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Tour de Romandie Preview

Tour de Romandie

With the spring classics done it’s time for the stage races. There’s no immediate switch from embrocation to sun screen as this year’s Tour de Romandie offers familiar conditions with rain and cold forecast.

There’s a rare pre-Tour clash between Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali but with wider interest as it’s a Giro tune up for some and a test for others.

Stage 1

A 19.2km team time trial at altitude. The route tours the scenic Lac de Joux before a climb but don’t worry about the profile above, it’s a modest drag rather than a monster mountain pass although it is enough to test team cohesion while the clock ticks down. It’s a course for riders and teams that can turn dinner-plate sized chainrings and should put some climbers teams at a disadvantage.

Stage 2

Several climbs before the finish will shrink the bunch with the 9km Col de la Vue des Alpes (“Alps View Pass”) offering 8-9% slopes to start with before easing to 6-7%, it’s selective and the finish comes 18km later so anyone dropped doesn’t have long to get back.

Stage 3

This is what passes for sprint stage and explains why the likes of Mark Cavendish and André Greipel are sunning themselves in Turkey. The stage has a figure-of-eight route and climbs the Col des Rangiers twice during the stage. It looks spiky but it’s a steady climb and a well-drilled team can use it to chase down breakaway. The race passes through Porrentruy three times with the easy 1.5km 7.5% Côte de Courtemaîche in Bure as the last climb.

Stage 4

A revenge day for the sprinters who lost out the previous day this is the easiest day on paper with modest climbs and regular roads. The finish is a crash-prone downhill run to the line.

Stage 5

The Queen Stage. The Col des Mosses is a soft climb 4.5% on average but really a series of 6-7% rises spaced by flat sections. The race descends to the UCI headquarters in Aigle and then uses the Rhone valley in the same way a snowboarder uses a halfpipe, going up and down one side and then another. The climb to Les Giettes has 8-10% slopes but will only soften the legs as the descent is followed by a long flat valley section before using some the Col de la Forclaz only to drop back down and tackle the final climb to Champex, a hard 10km climb with 10% sections in the middle before the slope eases in town.

Stage 6

A tricky time trial around the lakeside city of Lausanne. After several stages of exaggerated profiles the graphic above underestimates the course. A flat start then it twists up through the city centre on a steep and narrow street. Hard enough? It’s cobbled too. Now this is Switzerland not Italy so think tidy urban cobbles rather than medieval flagstones but it makes for a bone-shaking course with a tricky descent too. Just 17.3km but enough to reshape the GC.

The Contenders
Present but correct? Several star names star they’re different points in their training cycles, some aiming to peak now, others on a downward trajectory after a spring peak and another lot prepping for the Giro.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome is the obvious pick. The winner in 2013 and 2014 he could do with a third win to make up for his Flèche Wallonne crash and get back to winning ways. He briefly lived in the area as part of the UCI development team which helps for the Queen Stage. More importantly the course suits with its set-piece components: a TTT, a summit finish and a TT. On paper Team Sky are strong picks to get an advantage straight away in the team time trial but the likes of Ian Stannard, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas are returning from a post-classics rest and their condition’s unknown.

Katusha’s Simon Špilak is the curiosity choice. He’s often thrived in this race, especially in grim conditions and the weather forecast looks bad for the week. The Slovenian seems to pop up for week-long stage races. Watch Ilnur Zakarin, once the 2007 European junior TT champion he then got rumbled for doping and sat out for two years but now back and very strong in the Basque Country.

Vincenzo Nibali starts after a lacklustre Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Ardennes classic was his big target alongside the Tour de France but he missed. Still all the prep can be used here, he’s been going up and down Teide in Tenerife at the same time as Froome. Don’t be surprised to see him take a risk or two in the wet weather. Team make Jacob Fuglsang could crack the top-10 too.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana and Thibaut Pinot both resume racing after a short break and their form isn’t known. Both are better than many think in the time trial. One relative and small difference is that Pinot likes a faster climb in the 7% range while Quintana is more at ease on a 10% grade. Pinot first made a name for himself here as a 19 year old neo-pro taking the mountains jersey and he won his Tour de France stage in Switzerland too. More recently Quintana didn’t feature in Liège-Bastogne-Liège but this stage race suits him more.

Rui Costa has been on the final podium three times and is in good shape after featuring in the Ardennes races, albeit by following moves. Once again it’s hard to see him winning outright but he should make the top-10 and could be top-5. Lampre-Merida team mate Przemysław Niemiec made the top-10 on the Monte Terminillo stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and could sneak into the top-10 here but might not force things too hard before the Giro.

