Looking at the stage profile and then looking at the start list, this preview could very well consist of just two words: Peter Sagan.
The Slovakian wonderboy won four stages in last year’s Tour de Suisse and despite a steep climb on Stage 3, he still managed to win. Sagan came to the race after two weeks in San Pellegrino where he had been training hard in the mountains. He wasn’t sure how his legs would respond but I’d say his legs are just fine.
Sagan has Lucas Sebastian Haedo as leadout and his faithful helper Moreno Moser to keep the pace high. Moser was an important factor in Sagan’s four stage wins last year and after Sagan ‘let’ him win Strade Bianche earlier this year, Moser won’t mind helping out his teammate.
With riders like Matt Goss, Arnaud Démare, John Degenkolb, Ben Swift, Alexander Kristoff & Tyler Farrar in the race, Sagan isn’t the only favorite for the stage. Still, I think he will be very tough to beat. Sagan is good on the hills and the 3.7 km category 2 climb with just 40 km to go will be in his favor. The climb has an average gradient of 6.2 % and even though the pure sprinters will have time to get back in the pack, they will have to burn extra energy to do so.
The last 20 km are flat and with so many sprinters in the race, I think it’s safe to say a breakaway will have very small chances of succeeding today. One of reasons why I’m picking Sagan and not a strong power-sprinter like Degenkolb is the final run-in towards the line. There is a 90° left turn with just 200 meters to go and I bet the first rider into that corner wins the stage. Nobody handles their bike better than Peter Sagan – just ask Ben Swift – and even though Sagan may not have the fastest top speed, he accelerates quickly out of the corners. Arnaud Démare will probably come close but I doubt he will be able to beat Sagan.
My joker for the stage win is Heinrich Haussler. IAM Cycling are riding on home soil and his is the most important race of the year for them. Haussler was lucky with the weather conditions in the time trial where he took 3rd place and I think he make podium again on Stage 4. Haussler is in great shape right now and his moral is high too after he won the final stage of Bayern-Rundfahrt two weeks ago.
Joker: Heinrich Haussler
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Preview by C-Cycling. Thanks to Mikkel Condé for these informative previews, I’ve supplied him with Dauphiné previews all week and now I’m drafting his Swiss analysis in return. Remember you can follow Mikel on Twitter as @mrconde.