With the Dauphiné coming to its climatic finish, the next round of Tour de France preparation stage-races begins, this time just across the border in Switzerland. Not quite as hilly, but with longer stages it sees a wider mix of riders taking part – sprinters competing with the mountain goats.
Starting on Sunday and comprising of nine stages, the Tour de Suisse is a slightly more rounded race. Compared to the Dauphiné there are less mountain stages, but more kilometres of racing. So those who need the distance and fair less-well on the high passes, use this historic race as their Tour de France preparation. Classics specialists such as Sagan and Cancellara will once again do battle.
Being a Swiss-organised race it seems logical that they set the race off with a prologue, which is perfect for their most famous rider, Cancellara. This short, sharp race against the clock will see Spartacus hopefully show the form of previous years, but with many difficult stages to follow it is unlikely that Cancellara will guard the leader’s jersey for long.
The second and third stages see the peloton ride over some big climbs, one HC and a mountain top finish on stage 2, followed by some second and first category climbs on stage 3. These will see the general classification change shoulders as those looking for the final victory stake their claim to being the best rider in the race.
Stages four and five should see the race fall into a format, with the riders going for the overall willing to sit back and let the peloton battle for stage victories. These should see either group finishes, favouring those with good sprints, or long breakaways. As with previous years, some of these easier stages can throw some interesting results. With short punchy climbs towards the finish sometimes the GC riders will try to catch their competitors by surprise.
It is not really until stages 7 and 9 that we will see the overall favourites doing battle once one. Stage 7 has a nasty Hors category climb to the finish, which is a perfect place for those looking towards July and the Tour de France to test their condition. A must-see stage for anyone interested in predicting the results in July. Stage 9 is the final time-trial. Unlike the short prologue this is a proper test against the clock. 26 kilometres with the final 10 kilometres being uphill, enough distance for the overall to be decided here.
Riders to watch
For the general classification Costa is the defending champion and riding with number 1. Though not an out-and-out favourite for the race, his team, Movistar showed their strength at the Giro so the chances of him doing a repeat ride are pretty good.
Hesjedal is back racing here after his problems at the Giro, and should be a man to watch. He will be surveyed closely by Van Garderen who is BMC’s GC rider. Kreuziger is also leading his team, Saxo Tinkoff, and will surely be another rider to watch.
The interesting battle is going to be for the stage wins. With Gilbert, Cancellara, Boonen and Sagan all present the Tour de Suisse is going to be a marker for the strong men. Sagan is able to get his large frame over the smaller mountains so could even be a turn up for the general classification.
Riding aside, with its green valleys, high mountains and chocolate box houses the Tour de Suisse is a perfect motivator for anyone who needs to watch some amazing riding in the mountains.