Tour de Romandie 2018 – Stage 1 Preview

By David Hunter

Fribourg – Delémont 166km

This looks like a classic Romandie stage.

You look at the stage and think, those climbs don’t look too hard, but this is Romandie. I’ve seen enough stages in this race to realise that this is a stage where GC riders will want to have some fun. The main issue for most is Col de Bruisberg.

Overall, it is 5.3km at 7%, but that includes 3km at 7.8%. This is the type of climb that will interest the GC riders and puncheurs. It is far too difficult for the sprinters, but that doesn’t include Michael Matthews.

First time up the climb, we will see some riders put into difficulty, but it’s the second ascent where we’ll see the attacks. Once over the top, we have a 4km descent, before the road rises again. This uncategorised climb is around 3km at 4%, but it has 800m at 7% near the crest. If a move hasn’t gone, this is another chance to get away from the bunch.

Once off the descent, we have a false flat finish, but it does kick up at the line. It is important to be patient and don’t start your sprint too early.

Team Sunweb

Michael Matthews took a brilliant win today and sits in the overall lead. This is a stage which looks great for the Aussie, but it won’t be easy to control the last 30km. They do have a number of solid climbers in the squad, who should be able to survive the climbs and try to pull back the attackers. The problem is that Ten Dam and Vervaeke don’t have the biggest of engines and I wouldn’t be overly concerned if I was getting chased by them. It won’t be easy to bring it back for a sprint.

Weather

It’s going to be rather windy. We have a wind coming from the west and gusting to 40km/h. That does make things interesting. The good news for a lot of riders is that most of the route is secluded, but there will be sections where gaps can be created. Expect a nervous day in the bunch.

Tactics

We shall see if the GC riders fancy having some fun. As the organisers have decided to go for a mountain TT and just one tough stage, I think some riders will want to try and attack on the final climb. As Matthews is the only fast man expected to survive the climbs, teams will want to put pressure on him.

If a GC rider attacks, they will be followed by the other contenders. This could create gaps in the peloton, but any chase depends on who misses the move. I will point out that most teams don’t seem to be overly strong. With a few weaker squads, an upset could happen.

Contenders

Michael Matthews – it’s not been the best start to his season, and he would have been a little worried, but all that changes with a win. Superb in the prologue, the Aussie will be looking forward to taking another stage. As I’ve explained, being the fastest rider by a distance will bring some difficulty for his squad, but if we get a 40 man sprint, he wins.

Sonny Colbrelli – if we only had one lap of the closing circuit, I think he would make the finish. If the pace is fast, I can’t see him hanging on as we speed up the climb for a second time. There will be no pressure on him as Bahrain also have Enrico Gasparotto.

Rui Costa – he will be hoping to succeed with a late attack. UAE have two big options for this stage, with Costa and Dan Martin, both look in good form. To succeed, they need to make the climb as hard as possible in order to try and isolate Matthews. Costa looks like a rider about to hit top form, when he does, he’s a dangerous man.

Jakob Fuglsang – after a very strong Ardennes campaign, the Dane will also be hoping for a tough stage. He’s no stranger to an attack and he will hope to see his team set a fast pace on the climb.

Omar Fraile – enjoyed success in the Basque Country and gives Astana a strong second option.

José Gonçalves – when he’s hot, he’s hot! After a recent period of not being hot, 20th in the prologue was a hint in the right direction. Gonçalves had the unenviable record of being a DNF in all four of the spring classics he started. He is a rider who can climb well, but also packs a fast sprint. It can be difficult predicting when he is on form.

Michael Albasini – looks horribly off form just now.

Prediction Time

It will take an awful lot to drop Bling on these climbs. Sunweb should have just about enough to hold it together and Michael Matthews will take another win.

*Overall Preview

David Hunter

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