By David Hunter
After the fun of the classics, we head to Switzerland for a return to stage racing. The Tour de Romandie is usually one of the hardest races on the calendar, full of exciting riding.
We begin with 4km of TT, with several steep sections and a little bit of cobbles. It certainly looks a fun way to start the race.
The opening road stage is one that features a lap circuit, this is something the organisers do like. The main issue is the Col de Bruisberg, which is 5.3km at 7%. This means it won’t be a day for the sprinters and we could see some GC action.
The second stage is one for the sprinters.
This is where it starts to get interesting. Instead of having a MTF, we have a 10km mountain time trial. It features the popular climb to Villars-Sur-Ollon and is a stage I’m looking forward to. The result will set the tone for the next few stages.
Just 149km long, but it features 3684m of climbing. It looks like one of those stages that is actually too hard. Instead of exciting racing, it could be a dull day in the saddle.
The final stage is another for the sprinters.
Geraint Thomas – he was 3rd in Tirreno, but a mechanical cost him the chance to take the win. The Welshman has started the season well, except for a brief appearance in Paris-Roubaix. His season is built around the TDF and this will be an important measure of form. Team Sky arrive with a strong squad to support his overall ambitions and it would be a surprise if he wasn’t challenging for the win. He’ll like the TT and will use this as a chance to cement his position as the man to take over from Froome, if he can’t ride in July.
Dan Martin – after a disappointing Ardennes campaign, he’ll be looking for a better performance this week. Normally not a fan of a TT, the mountain TT is much better for him. This season has not started very well, something his new team will be a little worried about. A good result here would certainly help settle any nerves.
Jakob Fuglsang – unlike Dan Martin, he leaves the Ardennes after a strong performance in all three races. Confidence will be high and the Dane will be looking forward to a big result this week. The winner of the 2017 Dauphine, I’m sure that Fuglsang would love to take another stage race. He has the ability to challenge for this title, but a lot will depend on the TT.
Ion Izagirre – 4th in Paris-Nice and 3rd in Itzulia, the Basque rider has enjoyed a fine start to the season. He has been very busy over the last month and must be getting close to the end of his resources. Given the TT, he starts the race as one of the favourites, but I’m not sure if his legs will last.
Primoz Roglic – was outstanding in Itzulia, taking a fantastic victory. He will arrive in Romandie with a huge amount of confidence and a strong team to help support him. A TT expert, it will be interesting to see him in the mountain TT. Will this be better or worse for him? This is his last big goal before heading to the Tour de France and he will certainly be one of the main contenders for the overall win.
Steven Kruijswijk – the Dutch rider has favoured a lighter start to the season, but he’s still impressed, finishing 7th in Andalucía and 8th in Catalunya. He is a rider who enjoys a mountain TT and could well take that stage. Jumbo know that having both him and Roglic high on GC will be very important for stage 4.
Richie Porte – much of his spring was ruined by illness, but that’s the risk you take when you’re as thin as he is. His first race back was in Itzulia, where he was miles off the pace. He completed the Tour Du Finistère, but this is his first real test. He arrives as the team leader, but he doesn’t know where his form currently is. If close to 100%, he would be one of the big favourites, especially with the mountain TT.
Pierre Latour – 3rd in Catalunya was a huge result for the Frenchman. Still just 24 years old, he has a big future ahead of him. He will be looking at his rivals and thinking another podium spot is achievable, remember that he is the French TT champion. He has already established himself as a favourite of mine, thanks to his aggressive racing style. I expect him to have a good week.
That man Roglic to take another big win. Having two riders high on GC will really help the squad in the challenging days and I think we’ll see Roglic smash the TT.
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