Tour de Suisse BIG Preview
The BIG stages
Stage 1 – 18.3km Team Time Trial
A nice Team Time Trial will kick off this year’s race – with one being included in the TDF, both the Dauphine and Suisse have included a day of the discipline. From the profile and map, it’s doesn’t look a hugely testing course, but a few pinches around 6% come early in the stage. There’s a lot of strong teams here, so expect some hot racing.
Stage 6 – 186km Hilly Finish
Two long climbs early in the day will wear the riders down; the Furka Pass and Klausen Pass are 16.5km and 24.1km long each, with the Furka Pass reaching 2400m above sea level. Those climbs both come before 70km to go, so they won’t make the race, but they’ll both be felt in the punishing finish in Gommiswald. Slopes of 18% come in the kilometre-long haul that tops out with 1200m to go and will suit any punchy riders left in the field.
Stage 7 – 171km Mountain Finish
The race’s decisive mountain finish, Stage 7 finishes with the Arosa climb. An inconsistent haul up to 1744m comes in two parts, firstly an 11-kilometre long section at 5.7%, and then a false flat before the toughest slopes for 3 kilometres at 10%. From there, it’s 2km of false flat again to the line. It makes for an almost 25-kilometre climb, and the section at the top is going to see some huge attacks as climbers look to take time before the final ITT.
Stage 9 – 34.1km Individual Time Trial
It’s a decisive stage because it’s a Time Trial, and a time trialist’s Time Trial at that. Some rollers line the route, but it fairly flat and on straight roads, so expect the specialists to put serious time into everyone else here. Richie Porte’s the best time trialing contender for the overall, it’s going to heavily swing the race in his favour.
The BIG favourites
Richie Porte leads the list of overall contenders and he’ll be keen to see where his form’s at, having not raced since Romandie a month ago. He was slightly off the pace there, still building from an inconspicuous spring, but you’d think he’ll be here to win. This course suits him well; the stages don’t look like they’ll produce enormous time gaps, and you’d think he’ll make a chunk of time up in the ITT. BMC has an incredible squad here, including Van Garderen, Kung, Van Avermaet and Gerrans; they’ll be strong in the TTT too.
Simon Spilak is the defending champ here, winning the overall for the second time in his career. His penchant for Swiss racing means he’ll likely be unexplainably good here once again. He’s been out of sorts this year though, without a GC top 10 result from his five cracks at it. His win last year came after bossing the final mountaintop finish, but it’s unclear if he’s got the legs to do the same again.
Having won a stage and finished fourth overall at Romandie, the evergreen Jacob Fuglsang comes here high on confidence. He’s likely leading Astana’s charge at Le Tour and should be good value in this race too. Fuglsang’s opted for Suisse over the Dauphine, which he won last year, and is probably a top 3 certainty with his pedigree as a June specialist.
Nairo Quintana’s decided to show up here for one of his five races per year – as usual, you don’t know what to expect from him. Mikel Landa’s racing here too, and waiting in the wings for a chance to lead the team, but Quintana’s unquestionably the team leader. Well, for now at least, as both Valverde and Landa are racing Le Tour. Quintana’s slightly lost his lustre after a poor Tour last year (even if it was after racing the Giro) and he needs to prove himself to keep his status. With such a long TT, this race probably doesn’t suit him; a spritely mountains performance shouldn’t be too much to ask though.
The BIG sprinters
Sprinters looking for a Tour lead-in race weren’t exactly spoilt for choice this year; picking between the hilly routes of Dauphine and Suisse is a bit like choosing between Carlton Mid and Sommersby Cider at your local... yuk. Most have opted for this race though, making for some tough competition in the one and a half stages that we might see a sprint. Stage 8 held on a circuit around Bellinzona should see a sprint; though it’s rolling, there are no proper climbs. Stages 2 and 3 both should suit puncheurs, but if a sprinter can hang tough, he might be in the mix
After a successful spring classics season, Peter Sagan returned to racing at the Tour of California. Though he had four top 5 results, he returned without a win there for the first time in his career. It was the top end speed as a sprinter that he was missing (to be fair if that’s the one chink in his armour, then he’s doing alright), and his only opportunities for wins were on the flat against Gaviria, Kittel, Ewan and co. He’s a big favourite to take at least one win here though, with several lumpy stages that will eliminate pure fast men.
Those lumps still mightn’t get rid of Fernando Gaviria though. As well as being the form sprinter in the world right now, he’s tough enough to stick it out on lumpy days. Having won every bunch finish at the International Sprinters Conference 2018 (Tour of Cali), the Colombian fast-man is sending out some huge warnings ahead of his debut TDF.
Arnaud Demare, Andre Greipel and Michael Mathews will no doubt be the others sniffing around any stage that somehow ends up in a big bunch gallop.
See you back at the Social Club,