After eight tough stages, it’s now time to settle the overall classification. Tour de Suisse often ends with a time trial but never one like this.
Despite the distance of just 26.8 km, the riders are in for a day full of pain. The profile is extremely brutal with a final section of 10.3 km uphill with an average gradient of 9 %. The first 16.5 km are flat so we can expect the riders to start out on a time trial bike and then change to a road bike before the climb starts.
The first time check comes at the end of the flat part. This means that the fastest riders at this point not necessarily will be the fastest in the end. Starting on the climb, the first 5.4 km have an average of 8.5 % before reaching the second time check. From here, there are 4.9 km to the finishing line and the average gradient of 9.5 % will make for a very hard finish.
Tour of California had a similar time trial this year ending with a steep climb. Many riders decided to change bike at the beginning of the climb but not Tejay van Garderen who won the stage. In California the climb was only 2.6 km though, so we should expect even van Garderen to make a bike change this time.
The young American is also the big favorite for this stage. He decided to take his own change on Stage 7 and not wait for Mathias Frank. Overall, Tejay van Garderen is now 1:17 min after his teammate in yellow and he still has a change of winning Tour de Suisse or at least make podium. It won’t be easy to take a minute on Rui Costa but if anyone in this race can do it, it’s Tejay van Garderen.
Fabian Cancellara will be eager to take revenge from the opening time trial. The change of wind most likely cost him the stage win but I doubt he will be among the best this time. Cancellara will probably set best time at the first check point but 10.3 km with 9 % is not his terrain. Not even against the clock.
Instead, we should look to riders like Simon Spilak, Tanel Kangert, Janez Brajkovic and Jean-Christophe Péraud. Brajkovic has been getting better and better during the race and he seems to be ready for the Tour soon. The Slovenian rider has always been good against the clock and I think he will test himself and do very well in this time trial. Jean-Christophe Péraud is Ag2r’s designated Tour de France captain and I also see him getting stronger every day. In Paris-Nice earlier this year, Péraud distanced Tejay van Garderen with 20 seconds on the final uphill time trial. The American is clearly stronger right now but it shows that Péraud can be among the bests against the clock.
Another strong candidate for the win is Cameron Meyer. He won the opening time trial but many will say it was because the wind changed. Meyer is not a pure climber but he’s been very solid in the mountains and sits 8th overall before the stage. I think the Australian will be eager to show that he can also win without a change of weather and I expect him to make podium on the stage. Not in the overall classification though.
My joker is Bauke Mollema. Many don’t see Mollema as strong time trialist but he’s actually not bad at all. The course favors him with the long and steep climb and if he can minimize his time loss on the flat part, he should be able to fight for the overall win. It won’t be easy to beat Rui Costa with 34 seconds but don’t forget Mollema’s time trial in Vuelta Pais Vasco last year. On a hilly and very difficult course, Mollema took second place after Samuel Sanchez, beating World Champion Tony Martin in the process. I also expect Thibaut Pinot to do well. He will lose time ont the flat part but like Mollema, it shouldn’t be much more than he can take back on the climb.
Rui Costa is right now the big favorite to win Tour de Suisse for the second year in a row. It’s more or less his race to lose and it will be interesting to see how the Portuguese copes with that pressure. Few – except for the Swiss fans – expect Mathias Frank to keep Rui Costa behind him and I think that plays in Frank’s favor. Despite starting the stage in yellow, he’s still the underdog. It’s difficult to predict the outcome of a time trial like this one but I think it will end with Rui Costa winning overall. BMC should be able to put at least one rider on the final podium but who will it be?
Favorite: Tejay van Garderen
Jokers: Bauke Mollema & Jean-Christophe Péraud
INRNG wilcards: Roman Kreuziger and Tanel Kangert
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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.