Tour de Suisse 2019 – Stage 7 preview

By David Hunter

Unterterzen – San Gottardo 219km

A big day of climbing.

At 219km, this is a long day in the saddle and features two challenging climbs.

First up is the Lukmaierpass which is 15.1km at 5.4%. Not overly difficult, it will simply be used as a warm up for the final climb of the day.

The Gotthardpass is a demon of a climb, especially with a long section of cobbles thrown in. It is 12.6km at 6.9%, but this picture doesn’t include a little lap of the car park the peloton will do at the end of the stage. The cobbles start with around 5.5km left of the stage and end very close to the finishing line. This will be fun! Another factor that some riders will be worried about is the altitude, with the climb finishing at 2090m above sea level.

Weather

More rain is due tomorrow. It looks likely that the peloton will get wet, but they might escape the worst of the rain which is due just after the end of the stage.

It will feel quite cold at the top of the Gotthardpass, but the riders will be pleased to hear that they’ll have a tailwind on the climb.

Tactics

The composition of the teams makes for interesting reading. Almost all squads arrive with few climbing domestiques, which is rather strange for the Tour de Suisse. Take Ineos for example, they only really have Castroviejo and Elissonde who climb well, obviously they would have also had Bernal riding for Thomas. This caused them to miss out on today’s stage win, something that must have frustrated their leader.

This means we could see a different race from usual. Given the lack of depth, it would be wise for most teams to try and get a rider in the morning break, hoping to use them late on the final climb. Once there, the lack of domestiques should encourage some riders to attack from distance and put pressure on team leaders. I simply cannot remember such a weak climbing field in the Tour de Suisse.

Breakaway Hopes

A flat start isn’t great news for any little climbers looking to make the morning move, but you never know, riders could simply roll off the front never to be seen again. With so much climbing in the stage, the winner has to be someone who can handle the hills, but not necessarily a pure climber.

Tour de Suisse is a happy hunting ground for breakaway riders, with Larry Warbasse and Pieter Weening taking huge wins in 2017 and 2016, Antwan Tolhoek added his name to that list today. This will give encouragement to those who get up the road, but it all depends on the attitude of the peloton. Is the relatively weak climbing strength of each team good news for the escape artists? Most certainly.

Contenders

Egan Bernal – looks miles ahead of everyone else. If the break isn’t successful, I simply cannot see anyone getting close to him. He was close to winning today, he’ll hope to see his team control the morning break and set up a GC showdown on the final climb. If this happens, the other riders will have to see if they can respond to his attack, something they couldn’t do today. Still without a win for over a year, he’ll want one before heading to the Tour.

Tiesj Benoot – did someone say cobbles? Was very impressive today, he was the 4th best GC rider home. You have to think that the cobbles will be to his liking, but it’s a shame it isn’t Oude Kwaremont! Beating Bernal will be very difficult, but Tiesj will give it a shot.

Brandon McNulty – breakaway hopeful number 1.

Rui Costa – breakaway hopeful number 2.

Larry Warbasse – breakaway hopeful number 3.

Ben King – breakaway hopeful number 4.

Prediction Time

Can Ineos control the break? This is going to be very difficult, especially as they only have 6 riders. Instead, this looks like another good day for the morning break and I think we could see a surprise win for Brandon McNulty. The young American is hugely talented and climbed well today.

*Overall preview

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David Hunter

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