Tour de Romandie 2018 – Stage 4 Preview

By David Hunter

Sion – Sion 149km

Time for the Queen stage.

Just 149km long, but contains 3684m of climbing. This will be one of the hardest stages of 2018.

The Climbs

The first climb of the day is the hardest. Coming at the very start of the stage, it will cause a huge amount of difficulty. As you can see, the final 5km is always over 10%, that is ridiculously difficult. The peloton then descend, before a section of flat, then we have the second climb of the day.

The climb to Vercorin continues the brutality, with only one kilometre of “easy” gradient. At the crest, there is still 76km to go.

We then have a couple of cat 2 climbs, but they come very close together. This makes for another 13km of climbing at over 5%. Basically, there is no time to rest and recover. Then comes the final climb of the day.

13km at 6.6% means it’s the easiest of the cat 1 climbs, but it is still very difficult. The final 6km averages close to 8% and this is where we’ll see some big moves. The crest comes with 27km remaining, but don’t expect a big group of riders. Given the nature of the day, we could well see a solo rider with a significant gap to the chasers.

Weather

It will be warm, but there is a risk of showers. The wind is light and coming from the north-east.

Tactics

It all depends on Team Sky. With Egan Bernal sitting just behind Primoz Roglic, they need to make the race hard. Not only do Jumbo have the Slovenian, but they also have Steven Kruijswijk sitting in 4th place. The Dutch team have two options, it would be cool to see them on the attack and putting pressure on Sky.

After the disappointing TT from Geraint Thomas, Sky only have Bernal as a threat on GC. He sits 6 seconds behind Roglic and there is a 10 second bonus for the stage. The problem for the Colombian is that Roglic also has a fast sprint and will likely make the podium from a small group. If Bernal is going to win, he needs to drop Roglic on the climb and hope to stay away until the finish. That won’t be easy.

Waiting in the wings is Richie Porte. We all know that he has no sprint and won’t enjoy the descent to the finishing line. It doesn’t look like a stage Porte can win, meaning he won’t take the GC. BMC do have Van Garderen and Dennis still high on GC, they could make this a tough day for Jumbo, in the hope Porte escapes on the final climb.

UAE are another squad with two options. Both Rui Costa and Dan Martin look in fine form and this stage looks great for both of them. They will struggle to win the GC, but Costa has a chance of sneaking onto the podium. As they have a fast sprint, they won’t mind a small group arriving together.

Descending skills are going to be very important. The road off the final climb has many switchbacks and it will be possible to put some riders under pressure. Do not underestimate this element of the race.

Breakaway Hopes

Given the need for bonus seconds and the attacking race Sky need to ride, it doesn’t look a good day for the break. With 44 riders within 4 minutes of Roglic, there is every chance a GC threat will be in the move, forcing Jumbo to chase. It is certainly an option that UAE could use, with Durasek the sacrificial lamb. Expect a ferocious start to the stage.

Contenders

Egan Bernal – took a brilliant win today, but I’m sure he wishes this stage finished at the top of the climb. Yes, he can sprint, but it does offer his rivals a chance of beating him. Bernal needs to drop Roglic, but he also has to keep an eye on Porte and Kruijswijk, this will be a complicated stage.

Rui Costa – given his size, that was a brilliant TT performance. As I’ve mentioned before, he loves racing in Switzerland. Out of these riders, he is arguably the best descender, which is a big advantage considering the run for home. Not only that, but he is a fast sprinter. This is a stage I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to.

Primoz Roglic – this is going to be a tough day for Roglic and Jumbo. He was in a similar position in Itzulia and managed to retain his jersey, but the gaps are much closer here. Looking at his team, he could be very lonely after the first climb. He will have Kruijswijk to help, but this will be a tough tactical battle to win. Looking at the final climb, it is one he’ll like. He isn’t as explosive as Bernal, but the descent to the line is good for him. Can he continue this fine run of form?

Dan Martin – he and Rui Costa will form a strong team in this stage. Both riders are in good form and both can sprint. Martin seems to be climbing very well and he’ll sense a chance of getting a little freedom, as he’s 1:42 down on GC. Expect him to attack from distance.

Jakob Fuglsang – it’s a shame that after a strong period, he doesn’t have a win. This will be his last race for a while, expect him to throw everything he has at it. It’s win or bust for the Dane.

Prediction Time

This is going to be a crazy day. Roglic and Kruijswijk are going to come under attack, I really hope they go on the offensive, rather than ride a defensive race. Given the position of the final climb, I expect the winner to come from a small group. That’s why I’m choosing Rui Costa as my winner. Who will end the race in yellow? I think Roglic might just hang on.

*Overall Preview

David Hunter

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