Ag2r have a strong squad with J-C Péraud, Romain Bardet, Alexis Vuillermoz plus a Carlos Betancur still on diet mode so let’s hope he doesn’t win the mountains prize and the daily block of Gruyère cheese. Péraud is the best bet for GC given his TT skills but it’ll be interesting to see what they do all week. Bardet is relaxed character off the bike but aggressive with a number pinned on his back and sixth place in Liège tell us he’s in top condition. He’s also visited the windtunnel after discovering he produced just as many watts as Tejay van Garderen in last year’s Tour de France TT stage but lost so much more time due to his upright position. The promising Vuillermoz has caught a cold so don’t expect much.

Cycling’s most unheralded stage race Jurgen Van den Broeck is racing the Giro and will test his legs here while Greg Henderson also starts for Lotto-Soudal… providing the Swiss border guards didn’t object to his passport.

If Oleg Tinkov’s not enjoyed the start to 2015 then part of it’s down to Peter Sagan’s modest results but Rafał Majka has bombed so far this year with talk of over-training. Word is he’s fresher now. Look out for Paweł Poljański, a mini-Majka in the making but both will suffer in the final TT.

Pierre Rolland is a late entrant but in form and capable of a stage win. With no news of a replacement sponsor for Europcar he could do with a result right now too. Lotto-Jumbo are led by the returning Robert Gesink who has the talent but often not the luck.

Cannondale-Garmin come with a great team to liven up many stages. Dan Martin might be bruised and battered but Janier Acevedo is a strong climber needing a result after impressing in 2013 but blank years at Slipstream although he was 9th in the Tour de Suisse, no accident. Ramūnas Navardauskas can always win a stage and Ryder Hesjedal is looking to build his form.

Etixx-QS’s Rigoberto Uran rides for a pre-Giro tune up. He was trundling around Romandie last year to use the final time trial as a test: expect a repeat if he wants to save energy. Could Tony Martin go for the GC? He’s been second in 2011 but an overall win looks difficult. Stage 5’s summit finish is too much unless he’s been on the “Aru-diet” and lost five kilos. Otheriwse even if he rides to his limits to Champex it’s hard to see him making up for lost time on the final TT stage. Gianni Meersman is a likely contender for the sprints.

I’m keen to see BMC Racing’s Rohan Dennis in action, he has climbed well and this isn’t a giant Galibier/Stelvio test. BMC might be registered under a US flag for marketing purposes but this race passes their bike factory and team owner Andy Rihs is Swiss so there’s extra pressure. Ditto IAM Cycling on home soil where local hopes are on Mathias Frank‘s climbing skills with Jarlinson Pantano for support. Orica-Greenedge bring wunderkind Simon Yates.

Sprinters: Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quickstep), Luza Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin), Giacomo Nizzolo and (Trek Factory Racing), Elia Viviani (Team Sky) while Michael Albasini (Orica-Greenedge) isn’t really a sprinter but will profit from a thinned out group at the finish… so will enfant terrible Julian Alaphilippe.

Chris Froome
Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana
Simon Špilak, Thibaut Pinot
Rigoberto Uran, Ion Izaguirre, Rui Costa,
Dennis, Martin, Péraud, Bardet, Fuglsang, Zakarin

It’s French-speaking Switzerland, the western part of the country which borders France and Italy in green above. The race can borrow from a range of terrain, from wide plains and valleys to mountain passes and ski resorts.

TV: it’ll be on TV but the channel varies, beINsport for the USA for example. For other feeds cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv serve up the usual feast. The stage finishes are expected around 5.20pm local time.

History: first run in 1947 Stephen Roche holds the record for three wins. The race has dipped in fortune in the past but seems to be riding high again with routes carefully crafted to attract the stage race stars. The inclusion of a team time trial probably isn’t a coincidence as it allows prep for the Tour de France.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • garuda Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 9:47 am

    Oh good. I wasn’t sure if it was still envogue to rib Betancur for being Fatty McFatty. Unfortunately, I think we are not going to see any of him as he has been racing anonymously this whole year.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:44 am

      He’s getting in shape but the Giro is going to be awkward given the climbing starts in the first week. Ag2r want to keep him though for the future and he’s getting a more structured support around him.

      • Phil B Thursday, 30 April 2015, 3:44 pm

        A natural talent, shame he’s followed my dieting philosophy. on his day in 13/14, he was untouchable. lets hope the support works.

