A three week grand tour is great because the duration allows for many stories to develop but the Tour de Romandie shows you can pack plenty into just six days. It’s a race that will see Chris Froome, Roman Kreuziger, Carlos Betancur, Mark Cavendish and more in action over a variety of terrain.
Here’s a short preview with the stages, riders, TV timings and more.
First a word on the website. The race’s has a good online presence with a bright website that is packed with information. Each stage has maps, profiles and even an animated fly-by. When you see the profile below note the “Direct TV” label marks roughly when the live television coverage will start.
Prologue, Tuesday 23 April
An uphill time trial to start with over 300m of vertical gain in 7.5km. The prologue is between Le Châble and Bruson which might not mean much, think instead of the swank Verbier ski resort, a magnet for Russians. The place is not far from the Matterhorn mountain and the Italian border, appropriate because the Giro is not far away and any rider missing uphill power is running out of time to find it.
Stage 1, Wednesday 24 April
This looks like a mountain stage but the Col du Mollendruz is a steady ascension with ramps of 5-6%, enough to shell some sprinters if the race is fast but other can sit tight on the wheels and hope the race regroup for the finish.
Stage 2, Thursday 25 April
It’s Andy Rihs day. The Swiss billionaire is one of the wealthiest figures in cycling and as well as bankrolling the BMC Team and owning the BMC company, he’s funding the construction of a new indoor velodrome where the Swiss Cycling governing body will take up its HQ in the stage finish town of Grenchen. Chapeau, Monsieur.
Stage 3, Friday 26 April
The start and finish are in the same place but there’s nothing repetitive about the day as the race does a series of loops in countryside. A day for the strong riders.
Stage 4, Saturday 27 April
The Queen Stage, this is a full mountain stage with altitude and attitude. It starts with the regular Col des Mosses and then passes through the finish in the ski resort of Les Diablerets before heading out on a 100km out and back look over the Col de la Croix, the Pas de Morgins before climbing back up the Col de la Croix to descend to Les Diablerets. The route has been specially ploughed to clear banks of snow on the high climbs.
Stage 5, Sunday 28 April
The final stage is a time trial around the shores of Lac Léman in Geneva, the city famous for its watch-making with companies like Rolex and, er, Katusha’s old diamond watch mailbox provider, Sarcar. Is there a more appropriate place for a time trial? At 18km this is long enough to change the overall classification on the final day.
The depth of the field is impressive with plenty of big names. Last year’s winner Bradley Wiggins isn’t racing but Team Sky come with a strong squad, inevitable in a stage race. Chris Froome and Richie Porte stand out but what if Vasil Kiriyenka is let off the leash for once?
Andrew Talansky was second here last year and in 2011 he also stood on the podium, blinking and shy as the podium girls kissed him. Now he’s more used to the routine and could well shine here and we’ll see how Ryder Hesjedal does, maybe he’ll do the prologue hard, back off and then test himself in the final time trial? Katusha come with Dani Moreno and Simon Spilak but like Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde they’ll have to gain time in the mountains to survive the final time trial, Rui Costa could be a more balanced pick. The same for Robert Gesink, the Dutchman’s still due a big result and aiming for the Giro, let’s watch his junior sidekick Wilco Kelderman too. Lotto-Belisol brings Mr Regular, Jurgen Van den Broeck who seems capable of a top-5 but is a very rare winner. Roman Kreuziger is in great shape and Igor Anton was quietly strong too. Janez Brajkovic is another contender along with J-C Péraud too.
Away from the overall classification OPQS come with Tony Martin, surely a certainty for the final stage and Mark Cavendish resumes racing. We’ll see how Carlos Betancur fares in the high mountains and I’ll be watching neo-pro Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg of Argos-Shimano has he can sprint and cope with some moderate climbs too. Damiano Cunego might find the stages suit him too.
Vacansoleil-DCM alone bring several interesting stories. Lieuwe Westra is an outsider for the overall, José Rujano has to show some form ahead of the Giro and Johnny Hoogerland gets back to racing after a training crash earlier this year.
Thibaut Pinot first made a name for himself winning the mountains jersey in this race back in 2010. His revelation became a confirmation in the Tour de France but he’s yet to get a result this year.Don’t expect him to cope with final time trial but the big mountain stage could be within his reach but there are plenty of specialist climbers here too including local rider Johann Tschopp of IAM.
It’s the French-speaking part of Switzerland, to the west of the country and borders France and Italy, in green above. The race isn’t limited to the 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 and the IAM Cycling team too.
It’ll be on TV but the channel varies. Pirate internet feeds prevail as always and cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites. Note the stage finishes are expected around 5.00-5.30pm local time.