Tour de Romandie Preview

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Tour de Romandie starts today. The spring classics are done and the focus of the sport now shifts to stage racing.

If races were ranked by their websites, it’s the best race of the year. But Romandie is a great race in its own right with some big names on a good course and it’s all taking part just before the Giro d’Italia. Here’s a quick preview.

Romandie?
Romandie
It’s the French-speaking part of Switzerland, to the west of the country and borders France and Italy, in green above. The country might have several different languages but it’s doing fine, an oasis of prosperity and stability surrounded by the wobbly Eurozone . The race isn’t limited to this area but within the region it can borrow from a range of terrain, from wide plains and valleys to mountain passes and ski resorts. It’s the home race of BMC, the Swiss bike company.

The Route
There is a prologue today and then five stages before the finish on Sunday. All the route is online but here’s a summary:

  • The prologue is flat and heads though the city centre of Lausanne, the home town of many international sports events like the International Olympic Committee. With a few sharp corners, this is one for the prologue specialists like Castroviejo or Durbridge and it looks like the weather will be a factor too.
  • Stage 1 is a hilly day but some sprinters will want this. There are several categorised climbs along the way but they are steady.
  • Stage 2 starts in France, in an industrial area dominated by the Peugeot car plant. It is again hilly but might come to a sprint finish although this time the finish is uphill, albeit on a drag. Like Stage 1 it could see some sprinters in trouble if their out of shape but an in-form rider shouldn’t have a problem.
  • Stage 3 is chocolate and cheese day as it heads past food giant Nestlé and the lush pastures where they make Gruyère cheese. The finish is uphill and should be to the taste of a rider like Damiano Cunego or Martin Velits.
  • Stage 4 is the “mountain stage” but I’ve used quotation marks as this isn’t quite the Alpine festival that Switzerland could offer. The race will pass UCI HQ. The climbs are regular and a good test for steady riders, the turbo diesels of the peloton rather than the pint-sized climbers. But no surprise, it’s still April and there’s snow up at altitude.
  • Stage 5 is a 16.5km time trial around the Crans Montana ski resort. Short, the time gaps won’t be big but it features a categorised climb to make the legs hurt.

Note there are time bonuses. 10 seconds, six seconds and four seconds for the first three riders on the road stages. There are no intermediate time bonuses.

Contenders
A useful warm-up ahead of the Giro d’Italia, the contenders for the Italian race will normally avoid pushing themselves to the max which can put a brake on the racing. But the Tour de Romandie has a selective route that is not punishing in the extreme so we could see the Italians scrapping for this. The official startlist isn’t out yet so this is based on the provisional version.

Cadel Evans is the defending champion but he could be short of racing and was dropped during the Amstel. Nevertheless he’s a great all-rounder and could build form during the race and test himself in the final time trial. If not Teejay Van Garderen looked very powerful in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Another strong team are Sky. Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Michael Rogers and Bradley Wiggins, who is the leader? I feel sorry for Danny Pate and Kanstantsin Siutsou who will be working. Is Wiggins in superstar mode – if so the head to head with Evans could be good – or will Richie Porte return to the race that first made his name as leader? And what of Chris Froome, second in the Vuelta, is this his chance to shine?

Other big names include Denis Menchov. No stranger to the mountain roads of Switzerland in times past, the Katusha rider could deliver a surprise win; if not his team mate Simon Špilak won the race in 2010 after Valverde was erased. Ivan Basso is also racing and if I suspect he’ll be saving himself for the Giro he might want to reassure himself after the Giro dell Trentino. Roman Kreuziger is in a similar position. Pierre Rolland is racing but Europcar patron Thomas Voeckler is not, so will he be liberated or burdened by responsibility?

I’m also interested in watching Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Barracuda), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat), Angel Madrazo and Branislau Samoilau (Movistar) as younger riders. Romandie offers just the kind of racing for a young rider to emerge. Pinot already won the mountains competition in 2010 but we’ll see if he’s building up for more.

Website
A mention of the race website again: http://www.tourderomandie.ch/en/index.php. Taste is personal, you may or may not like the design. But it’s got full stage profiles, video fly-bys, news and plenty of other information. Although it’s not perfect, as of now there’s still no official start list.

Jerseys
Romandie leader's jersey
Yellow = overall leader
Pink = mountains leader
Green = points leader
White = best young rider (under 25)

TV
It’s live on Swiss TV and other national broadcasters will cover it as well as Eurosport too. And the usual places will supply pirate feeds: cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv.

Pin It

{ 42 comments }

InTheGC April 24, 2012 at 9:21 am

Good preview! Just as I have come to expect, I agree with your picks for the Overall and an interesting selection of younger riders, I posted something similar this AM, mainly about Outsiders and ones to watch rather than the big names – my picks are quite different to yours it has to be said! Love the attention to detail as usual!

Geoff Bumble April 24, 2012 at 9:44 am

Yes, another great preview.