      • J Evans Thursday, 30 April 2015, 5:27 pm

        Sadly, they would probably be better off just cutting their losses. Very difficult to change someone’s psychological approach – particularly if they’re unwilling to do so.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:20 am

    Pretty strong startlist for this. All that TTing should suit Froome if he’s in decent shape.

    I hope I’m wrong but if he opens a decent gap in the first stage are we not going to see a whole race strangled by the Skytrain?

    • Vedrafjord Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:43 pm

      Well they’ll certainly try because hey, that’s what they always try, but the team they’re bringing isn’t exactly a loaded mountain train at the peak of its powers. They have Pate, Rowe, Stannard, Viviani who are more classics/sprint guys. Of potential mountain guys Thomas who is probably knackered after the spring, Roche who crashed on Sunday, and Kennaugh who’s been having serious trouble with a hip injury.

    • Steven Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:20 pm

      Sky are generally more attacking with Froome. The famous Sky train for wiggins was until the finish line, but with Froome it’s untill 3Km to go and then he’s looking to put time into riders.

      With the Tour having less TT’ing this year, Froome will be needing to be more attacking than ever before, to deal with the 2 likely contenders and Contador.

  • Chris Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:27 am

    You might need to be a bit careful about Aru gags as well. After he takes Greg henderson to court for defamation he could be on the warpath

    • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:52 am

      I’ll believe that happens when I see it.

      Hot air.

      • gabriele Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:36 am

        At least, he ordered his lawyer (ugh, not the best choice o__O) to start the legal action.


        Inrng gag was absolutely fair and within the limits, IMHO.

        • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:47 am

          And there was the ‘passport’ line for balance – I liked that a lot.

  • Anonymous Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:28 am

    I doubt it, he has to stay upright for a start! as well as some of his team mates. Maybe they have been practising though, seriously the race doesn’t need killing off by any team dominating from km 1.

  • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:37 am

    I don’t know….Froome’s 2015 is looking mighty like is 2014 so far…

    Would love to see a Nairo win, with Bardet and Pinot making up the podium

    What IS it about Spillak and this race?? 🙂

    FDJ and AG2R, to name two, are likely to have a bit of ground to make up after today’s TTT….

    • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 6:20 pm

      Froome did well in the Ruta del Sol. It’s seems to be more of a health issue.
      That and not falling off, of course.

  • Qwerty Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:38 am

    Looks like a clear run for Froome. He didn’t need a summit finish to win last year and now the route suits him so much more. Has he got the team he needs?

    Interesting to see if Nibali can do something. He livens up more races than he wins. Has he ever beaten Froome and Quintana in a straight contest?

    Cheers for the VPN tip earlier this year, great way to watch more races.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:50 am

      You can get some head to head stats via cyclingquotient or procyclingstats, eg http://www.procyclingstats.com/rider.php?c=6&id=140869&id2=140778

      Given Nibali wasn’t romping away in L-B-L I can’t see him drop Froome, Quintana and Pinot on the climbs but we’ll see. He probably needs to drop the surprise tactics to win this, to play it safer, at least on Stage 5.

      • Sam Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:56 am

        A 2013 T-A st 6 special….that was a good stage…

    • gabriele Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:30 am

      On memory (including “memory of similar debates” 😉 )…
      Well, in the Giro 2010 there was a quite impressive difference between both. Just in the first flat 9km ITT (won by Wiggo) Froome lost half a minute or so to Nibali; not to speak of all that followed. But that was the “old” Froomy, whereas only a few months later….
      The T-A 2013 is the most obvious Nibali-won contest, but it wasn’t exactly “straight” (albeit one of the greatest stages in recent cycling).
      In Dauphinée 2014 Nibali was sub-par and Froome cracked notably, and neither won, anyway Nibali finished it a little better than Froome.
      No need to say that whenever we speak of Classics or stages resembling a Classic, Nibali is a better rider and usually prevails, but I think that it’s not what you were asking, nor it’s especially relevant here. Even it may become so, if the GTs go on with the very appreciated trend to throw in the mix some spicy “Classic” stage.

      Nibali and Quintana didn’t cross swords very often, but I think that Quintana always prevailed, at least climbing and in GC. We have to say that in those few occasions I remember, Quintana was always, if not “top form”, at least “trying to have a greater or lesser training peak”, while Nibali ostensibly wasn’t. But that just means that Quintana has a significant strong point in his ability to sustain multiple peaks of form or to perform on a high note even when he’s not 100%, what Nibali – or the “new” Nibali – evidently isn’t.

      • Nick Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 11:25 am

        Froome finished ahead in the 12 Tour and 11 Vuelta too. Clearly Nibali had gained an advantage before Froome crashed out of the 14 Tour. His overhauling Froome in last year’s Dauphine came after a Froome crash too, didn’t it? Or did Froome simply blow up, I don’t recall?

