By David Hunter
After the fun and excitement of the Ardennes, we’re now back in stage race mode. The organisers have gone with a relatively boring look route, with only one big day in the mountains.
As usual, the opening stage is a prologue. Just 4km long, this is going to be fast and furious.
With over 3400m of climbing, this isn’t a day for the sprinters. The climbs aren’t too hard, but Col de la Tourne will see a selection being made. There are two unclassified bumps in the final 12km, which could be used to launch a late move; GC riders will need to be watchful.
Another day with a few lumps along the way, but this should end in a big sprint.
A stage with an interesting finish. A series of little climbs will test the strength of the sprinters, with the puncheurs looking around with interest. I think it looks too hard for the quick men.
The big GC day with over 4000m of climbing. A series of climbs leads into the final mountain, which is around 12km at 6%. This hill is very irregular and it won’t be easy for some of the climbers to settle into a rhythm.
We end with a 17km ITT. A couple of lumps along the way, but nothing to worry the TT specialists.
Rui Costa – the former world champion always goes well in Switzerland. He’ll like the look of a few of the stages, but knows that his TT performance will determine how well he does at the end of the week. The podium is a realistic goal for him, especially if he can pick up a stage win and some bonus seconds.
Felix Großschartner – after winning the Tour of Turkey, it will be interesting to see how much he still has left in the tank. The Austrian has enjoyed a fine start to the season and continues to grow at the top level. If he has managed to hold his form, he’ll be a man to watch this week, but will he be team leader?
Emanuel Buchmann – the German should be Bora’s leader. He took a magnificent stage win in the Basque Country, but couldn’t hold on for the overall title. 2019 has been good for him so far, he started with a first and second in Mallorca, then he was 4th in the UAE Tour, before his 3rd place in Itzulia. I’ve been impressed by the way Bora have managed his progression over the last few years, I’m expecting the results to start flowing.
David Gaudu – the final TT will end his hopes of winning the race, but he should be targeting the big GC day. Regular readers will know that I have a huge amount of respect for the young French climber, he is brilliant in the mountains. This is a big chance for him to challenge for a high spot on GC.
Dani Martinez – the Colombian started the season in fine form, but he hit the wall in the Basque Country. Still just 23 years old, he will learn from this experience and come back stronger. He looked okay in Liège, finishing in 20th place, which will give him some confidence for this race. If back to his best, he should be challenging for the podium.
Geraint Thomas – is he eventually hitting some form in 2019? After a winter where he didn’t fully focus on training, Thomas was very honest about his shape and form. As we approach May, it is now time for him to be challenging in races. His focus is trying to retain his Tour de France title, that means he still won’t be 100%, but we’ll now start to see him at the pointy end, mixing it with the best.
Steven Kruijswijk – after a hugely successful 2018, the Dutch climber wanted to become a more consistent rider away from the grand tours. This season we’ve seen him competing in two stage races; Andalucía and Catalunya, where he finished 3rd and 5th respectively. It is nice to see him hitting his goal and you have to think it will continue in Romandie. As the TT is bound to have a huge impact in the race, he has to start as one of the big favourites, it’s about time he added to his two career victories, he’s a much better rider than the statistics show.
Primož Roglič – with the Giro just around the corner, the Slovenian is here to get some racing in his legs, not to challenge for the GC.
The route just isn’t hard enough for my liking. We shouldn’t see any gaps until the big mountain stage, but even that isn’t overly difficult. It’s likely that the main GC riders are very close together going into the ITT, which will settle the outcome of the race. I think it’s a straight fight between Kruijswijk and Buchmann and the Dutchman just has the edge, but not by much. A first World Tour GC win for Steven Kruijswijk.
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