Tour de Romandie 2021 – Stage 2 preview

By David Hunter

La Neuveville > Saint-Imier 165km

This is a tough day in the saddle.

3310m of climbing, and the final climb crests with 17km to go. This is a stage that will interest the breakaway riders, but maybe some GC riders too.

Weather

The sky will be very grey, and there is a threat of rain for the whole stage. Today the bunch got lucky, that might not happen in this stage. The wind is coming from the west, which means a tailwind for the final climb and the run for home.

Key Points

This climb comes after just 20km of the stage. If the break forms here, it will be strong. The teams who want to control the stage will hope the move goes in the opening kilometres, we’ll have to wait and see.

This climb comes with just under 50km to go. We’ll see lots of riders going out the back door as the GC teams increase the pace.

7.7km at 6.8%. I would be surprised to see any of the top climbers in difficulty on this climb, especially as it’s on a wide road. The crest comes with 17km to go.

Tactics

If it rains this a big day, thankfully the descents all look quite easy. The final climb isn’t the hardest I’ve ever seen, do GC teams really want to control the break all day? It’s going to be hard to create gaps between the best riders, especially as the finish isn’t at the top of the hill.

This opens the door for the breakaway riders, but most riders are still close on GC. Will Ineos want to hold onto the jersey? I’m not sure they’ll really care at this stage, especially as they have two or maybe even three protected riders. Who else wants to do the chasing? ISUN for Woods? UAE for Hirschi? This is a tricky one to predict. Much will depend on who gets in the break and if Ineos believe they are a genuine threat on GC.

If the GC group does contest the win, how big will the front group be after the final climb? A team with numbers will have a big chance of taking the stage win. Ineos will have two men left, possibly three if Dennis is climbing well. The other team who should have two options is Jumbo-Visma, they’ll have Kruijswijk and Kuss in with a shout. Bahrain will hope that Caruso will still be there with Haig, but he can be a little inconsistent. The final 10km won’t be easy to control, that’s why breaks have a good chance in stages like this.

Contenders

Geraint Thomas – he’s got a good kick for a climber. In Catalunya, he led the bunch home on Vallter 2000, and was second in the sprint behind Woods on Port Ainé, once Chaves took the win. Ineos look ridiculously strong, they will get the stage they want. If we get a GC sprint, getting a good lead out can make the difference, as there isn’t a huge amount between them. Ineos will have the numbers, Thomas will start his sprint from the best position.

Michael Woods – as I’ve just mentioned, he led the bunch home on Port Ainé. He didn’t do himself justice in the Liège sprint, but he’s clearly going very well just now. I’m trying to remember if I’ve seen him do well in poor conditions before, and I’m struggling. If we get a sprint of around 15 riders, he’ll win it, but without teammates in the closing kilometres he’ll have to rely on others bringing it all together.

Ion Izagirre – loves wet conditions, he’s one of the best in the bunch when the rain comes. He isn’t the best climber, he isn’t the best sprinter, but he could still win. When others will be looking out the window and wishing they’d gone to the Tour of the Alps, Izagirre will be licking his lips.

Wilco Kelderman – one of the fastest finishers from the GC group. The problem is, he doesn’t win very often.

Marc Hirschi – his shape is improving, but is he good enough to win this stage? He was up there in Liège but was just gapped near the top of the Faucons. At his best he’d cope easily with the final climb, but will he at 90%? If the group is around 20 riders big, he should have the fastest sprint. He’ll likely start as the favourite, but the closing stages won’t be easy for him to control.

Fausto Masnada – the Italian is the type of rider who could sneak away in the closing kilometres. He loves to attack, and he won’t be seen as a genuine GC threat.

Alexey Lutsenko – lost a whole heap of time today, which means he’s going for this break or he’s sick.

Thymen Arensman – was in today’s break, I think he’ll try again. The youngster is a huge talent and will win soon.

Simon Pellaud – a breakaway in this region without Simon Pellaud isn’t a proper breakaway.

Prediction Time

This is a hard stage to predict. The opening 70km is tricky, it’s perfect for the break to establish a big gap. If Ineos are hoping to protect Dennis, Porte and Thomas they won’t have enough men to chase a strong move. The issue is the number of riders close on GC; you can be sure someone in the break will be under two minutes to Dennis. If they don’t represent a genuine threat, Ineos could let the jersey go, but that’s not their usual style.

Saying that, it’s likely the breakaway gets caught, but I’d still be keen on my riders making the move. On the final climb I would expect a front group of around 15 to survive, which means the run for home will be full of attacks. Ineos won’t be keen on taking Woods and Hirschi to the line, so I think we’ll see a small group get away in the final 10km and Geraint Thomas will take the win.

David Hunter

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