        Also can’t recall many Nibali-Quintana contests. Having said that, didn’t Nibali finish ahead in the ITT at this year’s Tirreno?

        • gabriele Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 1:50 pm

          Yeah, I was implying that besides the few cases I named, Froome had *always* been ahead of Nibali, at least from 2011 (included) on 🙂
          In the 2014 Dauphinée Froome had crashed, indeed, still he looked slightly stronger than Nibali in terms of pure physical prowess in the penultimate stage, but, despite a strong play by the team, he totally cracked in the last stage, whereas Nibali tried a surprise attack before Contador, but was ultimately reeled in and overcome by the Spaniard.

        • gabriele Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 2:15 pm

          About Quintana… I can’t remember about him and Nibali in the Tirreno’s ITT, anyway I’d generally expect Nibali to perform a little better than the Colombian in any mostly flat TT.
          Nibali is no Wiggo, but he can do well against the clock; he has lost something through the years to improve his climbing, but he’s got a natural propensity, even if his weight says it won’t ever be *his* thing. More or less what we’re saying about Quintana, compared with whom Nibali should however be a little better.
          I think that Quintana was just avoiding risks, in that ITT, the road was still a bit wet. And, maybe, managing his advantage.
          Generally speaking, I have the feeling that Nairo never likes to waste any bit of no needed energy. With that, I don’t mean he isn’t an attacking rider, we’ve got quite enough proofs of the contrary, but he sticks to his plan and does just what it requires. Eventually, taking some (calculated) risk… I think that if you can get to watch the 2014 Vuelta a Burgos’s stage to Lagunas de Neila, it’s one of the most telling example of that attitude of him
          I think that’s what has happened him in some flat stage with peloton splits, too. But we won’t ever know… In any case, flat, windy stages, maybe with cobbles, will always be a good terrain to attack a pure under 60kgs climber, clever he may be carrying out those tasks, too (and my personal opinion is that Nairo is; but physics will nevertheless take its toll).

  • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:39 am

    Regarding Quintana’s time trialling, in the 2014 Giro, he lost 2 min 41 sec to Uran in a 41.9 km TT. Yes, he was a bit sick, but you’d expect the likes of Froome, Contador and Nibali to be at least around the equal of Uran. This is only a sample of one, though, and perhaps you have other examples?

    • gabriele Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 12:12 pm

      Quintana was pretty impressive in 2013 Tour’s last ITT and in País Vasco, that same year. We’re obviously speaking of not-very-flat TT, what is more after many and/or hard previous stages, which favours a rider like him. But it shows he has the required mind skills, at least, as well as the ability to hold sustained power for a decent time. We don’t have much material to reason on, anyway.
      Urán had an impressive TT-turn in 2014 when he suddendly became a great cronoman, at least on mixed terrain, whereas before he struggled to land a top ten – and he could only if it was a totally uphill TT. Not only he produced the well-known monster performance of the “Wines TT”, but he also impressed in the Vuelta, overcoming Cancellara and beaten only by his teammate Martin, leaving Contador, Kiryienka or Evans more than 30″ back, not to speak of Sergent, Jungels… (and Froome, but he had troubles “driving” his bike on that occasion). This year he had a lacklustre ITT in T-A, but so he had last year… when he started to show the signs of his new capability precisely with an excellent Romandie ITT. Conversely, we must say that he lost a good bit of climbing prowess and the relatively fast finish he used to have some years ago.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:33 pm

        Quintana’s also looked weak on flat/windy stages. Riders who win lots of grand tours are almost universally good time triallists. Time will tell.

        • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:36 pm

          He’s solid here, look how he made the split in the 2013 Tour when Belkin and Quickstep upped the pace. Word is that he’ll chop a big rider without fear to hold a wheel.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:43 pm

            Was it the 2014 Giro where he looked in grave danger of being dropped on a flat stage?
            There does seem to be an assumption by some that Quintana is already a great grand tour rider. This is far from proven. He has won only one – and it was not against the very best riders.
            Quintana has shown himself to be a great climber, but we’ve seen many of those in the past not win the TDF because of their relatively poor TT. He might need to grasp this year’s rare opportunity whilst he can.

          • Sam Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 10:31 am

            He’s strong as, and he’s race savvy. And as you say, he won’t take any nonsense from anyone in the peloton.

            Got a lot of time for Nairo.

