By David Hunter
Langnau im Emmental – Langnau im Emmental 158km
The racing really begins.
This is the Tour de Suisse, which means lap circuits. The organisers have found an interesting loop, one that features two tough climbs that will seriously test the legs.
As you can see, this really is a climb of two halves. 7.9km at 5.1% is misleading, thanks to the almost 3km of flat road. The opening 3km averages 7% and the final 2km is at 8%. The climb is very irregular and has plenty of steep sections which will trouble some of the sprinters. Roughly 9km of descending follows, before the riders start climbing again.
2.6km at 9.9% is going to be a real test for the sprinters. This is the climb that stands between them and contesting the finish, but is it too hard for them? The final kilometre of the climb averages over 10%, this is a big problem for the fast men. If the GC guys want to test legs, it will be hard for most to hold onto the front group, some will hope that cresting with 18km to go, the bunch will be put off going full gas.
The rain that arrived at the end of the TT should be all finished by the time the riders start the stage. It looks like a sunny day for the peloton.
Bahrain are in control of the race lead, so they are obliged to chase the morning break. With 8 riders within 10 seconds of Rohan Dennis, we could see bonus seconds take the jersey off his shoulders.
I would expect to see Bora and Sunweb look to dictate much of the race, hoping to set up a small sprint finish. The final lap won’t be easy to control, I expect some of the GC riders to attack on the final climb and see if they can escape. As the stage isn’t too long, there should be enough domestiques left to chase the attacks.
Peter Sagan – for the first time in many years, Sagan arrives here with many questions to answer. For one reason or another, his spring campaign was a disaster by his high standards. He was sick before Tirreno, but you can’t blame that for weeks of poor performances, something else must have been nagging anyway at him. A confidence boosting win in California will have helped motivate him during his recent spell at altitude and he’ll be delighted to be at a race he has dominated over the years. He would normally survive these climbs and take the win, but is he back to his usual self?
Michael Matthews – with only 16 race days to his name, the Aussie has to arrive here feeling nice and fresh. He was brilliant in Catalunya and his 6th place in Flanders was also an impressive result, but if I was his team manager I’d want more races from him and more wins. He’ll expect to survive the climbs, but will be concerned by the presence of Sagan, a rider he rarely beats in a sprint finish.
Kasper Asgreen – one of the stars of 2019. His 2nd place in Flanders was sensational, but his performances in the Tour of California were incredible. The youngster has quickly risen up the ranks at QuickStep and gives them a good option in this stage. He has a fast sprint, but will need a high pace on the climbs to remove the likes of Sagan and Matthews.
Omar Fraile – one of my favourite riders. His season has actually been a little quiet, but I think all that could change over the next month. He has a very fast sprint, but he loves attacking and I think he’ll make a move on the final climb and see if he can escape from the bunch. Astana have enjoyed a brilliant season; can he take another win for them?
Tiesj Benoot – hasn’t raced since crashing out of Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian has recently finished a block at altitude and arrives feeling fresh and hoping for good results. There has been plenty of rumours about which team he’ll be joining in 2020, but he’ll want to put that to one side and simply focus on trying to win bike races.
Greg Van Avermaet – just like Sagan, his classics campaign wasn’t what he hoped for. He put that behind him with a good performance in the Tour of Yorkshire, winning the final stage and finishing 2nd on GC. This is a stage that will interest the great man, but the presence of Sagan will loom large. He knows he can’t beat him in a sprint, I hope that forces him into attacking on the final climb.
It’s the Tour de Suisse, that means a win for Peter Sagan.
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