By David Hunter
We head back to Switzerland, for the 81st edition of the Tour de Suisse. After an injury hit season, it’s great to see, Miguel Angel Lopez, back to defend his crown.
We open with a stage that should really be called a prologue, but the organisers have decided to call it an ITT. Only 6km in length, we will only see small gaps.
A very typical stage in this race, nice and brutal! The riders complete 4 laps of a circuit that features a climb of 2km at 11.4%. It might only be the second stage, but some GC riders will suffer. The last climb crests with 22.8km remaining, that should really make it a reduced sprint.
A fairly easy sprint stage, especially by Suisse standards, but it does have a little kick at the end.
The first of the GC days, with a big mountaintop finish at Villars-sur-Ollon. The climb is 10.2km at 7.9% and featured in a stage of the Tour de Romandie in 2016, where Chris Froome took the win.
Looks like a good day for the break, with a big climb right in the middle of the stage. The mountain is 20km at 6.5%, long and demanding.
The GC fight continues as the race returns to La Punt, which was last used in 2013. The final climb is 15km at 6.5% and climbs to an altitude of 2315m, despite the profile picture, there is a short descent to the finishing line.
The climb to Solden is a popular one in the race, last year the stage was won by Tejay Van Gardenen. The riders have to climb to 2780m and the mountain is 14.2km at 9.5%. This is the hardest climb in the race.
After three days for the climbers, we return to another lap circuit. This is completed eight times and the climb is 1.4km at 4.8%. It should be a crazy day of fast racing.
As usual, the race ends with an ITT. This one is 28.6km long and features a climb of 3.7km at 5%. The battle for the title will hopefully still be alive.
Post Giro Blues
Any rider that has just completed the Giro, and been fighting for a high spot on GC, will be cooked. I don’t see Dumoulin, Pozzovivo, Konrad and Hirt being able to challenge for the overall win in this race. They could well take a stage win, but they won’t hold onto the jersey.
Mathias Frank – after a poor Romandie, the Swiss rider will be determined to put things right, once again riding on home roads. It’s a race he knows well and he’s been successful here before, finishing 2nd in 2014. He joined AG2R at the start of the season, knowing that his team leadership opportunities would be limited. This is probably his only chance to ride for himself and he must take it. Frank ended 2016 in fine form, taking a brilliant win in the Vuelta. Hopefully he can find some form for this race.
Joe Dombrowski – the American should be well in Switzerland, he seems to cope well with riding at altitude. He has just completed the Giro, but he wasn’t riding for the GC. With that block of racing in his legs, he should be ready for a big performance in Switzerland. Cannondale come with a strong team, they have Dombrowski, Carthy, Woods and Craddock. They should be fighting for stages and the overall win.
Simon Spilak – 11th in Tirreno and 10th in Pais Vasco showed that Spilak was coming back into some form. He loves riding in this country, usually due to the horrible weather, winning this race in 2015. It would be good to see him back on top form, but there is no guarantee that this will happen.
Carlos Betancur – at last, the great Betancur returns to my contenders list! Even before his performance in the Hammer Series, my spies had spotted him out on the roads in northern Spain. He even managed a spell of moto-pacing! The Hammer Series confirmed that he is back to a good weight, something that is key to him being successful. The TT kilometres are not good for him, but he’ll be looking forward to the big mountain stages. We would all be delighted to see him taking a stage win.
Gianluca Brambilla – QuickStep arrive with De La Cruz and Brambilla, I hope to see the Italian going well. 2016 was a brilliant year for him, with wins in both the Giro and Vuelta. A terrific stage hunter, I want to see him trying to win week long stage races. He can TT with the best of them, but he might struggle in the high mountains. If he does lose time, QuickStep have David De La Cruz as another strong option.
Ion Izagirre – Was 2nd in this race with an unbelievable TT in 2016. This season has seen more progression from the Basque rider, finishing in the top 12 of all the Ardennes races. On top of that, he was 7th in Paris-Nice, 3rd in Pais Vasco and 5th in Romandie. He approaches this race with different ambitions this year, he is here to prepare for the Tour de France. It is virtually impossible to win this race and go on to do well in France, the races are just too close together. Izagirre will hope for a strong week, but I doubt we’ll see him better his 2nd position.
Jarlinson Pantano – he has spent most of 2017 riding in support of Alberto Contador, now he gets to chase some personal glory. He was excellent here last year, taking a stage en route to finishing 4th on GC. After that he went on to ride a terrific Tour, winning one stage and finishing second in another two. He’s in a similar position to Mathias Frank, with limited chances to be team leader. Expect to see the Colombian shine as we climb over 2500m.
Tejay Van Garderen – his selection fascinates me. After dropping out of contention in the Giro, he responded with a brilliant stage win in St Urlich. He didn’t waste too much energy in the other stages, that means he should arrive with some power still in the tank. Last year, he won the stage to Solden, he will be hoping for more than that this year.
Miguel Angel Lopez – first race of an injury hit season. He is here to get back into the rhythm of racing.
I think we should see a fierce battle for the title and think it could be close between Pantano and Van Garderen. Both riders love high altitude, but I think we’ll see Jarlinson Pantano taking a big win for Trek-Segafredo.
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