  • Tovarishch Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:44 am

    Surprised you have given Zakarin (about whom I still have my doubts) a ring but not Yates, given their relative performance on Pais Vasco.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:47 am

      The time trial seems more suitable for Zakarin with the long flat section and there’s more mystery here, he could go up a level while we know what Yates can do. Happy to be wrong here.

      • Paul Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 6:55 pm

        Chernetsksi also has a good TT, and has looked promising this year.

  • Lorenz Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 10:56 am

    It’s Jurgen Van den Broeck and not Vandenbroucke. He’s in no way related to the late Frank Vandenbroucke. A very common mistake 🙂

  • Platt Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:06 am

    Ion Izagirre and Coquard are not on the startlist.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 11:18 am

      Thanks, they were on a provisional list so wrote the above based on that.

  • noel Tuesday, 28 April 2015, 1:57 pm

    – Quintana all the way… (and Le Tour too unless Valverde gets in the way…).
    – Froome just looks too fragile for me without Kiryienka/Porte supporting possibly sub par G and Roche in protection duties (no Poels/Koenig/Lopez/Nieve either?)
    – Nibali might get away downhill, but not uphill
    – Uran Uran to podium through consistency
    – Looking fwd to seeing whether Pinot/Bardet/Peraud can back up last years TdF form in the hills

  • Joe K. Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 8:25 am

    It’s been one year already…and time flies. I remember last year’s Romandie when Froome showed up looking lean and mean, and after he won, I was SO looking forward to the TdF. But, alas, who could have predicted what happened there. So this year, I won’t set myself up for another disappointment. The Romandie is the Romandie, and the Tour is the Tour. And ne’er the two shall meet.

  • Suo Mynona Wednesday, 29 April 2015, 1:47 pm

    I know it’s wasted inches with regard to TdR; I don’t think either will win this edition. But, I hope 2015 is the best year ever in the careers of Costa and Uran. Costa seems the sleeper of the season so far. Neither is probably become the greatest ever, but I would enjoy it if they both became top 7 or 6 and were in the headlines regularly for several years.

  • GluteCramp Thursday, 30 April 2015, 6:49 am

    Good call on Albasini… 🙂

  • J Evans Thursday, 30 April 2015, 5:26 pm

    Someone needs to teach Alaphilippe what to do in a sprint: last two days, he’s ended up going wide, the wrong way, on his own, rather than taking the wheel of Albasini (albeit Albasini seemed faster both times anyway).

  • Gee Friday, 1 May 2015, 3:08 pm

    Surprised no one has mentioned Ritchie Porte for the win. He’s my pick as I suspect Froome is still working his way back from health issues.

  • john Friday, 1 May 2015, 10:08 pm

    j Evans…..how many GT froome has won then….? If memory serve me well just one ….

    • J Evans Friday, 1 May 2015, 10:46 pm

      How – and why – would the palmares of another rider affect one’s opinion on Quintana?

  • john Friday, 1 May 2015, 10:18 pm

    About Betancour, he’s a great talent, unfortunately all the recognisition he did get in 2013 went up to his head. Uran and quintana work really hard and when they start in a race, they try to give always their best….shame uran doesn’t have a strong team to back in up in the mountains, prove of that was at the giro last year, where he was completely isolated when the road started to going up

  • john Friday, 1 May 2015, 11:15 pm

    Quote “There does seem to be an assumption by some that Quintana is already a great grand tour rider. This is far from proven. He has won only one” well same can be say about froome then, am I right…?

    • J Evans Friday, 1 May 2015, 11:21 pm

      I never said you couldn’t. As I say, this has no bearing on any opinion one might hold on Quintana.
      (Also, you might take into account the fact that Froome won the Tour whilst Quintana won the Giro. The Tour win had better opposition – one of whom was Quintana. But, as you’ve brought it up, in my opinion Froome has also yet to prove that he is a great grand tour rider.)

  • J Evans Saturday, 2 May 2015, 5:33 pm

    Mind-numbingly dull queen stage. Chapeau to Pinot, but Froome had the best day – he has the lead over his big rivals, apart from Pinot (who will struggle to hold an eight second lead over Froome). Only Spilak is otherwise likely to trouble Froome.
    Quintana did nothing: even when Froome looked to be struggling. Uran and Nibali, frankly, lived up to my expectations – Nibali will be very lucky to win another Tour in his career.

  • hoh Saturday, 2 May 2015, 8:37 pm

    Looks like Sky’s disappeared from the front all together (Movistar, Astana & even IAM had more firing power on the front) save Froome and he did another 2014 Vaulta type of ride. To be able to hold on whilst he is not on top form & isolated is probably a sign of his maturing.

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