The last big stage race before the Tour de France, the Tour de Suisse is popular with riders who didn’t participate in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Unlike last year, this race is one for the climbers not the sprinters, with one of the toughest parcours in years.
What kind of race is it?
It’s a nine-day UCI WorldTour stage race which, like the Critérium du Dauphiné, combines mountain climbs with time trials. The last five winners of the race are:
2008: Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas)
2009: Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank)
2010: Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank)
2011: Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack)
2012: Rui Costa (Movistar)
What happened last year?
Peter Sagan, the Velvet Samurai, threw down the gauntlet from the very start by winning the opening prologue time trial, beating The Sacred Haunches himself, Fabian Cancellara, who had just come back from his Flanders collarbone break. From then on, it was pretty much a Liquigas/Movistar stage race, with Rui Costa, the eventual winner, taking stage two by foiling a late attack by Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) and riding into yellow. Stages three and four went to Sagan with some decisive sprint wins before Katusha’s Vladimir Isaychev won stage five in a breakaway.
Stage six was another notch on Sagan’s sprint belt. Stage seven was a long, technical time trial that once again Fabs lost by a few seconds, this time to Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff, but the yellow jersey was still safely on the shoulders of Costa. Stage eight got the Swiss crowd excited as Mendrisio-born Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) won on a breakaway ride to the line. Stage nine was the day RadioShack was going to try to get Frank Schleck into the yellow jersey but to no avail. It was another breakaway win, this time for Tanel Kangert (Astana), but with Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde busting the peloton up and making sure Schleck couldn’t get away, Costa’s yellow jersey was never in danger.
1. Rui Costa (Movistar) 35:54:49
2. Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:14
3. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:21
4. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +0:25
5. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:40
6. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +0:47
7. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:48
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) +0:59
9. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:42
10. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) +1:52
This year’s race
This year, the peloton heads straight to the mountains after the opening time trial in Ticino and negotiates the highest altitude of the entire race on stage two, from Quinto to Crans-Montana over the Nufenen Pass (2,478m) and finishing with a final climb up to Crans-Montana. There will be no hanging about – by the end of this stage everyone will know who is on form and who isn’t.
Stage three takes the riders up and around the Swiss lakes in a rolling stage, before the sprinters finally get a crack at a win on stage four. Stage five is another rolling stage, with five Cat 4 climbs in the 2½ laps in Leuggern. Two Cat 4 climbs and a ride through Zurich are on the agenda for stage six as the peloton rides from Leuggern to Mellen.
Stage seven is the queen stage, 206km that takes the riders over the Kerenzerberg Pass then onto Davos and the Albula Pass (2,312m). Whoever gets over that first then has to take a fast descent to La Punt. Stage eight is from Zernez to Bad Ragz, where the peloton gets an extra lap around the town. The final podium will then be decided on stage nine, which is a mountain time trial from Bad Ragaz to Flumserberg, with a concluding 10km climb at around 9%.
Who to watch
GC contenders include returning champion Rui Costa (Movistar), BMC’s Greg van Avermaet and Tejay van Garderen, Sky’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Niki Terprstra and Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal.
Guys who would love to nick a stage (but may be here to find some form) include Schleck The Younger (Andy) from RadioShack, Blanco’s Luis Leon Sanchez, OPQS’s Tom Boonen, BMC’s Philippe Gilbert, IAM cat Heinrich Haussler and Strade Bianche winner Moreno Moser (Cannondale).
Sprinters to watch: Cannondale’s Peter Sagan, Saxo Bank’s Danielle Bennati, Argonaut John Degenkolb, GreenEDGE’s Matt ‘Harley’ Goss, Blanco’s Mark Renshaw and Sharpie Tyler Farrar.
Finally, riders who will add a certain flavour to the race include The Sacred Haunches™ Himself Fabian Cancellara, The Hardest Man in the Peloton™ Jens Voigt (RST), pancake aficionado Ted King (Cannondale), Ladies’ Favourite Bernie Eisel (Sky), and Andrey Amador, my favourite Movistarlet.
June 8th: Stage 1 – Quinto-Quinto, 8.1km individual time trial
June 9th: Stage 2 – Quinto-Crans-Montana, 161km
June 10th: Stage 3 – Montreux-Meiringen, 203km
June 11th: Stage 4 – Innertkirchen-Buochs, 161km
June 12th: Stage 5 – Buochs-Leuggern, 176km
June 13th: Stage 6 – Leuggern-Meilen, 186km
June 14th: Stage 7 – Meilen-La Punt, 206km
June 15th: Stage 8 – Zernez-Bad Ragaz, 181km
June 16th: Stage 9 – Bad Ragaz-Flumserberg, 26.8km individual time trial
The Tour de Suisse starts on Saturday 8th June and concludes on Sunday 16th. Check cyclingfans.com for live feed links.
Link: Official website