By David Hunter
Frauenfeld – Frauenfeld 156km
The first road stage.
Long terms watchers of the sport will already know that the Tour de Suisse organisers love two thing, lap circuits and little kickers. Both are present in this stage.
We have one official climb, 1.8km at 7.6%, which has to be tackled on four occasions. This means the riders will climb 1813m in the stage, not a figure that will scare any of the sprinters and we have a sprinter field the envy of every race apart from the Tour.
It doesn’t look that hard, but it is. The roads in the final are narrow, making move up the bunch very difficult. The key point is the battle for the turn before the 2km point, this is where you need to be near the front. The straight approach road means timing your move to the front is important, no doubt we’ll see teams getting excited and hitting the front too soon, they will then get swamped and find themselves back in the middle of the bunch.
The last proper corner comes at the flamme rouge, before a fast bend to the left leading into the home straight. This is a finish made for a team with a good lead out. All the teams got a look at it today, as the final kilometre is the same as the TTT.
A very warm day, with a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm.
Fernando Gaviria – the 23 year old arrives as the man to beat. He was in dominant form in California, taking three wins and the sprint jersey. It was great to see him back winning after a bad crash in Tirreno had ruined his Spring. QuickStep arrive with a team fully focused on delivering him to success, they have Richeze, Lampaert, Keisse and Gilbert to help prepare the sprint. Richeze and Keisse worked very well in California, but Hodeg was used at number 3, a position he looked amazing in. Lampaert comes into that role and he knows this is a crucial position in the train, as this is the point other teams will try and wrestle control from them. Looking at the other sprinters, Gaviria will be confident of beating all of them and securing a confidence boost before the Tour.
Peter Sagan – the world champion couldn’t get close to Gaviria in California. This is a race Sagan loves, he has 15 stage wins to his name over the last 7 years. His sprint train isn’t very long, but this is how he likes it. Sagan is more than happy positioning himself and surfing the wheels. If required, he does have Daniel Oss and Gregor Mühlberger, but I think Sagan will go solo. Does he have the speed to beat Gaviria? Despite being on his wheel in California, he couldn’t get passed him.
Magnus Cort – it’s been a good season for the Dane, picking up wins in Oman and Yorkshire. Both wins were in demanding stages, he hasn’t won a bunch kick yet. His lead out is weak and it will be hard for him to challenge for the podium.
Sonny Colbrelli – the Italian was in great form in the recent Hammer series. He has enjoyed a fine season, but only has one win to his name. That success came on the Hatta Dam and just like Cort, he’s yet to win a bunch sprint. Bahrain have a squad focused on the GC, it looks like Colbrelli will only have Koren in the finale, making it hard to get a good position.
John Degenkolb – started the season with two wins in Mallorca and we did wonder if he was back to his best. What followed confirmed that Degenkolb is far from the rider he used to be. It is a real shame that his accident seems to have left lasting damage, I’m not sure if it’s physical or physiological. Trek have a strong team to support him in this race, with De Kort, Stuyven and Gogl looking to help position their German sprinter. Making the podium would be a good sign for him, but it won’t be easy.
Arnaud Démare – I do love FDJ. When they commit to a rider, they really commit. They arrive with a full team looking to support Démare, all 6 riders are here with the same objective. The French sprinter starts this race with just 20 race days in his legs, he hasn’t actually competed since Paris-Roubaix. His season has been good, he won the opening stage of Paris-Nice, a horrible uphill grind on cobbles. He also went close in a few classics, finishing 2nd in KBK and 3rd in both Milan-Sanremo and GW. He might lack racing, but his sprint train is very fast. With Vichot, Cimolai, Sinkeldam and Guarnieri they have the speed to match most teams, which means Démare will be put into a strong position. We will have to see if his legs are a little rusty.
Alexander Kristoff – his season hasn’t been an overwhelming success but he does have four wins. The most recent was on Thursday, but that was in a weak looking GP du canton d’Argovie. Back in California, he was way off the pace, against the likes of Gaviria and Sagan. UAE do have a strong looking train, with Swift and Ferrari capable of putting the Norwegian in a good position, but does he have the speed in a flat sprint?
Michael Matthews – no sprint win in 2018, but he did win the Romandie prologue. It’s been a strange season for the Aussie, shining in races he shouldn’t really and failing in races he should shine. 5th in Flèche and 63rd in Liège is a prime example of this. Sunweb have a very fast looking sprint train, with Arndt, Andersen and Theuns looking to blast their way to the front in the final 3km. Even if they do get to the front, does he have the speed to finish it off?
Andre Greipel – despite reaching the veteran stage of his career, the Gorilla keeps on winning. This season he took two stages in the TDU, another two stages in the 4 days of Dunkirk and two more in the Tour of Belgium, it seems that two is his favourite number! Recent wins is a good sign, but he needs a stronger sprint train. He has Hansen, Sieberg and De Buyst, but that seems weak compared to some of the teams.
A swashbuckling win for Fernando Gaviria. He’s the fastest sprinter and has the best lead out.
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