By David Hunter
We are back in Switzerland for one of the hardest stage races in the calendar. Some are here to get some final preparations in for the Giro, others have a different calendar and are here for one week of solid racing.
We begin with a 5km prologue in Aigle. Full gas for the leader’s jersey.
The first real road stage and we already have a huge day for the GC. The final climb to Champery is 14.5km at 4.2%, but that includes some descending, it is harder than the official figures make you believe.
No sprint stage is ever easy in Romandie, but this is about as easy as you get. With the climbing happening early in the stage, we should see a relatively big sprint, although it does finish uphill.
This is a harder day for the sprinters, with a series of cat 3 climbs in the second half of the stage. Expect a reduced bunch sprint.
With three cat 1 climbs, this is the Queen stage. This race usually gets it’s fair share of bad weather, the peloton will be hoping for a sunny day!
We end with a 19km TT, including an opening climb of 7.5km at 4%, with much steeper sections within it. If the GC is close, we are in for an exciting day.
The forecast looks horrible. If it’s not raining, it’s going to be snowing. The last two stages look like staying dry but the riders are in for a long and demanding week.
We have two big mountain stages and 24km of time trialling. All contenders have to be good on their TT bike.
Ion Izagirre – any race featuring 24km of TT is a race for Izagirre. After a strong showing in Pais Vasco, he marked himself as a rider to watch in one day races, after a strong Ardennes. Now back in stage racing mode, he will be confident of another podium finish in a week long race. He’s not at the level required to challenge Froome and Porte for the win, but he won’t be too far away.
Richie Porte – he’ll still be disappointed to have lost out in the crosswinds of France, but Porte did end Paris-Nice with a superb stage win. Given his legs, he really should have won the overall. He arrives here after a solid block of training in Monaco and starts as one of the big favourites. This will be his first battle with former teammate, Chris Froome, in 2017. Expect a great fight between the two old friends.
Andrey Amador – the Costa Rican is a very impressive bike rider. Usually found working for Valverde and Quintana, he is more than capable of delivering a big result of his own. He now has two consecutive top 10 finishes in the Giro, he’ll be hoping to make that three in a couple of weeks. He does possess a good TT and with the Giro being all about Quintana, he might just have a good go at the overall title in this race.
Simon Yates – a badly timed puncture took him out of contention in Pais Vasco, a real shame as that race really suited his abilities. The Englishman has an ever growing reputation and now that he is riding the Tour, not the Giro, he can afford to go full gas in Switzerland. He’ll be challenging in both mountain stages and has an ever improving TT.
Bob Jungels – unlike a lot of the other contenders, Jungels is doing this race before heading off to the Giro. That is not good news for his overall chances. As it is virtually impossible to hold form for over a month, expect to see Jungels testing himself in a couple of stages. Despite the TT kilometres, I don’t think he’ll be challenging for the overall win.
Simon Spilak – loves racing in this part of the world, that’s because he is very good in poor weather conditions. After a very poor 2016, the Slovenian has returned to better ways in 2017. He was 11th in Tirreno and 10th in Pais Vasco, so he’s not yet back to the level of 2015, but these are positive signs. He was 2nd here in 2013, 2014 and 2015, I think he would be delighted with another 2nd place.
Ilnur Zakarin – winner of this race in 2015, the Russian is back and the route does suit him. As he is also going for the pink jersey in the Giro, he might not be willing to go too deep in the mountain stages. It is one of the things you need to consider in this race, especially with only a handful of days between the end of Romandie and the start of the Giro.
Primoz Roglic – the sensation of 2017. He won in Algarve, was 4th in Tirreno and 5th in Catalunya. Along the way, he’s picked up two stage wins. His performance in the Basque Country was exceptional, but he’ll still be kicking himself about losing time in the Queen stage. The Slovenian is not the finished article, he still has a lot to learn about positioning and focus, but he is learning fast! Starts as the rider most will be keen to drop in the mountains.
Chris Froome – his season starts here! The Englishman loves this race, having won it twice. Last year, an unfortunate puncture took him out of contention, but he still took a brilliant stage win. His form here will give a big indication about his chances of winning another Tour de France.
It’s very difficult to see past Froome and Porte. I would expect to see both of them on a different level compared to the rest. In a straight fight, Chris Froome will come out on top.
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