish. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) took the solo honours after breaking free from a pack of 12 riders with 2km to go. The stage, however, will be remembered for a terrible accident involving Soler and a spectator early in the stage, which ended with the Colombian hitting a wall and suffering a number of serious injuries, including a fractured skull. He had to be put into a medically induced coma. A year later, he is still working towards his recovery, slowly but surely at home in Colombia.

This year’s Giro hero Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) performed what is looking familiar these days – a long solo break on a big climb to win stage seven. Stage eight saw SuperSagan coming back to show why he’s such a threat by staying with the lead bunch on the climb of Siblingerhoehe and unleashing his sprint at the last possible moment to leave Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) and Ben Swift (Sky) in his dust, cementing the points jersey.

Stage nine was a time trial around Schauffhausen, which Cancellara won with ease, and which Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) used to move up from fourth place to steal the yellow jersey from Cunego.

1. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) 31:45:02

2. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) +0:04

3. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) +1:02

4. Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek) +1:10

5. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) +2:05

6. Mathias Frank (BMC) +2:24

7. Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) +2:35

8. Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) +3:11

9. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo) +3:17

10. Maxime Monfort (Leopard Trek) +4:12

This year’s race

The Tour de Suisse’s race organizers have turned the screws this year with over 19,000 metres of climbing, featuring five hors categorie climbs (Simplonplass and Verbier, both on the second stage, Arosa on stage eight and Glaubenbielen and Glaubenberg in the final stage), and three summit finishes including the final stage. After some fierce climbing in the first few stages, stages five and six are made for the sprinters and stage seven is a demanding 34.3km time trial. Stage eight is short(ish) yet sharp with the last 30km uphill to the summit of Arosa.

Stage 9 profile

Stage nine is more of the same, but longer (215.8km) and with the two hors categorie climbs before a finish line atop the cat. 2 Sörenberg. The jersey winners in this race will certainly have earned them by the end of these tough stages.

Who to watch

It’s a full, rich field for this year’s Tour de Suisse, with defending champion Levi Leipheimer (OPQS) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) squaring off again this year.

We’ve not seen Valverde much lately, but we’ll see what form he’s in this week (image courtesy of Movistar)

They’ll be joined in the GC running byAlejandro Valverde (Movistar), Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Andreas Kloden, Jakob Fuglsang and Frank Schleck from RadioShack. Sprinters in this year’s Tour include Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Tom Boonen (OPQS), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre), Oscar Freire (Katusha), Ben Swift (Sky), Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) and Heinrich Haussler and Tyler Farrar from Garmin-Barracuda.

Other riders to watch are Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack), Johnny Hoogerland and Wout Poels, both from Vacansoleil-DCM, and Nicolas Roche and John Gadret from AG2R.

Race details

June 9th: Stage 1 – Lugano, 7.3km individual time trial

June 10th: Stage 2 – Verbania (I) t0 Verbier, 218km

June 11th: Stage 3 – Martigny to Aarberg, 195km

June 12th: Stage 4 – Aarberg to Trimbach/Olten, 189km

June 13th: Stage 5 – Olten/Trimbach to Gansingen, 193km

June 14th: Stage 6 – Wittnau to Bischofszell TG, 199km

June 15th: Stage 7 – Gossau, 34.3km individual time trial

June 16th: Stage 8 – Bischofszell TG to Arosa, 148km

June 17th: Stage 9 – Näfels-Lintharena to Sörenberg, 216km

The Tour de Suisse starts on Saturday 9th June and concludes on Sunday 17th. There will be daily live coverage on Eurosport. For other channels check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

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