I suspect Chris Froome will be in teammate mode as he’s coming back after a long break from racing after he discovered more bilharzia parasites in his system – http://www.chris-froome.com/diary. Rogers, Porte, Pate and Siutsov will all be competing to secure spots in the Sky Tour team, so you’d expect them all to want to shine in their own way, whether as stage/GC contenders or domestiques. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wiggo taking more of a backseat if either Porte or Rogers are going well, to take the pressure off – he’s already proven himself at Paris-Nice and the Dauphine is likely to be his next big target. I’m also interested to see how well Geraint Thomas performs as a lead-out man for Mark Cavendish. Presumably this is a rehearsal for them ahead of the Giro.

Toe Strap April 24, 2012 at 10:03 am

Thomas is training for the track, so will not be at either Romandie or the Giro.
Nonetheless, how Sky will manage their first Cav/Wiggo team will be interesting.

Toe Strap April 24, 2012 at 10:06 am

Apologies, seems Thomas is riding Romandie after all

Alan April 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Thomas _is_ also doing the Giro, along with the other Sky boys in the GB team pursuit squad

jkeltgv April 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

interestingly just saw that Jacky Bobby is also doing the Giro for GE – Giro now being used as preparation for team pursuit?

Paul I. April 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Yeah, it would have been hard for him to won the prologue, otherwise ;)

brian April 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm

i will have to agree with u on this one. wiggins is under no pressure what so ever i think this yr is the best chance for him to win the TDF.

STB April 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

Great write up as always. I am interested in the Sky team and how they will tackle this. I assume Wiggins is using this as preperation for the Tour de France with Porte, Rogers and Froome looking to the Giro. Froome hasn’t ridden much this year so it will a good test for him. Maybe it is also a kind off selection race within Sky?

The Inner Ring April 24, 2012 at 9:49 am

Racing is always different than training but Sky seem adept at measuring their riders in training and being able to gauge form outside competitive events. So it could be see Froome back in business, who knows? As you say it’ll be interesting to see how Sky does, yet alone all the others in the race.

Sim April 24, 2012 at 10:33 am

If Froome hadnt been so beset with illness since Paris-Nice, and so had little racing in him this season to date, I would have gone for Sky putting him up as leader for certain – good rehearsal of Plan B for the Tour in case anything happens to Wiggo. Now…possibly Porte again, he’s riding very strongly so far (good to see after his tricky 2011 at Saxo). But who knows – Froome says he has a very solid 3 weeks training block behind him. Just have a feeling that Sky’s tactics for Wiggo will be to take a support role for this one, then come out strongly for his defence of the Dauphine. Cav’s just riding for race and climbing practice, and of course to try for the early stage win.

Re G, I think he’s riding the Giro as are either/both Swifty and Kennaugh.

Steppings April 24, 2012 at 10:51 am

Nice preview. I could do with a week in Switzerland watching this and doing some miles myself, ah well back to work.

Alex April 24, 2012 at 11:11 am

Do you think Sky are being deliberately quiet about who is going for GC? or do you think there is a chance that they simply don’t know who will feel good in the race.

My feeling is that Brad will go full gas in the 16.5km ITT but leave the road stages to others. It would be great to see Wiggins, Froome and Porte work everyone over like they did in Algarve.

Really looking forward to it. It’s worth noting that Cav beat Wiggo into 5th (both on High Road) to win the Romandie prologue in 2008, although it was only 1.9km then (That was the shortest prologue I’d ever seen!).

Perhaps Geraint Thomas would be a favourite for this having just come off the team pursuit team where they specialise in a 4minute measured effort.

Graeme April 24, 2012 at 11:33 am

Completely agree with your selection of Thomas as (a) favourite for the prologue, Durbridge could go well too in my opinion – also has a track pedigree and won a similar stage at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The Inner Ring April 24, 2012 at 1:47 pm

I agree, Thomas is a good pick. The weather seems varied with talk of twitter of gusts and heavy rain showers. A shame if this makes the difference but it could.

Paul I. April 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I think Sky already announced that Wiggins is racing for the GC here, which means that Porte and Froome will be working for him.

C Grade Cyclist April 24, 2012 at 11:34 am

Hopefully Cadel will have recovered enough to show us how his form is travelling as we inch closer to the TdF.

Would love to see Porte or Froome get a chance to shine, they are such great talents. But I suspect Wiggins will want to make a statement, especially if Cadel is riding well…

Chris April 24, 2012 at 11:39 am

I read (and I can’t remember where) that last year Wiggo rode Romandie off the back of ahard training block to simulate the final week of a Grand Tour. If he is outside the top 10 in the prologue that will illustrate that he is trying the same again and isn’t going for the GC. My money is on Sky supporting Porte for the GC.

I am really looking forward to seeing what Pierre Roland can do, this could be his race to lose. Last weekend’s Liege showed that he is building on last year’s Tour performance.

