With a firecracker of a Criterium Dauphiné drawing to a splendid crescendo, the weekend of racing gets even better with the start of another of those pre-Tour de France stage races. Oh yes, get your hands on the biggest cowbell you can find – it’s time for the Tour de Suisse.
Nine days of racing start and finish with individual efforts against the clock. Throw in the toughest mountain-top finish on the WorldTour this year for good measure and the Tour de Suisse is no easy Alpine jaunt. There are intermediate sprint and finish-line bonus seconds on all road stages to add an extra bit of spice.
- The 5.1km prologue will be a target for many riders who would love to slip the leader’s jersey on at the end of the day.
- At 161km, stage two provides a tough day out featuring two ascents of the cat 1 Michaelskreuz (4km at 8.9%) in the final 40km. The second summit is crested with only just over 12km to go.
- On stage three, the riders will face the long grinding ascent of the HC Gotthard pass as soon as the flag drops. Any stragglers may have time to regroup on the 40km descent and catch their breath on the flat roads before they tackle two climbs in the last 20km.
- Stage four has the potential for a sprint finish. However the uphill 4% drag in the last 800 metres mark it out as one the big classics guys will enjoy most of all.
- Stage five is the only really big day in the mountains for the GC hopefuls with two HC climbs in the long 237 km route, including a visit to Austria to include a summit finish atop the Rettenbachferner. At 12.1km and averaging a eye-watering 10.7% this is a brutal climb that all the climbers will have their eyes on. Expect fireworks.
- The patience of the fast men should be rewarded on stages six and seven. Both are likely to end in bunch sprints.
- Stage eight sees the peloton tackle four laps of a 38km circuit around Bern. The GC hopefuls will be trying to save energy for the concluding time trial but this has all the hallmarks of one of those immensely difficult to control days.
- The traditional final time trial takes place over the same 38.4km circuit around Bern. It starts out flat, gets lumpy in the middle and then flattens out again towards the finish. The length of this one means we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the final GC shaken up one last time.
Riders to watch
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). #WeAllWantPinot was our hashtag du jour at the Tour in 2014. The 25-year-old has eschewed the harsh media glare of the Dauphiné in favour of the tranquil Swiss environs. On his day he can climb with the best and he comes to the race on the back of some excellent performances including fifth on the Green Mountain stage in Oman, sixth on summit finish at Tirreno-Adriatico and a solo win on the Tour of Romandie queen stage. We expect great things. Allez!
Getting a rare chance to ride for himself is Astana’s superdomestique extraordinaire Jakob Fuglsang. He has put together a remarkably consistent set of results and animated the Ardennes races this year: top ten at Oman, Paris Nice, Flèche-Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Word from his coaching team is that he leaner, fitter and targeting his first GC win since 2012. A podium place should be well within reach. There is a certain member of the VeloVoices team who would be delighted at this outcome. [I wonder who that might be – Ed.]
A brilliant spring classics campaign saw Sky’s Geraint Thomas finish fifth at Paris-Nice, win E3 Harelbeke and finish on the podium at the storm-battered Gent-Wevelgem. Like Fuglsang this race is a great opportunity for him to take the captaincy role (although technically he shares this with Sergio Henao).
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff- Saxo). Slightly off his stride at the spring classics, Sagan was brilliant at the Tour of California, never finishing lower than sixth on any stage and taking the overall win. He is targeting the leader’s jersey on the short prologue and there are at least two or three others stages that suit him. He won’t have it all his own way though with both Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and The Mighty John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) also gunning for the tough uphill finishes. A good performance here will be just the ticket for any of them before the Tour de France.
Link: Official race website
Featured Image: Etape 5 – Sisteron – La Mure – 12/06/2014 – Le premier groupe d’échappés © A.S.O