With the spring classics over for another year, a cycling fan’s fancy turns to stage races. Tuesday sees the start of the 69th edition of the Tour of Romandie, and here’s a brief look at what to expect.
- The six-day stage race is bookended by time trials, a team time trial at the start and an individual effort at the finish. Of the four intervening stages, the first three are best described as lumpy with flat or downhill finishes, while stage five is the queen stage complete with mountain-top finish.
- The 19.2km team time trial takes place around the shores of Lac de Joux. It is mostly flat and for the most part not too technical. However, the riders’ cohesiveness and strength will be tested by a nippy little climb in the last 3km of the course.
- Stage two could be one for the fast finishers but with four tough categorised climbs to tackle, we could also see the first skirmishes in the GC battle. Whichever way it goes we are sure to see an aggressive finale.
- Stages three and four offer the best chances for a sprinter’s victory – well if you are the type of sprinter who can survive a day of tough climbing before turning on the afterburners. Of the two, the 169.8km stage four is the easiest stage of the week featuring only three categorised climbs. It’s the last chance for the non-GC riders to bag a victory and they will be eager to bring one home, The parcours suits a fast sprint type finish, but is also ideal breakaway terrain.
- Stage five is the last opportunity for the climbers to put some time into their opponents before the final time trial. There are four category one climbs to be tackled, the last two within the final 30km. The Petite Forclaz comes first (5.1km with max gradient at 13%e) before the summit finish atop the equally leg-burning Champex-Lac.
- The final time trial on stage six is probably one for the specialists. The 17.2km course is mostly flat, although there are some small climbs and quite a tricky little technical section in the middle that will make it harder to keep a rhythm .
Riders to watch
In both 2013 and 2014 the podium places were filled by Chris Froome (Sky), Simon Spilak (Katusha), and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), All are on the start-list for this edition, and all are in with a good chance of the podium again. Nairo Quintana (Movistar): First at Tirreno-Adriatico and fourth at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Colombian has looked solid so far after a difficult start to the season. His fellow countryman Rigoberto Uran will also line up for Etixx-Quick Step and should be heading for a peak performance as a final tune-up before the Giro. French hopes will be resting on Tour de France heroes Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and the Ag2r duo Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet. All have made good results this season: Pinot at Tirrenno-Adriatico, Peraud at Criterium International and Bardet at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. They will certainly all want to build on that here. There are two Danes worth watching out for. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) has just completed his best Ardennes campaign and he will look to make the most of his form for both stage-winning opportunities and another top ten on GC. Christopher Juul-Jensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) is just returning to full fitness after his crash at Milan-San Remo and will play a key support role at the Giro. However, he is a powerful rider and could be one for a breakaway if the opportunity arises.
You can’t really do a preview of this race without mentioning the Swiss rider – Monsieur Romandie himself – Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE). Winner of three stages last year, and with a recent third at Fleche Wallonne, I wouldn’t put it past him to add to his tally this year. Indeed I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the team won the time trial and put their captain into the leader’s yellow jersey on stage one. Link: Official race website