Alex April 24, 2012 at 11:58 am

On a different note, I hope Saxo Bank enjoy some better luck in this race. It would be nice to see their jersey from time-to-time. I’m no Contador fan, but I feel for them in their current situation.

The Inner Ring April 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

They’re very much a team built for Contador; their classics rider Kroon didn’t have the spring he wanted.

Larry T. April 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm

GRAZIE for the nice preview. We’re packing up to move north to start our tour season but I think I’ll have to try to cram in a bit of live streaming via the ‘net as a build-up to Il Giro, as well as some kms RIDING my bike. And in case anyone here doesn’t know about Cyclocosm, he’s got another great video clip up, this time on L-B-L -http://cyclocosm.com/2012/04/liege-bastogne-liege-2012-how-the-race-was-won/
As cycling fans we’re lucky to have both of you guys making these efforts for little to no monetary reward, BRAVI!

a different ben April 25, 2012 at 4:22 am

Totally agree with you Larry. Cosmo did put out a plea in that post for a better job so that he can keep doing those videos and other commentary. Hope he finds one.

Alex April 24, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Hmmm – since I mentioned Geraint, the odds for today’s win have gone from 20-1 (according to Daniel Friebe) to 9-1

Thienthai S April 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Gerraint is no.1 time in prolouge atm. 3 Sky riders are in top 4. Notice that many Sky riders can do good short TT, even Cav did well today (as of now). Their track record is really showing here. They have strong team this season and been performing well quite consistently albeit a little short on wins. I hope they do better.

InTheGC April 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Thomas takes the win, and makes me £50 better off in the process! Great ride by him.

Alex April 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Ha – a friend of mine just told me the same thing. I didn’t put a bet on in the end – I can’t bear signing up to those kinds of sites.
Update – apparently he put on an extra fiver for me – win win!

Rooie April 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Tx for the great preview. You seem to have missed Bauke Mollema or is this on purpose? He was third in the Tour de Basque (with a second place in the TT) and finished constantly top ten in AGR, FW and LBL.

Paul I. April 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Yes, Mollema and Wiggins have the best times among the major GC contenders. Nice ride by him.

The Inner Ring April 24, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Partly because Rabo aren’t having a good time but also because I couldn’t decide between him and Slagte.

Rooie April 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thanks for your reply. And I agree with your opinion that Rabo isn’t doing as expected, although Mollema seems to be the exception and the best riders of Rabo seem to be one of the younger cores of the top teams.

brian April 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm

i dont think cadel will win this year tdf at all. wiggins is looking good. i will be watching the romandie closely. its about time the tdf front runners need to start showing the colours now

ToTheBillyoh April 25, 2012 at 3:40 am

Why do you think Cadel will not win the TDF Brian? (Barring the huge role that luck plays of course.) Sky look like a great team, as does BMC but both are structured, it appears, to focus on the TDF. So lack of results too date is not a huge problem?

brian April 24, 2012 at 7:14 pm

ivan basso needs to get his A game on now the clock is ticking on him now. his he strong enuff to win a 3rd giro?

The Inner Ring April 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm

He’s said he’s going to see how this race goes before committing to ride the Giro.

Gavin April 24, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I’m not surprised, he looked to be carrying a fair bit of excess weight in the Dolomites last week…

Paul I. April 24, 2012 at 11:56 pm

There’s always Sylvester Szmyd, uber-domestique. Let him ride for himself for once.

Eb in AZ April 25, 2012 at 5:46 am

I’m sorry to change the subject but in case my fellow gringos haven’t checked their listings NBC Sports has same day delayed coverage in HD. Kudos to the network, and a quick thank you email to them is a good idea, yes?

DJ April 25, 2012 at 11:14 am

Does any thing Dan Martin has a major win in him this year.

Anonymous April 25, 2012 at 2:57 pm

In English?

Sally Gap April 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Why was Rogers in the Green Jersey? It’s been annoying me all day..Thomas in leaders jersey, Nizzolo best young rider, then Cav, does having the WC stripes trump points jersey? Do they even give points for prologues?

Great finish by Wiggins – “I went a bit early and had to sit down to rest for a bit and then went again”
Ha, wish I could go “again” like that.

The Inner Ring April 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm

You have it right. Thomas took the leader’s jersey yesterday and the points too. Nizzolo was second yesterday but leads the young rider competition so he wears white. Cavendish was third yesterday so normally he’d wear the green jersey during the day. Except since he’s not in the lead of the competition his rainbow jersey trumps the green jersey. Therefore Rogers wore the green jersey as he took fourth place in the points competition yesterday.

Stef Clement has now taken the lead here so this confusion ends.

Sally Gap April 26, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Thanks Inner Ring, Cavendish not leading the competition, that explains it. The confusion is over, but the annoyance would have lingered…

I don’t comment here too often, but I enjoy the blog every day. Chapeau!

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