Tour de Romandie preview

Tour de Romandie LogoThe Tour de Romandie is a six-day stage race in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and has become particularly noteworthy for its usage by riders looking to build up their form in time for the Tour de France. Last year’s edition was won by Bradley Wiggins, though he won’t be on the startline again this time as he readies himself for next month’s Giro d’Italia.

What kind of race is it?

First run in 1947, the Tour de Romandie is an interesting race, providing the climbers in particular with a selection of stages to their choosing. However, there are also a few stages that will allow the sprinters like Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) to shine, while time trials will keep those riders who are quick against the clock happy. It all takes place in the Suisse Romande, in the west of Switzerland, and always offers up a picturesque parcours.

2008: Andreas Kloden (Astana)

2009: Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)

2010: Simon Spilak (Lampre)

2011: Cadel Evans (BMC)

2012: Bradley Wiggins (Sky)

What happened last year?

In a thrilling finish, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) stormed to take the win from Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) on the final time trial. The Spaniard had seized the yellow jersey from Wiggins (who had held it since an impressive sprint victory on the opening stage) on the penultimate stage, though the Briton came back to win the TT and take the victory in emphatic fashion. Wiggins won despite needing a bike change mid-way through his ride, and eventually finished 12 seconds ahead of Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Barracuda)  in the general classification. Movistar’s Rui Costa was third.

Bradley Wiggins winning a sprint in Romandie (image courtesy of Team Sky)

Bradley Wiggins winning the stage 1 sprint in Romandie (Image: Team Sky)

1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 18:05:40

2. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Barracuda)  +00:12

3. Rui Costa (Movistar) +00:36

4. Richie Porte (Sky) +00:45

5. Michael Rogers (Sky) +00:50

6. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +00:59

7. Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas) +01:03

8. Simon Spilak (Katusha) +:01:13

9. Janez Brajkovic (Astana) +01:14

10. Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) +01:15

Here’s a link to the review of last year’s race.

This year’s race

This year’s edition follows roughly the same formula as last year’s, starting with an uphill prologue under 8km in length. The road racing gets underway on Wednesday, with a tricky stage. Despite a relatively flat finish, a couple of category 3 climbs combined with a category 2 ascent with around 40km to go could put paid to the hopes of pure sprinters. Still, it’s not a day that we’ll see any great movement in the general classification.

There’s a short, sharp climb inside the final 30km on stage 2, though as it’s only category 3, it will probably be another day for the sprinters. Stage 3, however, should be rather more difficult, as this rolling stage has two category 2 climbs around half-way into the 181km stage, then two category 3 ascents situated inside the final 40km.

However, it’s on stage 4 – the Queen Stage – that things should really heat up. It not only features the first category 1 climbs, but agonisingly there are four of them. The final climb is the cruel Col de la Croix, which lasts for over 20km. Although there’s around 10km of descending before the riders reach the finish, if you tried to console one of the sprinters with that fact, you could expect to end up with a bloody nose.

The queen stage. Ouch.

The Queen Stage. Ouch.

The last stage on the Swiss menu is a pan flat time trial around Lake Geneva. At only 18km it’s not too punishing a way for the riders to end the race, although it could be big enough to alter any fine margins left over from stage 4, crowning the winner.

Who to watch

Chris Froome (Image: Team Sky)

Chris Froome (Image: Team Sky)

Bradley Wiggins won’t be riding, but Team Sky will be throwing all of their weight behind Chris Froome, as he continues his preparation for the Tour de France. Romandie winners from the past two years – Wiggins and Cadel Evans (BMC) – have both gone on to take the maillot jaune in July. A win for Froome here could serve as a good omen for July. Richie Porte will likely ride in support of Froome, although he should enjoy the terrain himself.

After his second place last year, Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky will return and try to go one better. He’s already been a runner-up in Paris-Nice this season, and he’ll probably have had enough of finishing second. That said, he’s a rank outsider, alongside Simon Spilak (Katusha), who took the biggest win of his career at this race in 2010.

However, Spilak only took victory after Alejandro Valverde‘s results were scribbled out after his doping conviction. Speaking of Valverde (Movistar), he could well build on his impressive spring classics campaign and take victory here, as he too builds up to the Tour de France. Hopefully he isn’t peaking too early. His teammate Rui Costa has also had a great start to the season, and could also be in the running.

Also not to be counted out is the Amstel Gold Race winner Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), while Tony Martin (OPQS) is nailed on for at least one time trial victory, even if his climbing will let him down in the Alps.

Race details

April 23rd: Prologue – Le Châble to Bruson, 7.45km

April 24th: Stage 1 – St-Maurice to Renens, 176.8km

April 25th: Stage 2 – Prilly to Granges, 190.3km

April 26th: Stage 3 – Payerne to Payern, 181km

April 27th: Stage 4 – Marly to Les Diablerets, 188.5km

April 28th: Stage 5 – Genava, 18km individual time trial

The Tour de Romandie starts on Tuesday 23rd April and concludes on Sunday 28th. Live action will be shown daily on Sky Sports. For other options check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official race website

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