The longest race outside of the grand tours is back, more climbing and even more big names than previous editions look set to produce a thrilling spectacle of racing. As half the peloton travel to south eastern France for Grande Boucle preparations, the rest come to Switzerland to hone their summer form…
As the majority of Tour de France contenders head to the Dauphine, Switzerland will be the location of returning Giro D’Italia stars and those super domestiques with a chance to lead their respective super teams. Last year’s winner, Miguel Angel Lopez, returns with a strong compliment of Astana riders, hoping to become the youngest rider ever to win two consecutive Tour de Suisse’s.
This race is known for it’s mountainous terrain and often favours the purest of climbers. However, two ITT’s in this race, one on the first day and one on the last, could potentially open the door to a few other riders. The more complete stage racers will relish the 2017 route and hope that a strong performance here gets the ball rolling for the upcoming Tour de France.
With no guaranteed bunch finishes, there is a severe lack of sprinters coming to this race; instead they have been replaced by the tough classic men, Sagan, Van Avermaet and Albasini heading the list of these strong rouleurs.
Nine stages, the longest of any race in the WT outside of the grand tours will give both riders and fans a great indication of which riders are feeling the form, and which are still stuck in the gutter…
Stage One: Cham – Cham
A short 6km prologue to kick things off should sort out the GC from early on and highlight those targeting the overall honours in this race. Last won by Fabian Cancellara, a similar powerhouse should claim the stage win and first yellow jersey in Cham.
Prediction: Rohan Dennis
Stage Two: Cham – Cham
A lumpy affair through Champ sees a circuit race with 4 ascents of the same climb. It isn’t too difficult and some of the faster riders could potentially stay with the front group. Expect a very attacking race with all the classic men to the fore, creating a race more akin to a one day classic.
Prediction: Greg Van Avermaet
Stage Three: Menziken – Bern
The organisers have billed this race as the only possible bunch finish on this race, despite the undulating route throughout the day. An uphill finish will suit the fastmen with a strong acceleration and once again we may see another classics rider take stage honours.
Prediction: Peter Sagan
Stage Four: Bern – Villars-sur-Ollon
The first summit finish on this year’s race and the first real test for the GC men. The climb to Villars sur Ollon will sort out the real contenders and could potentially see the GC in tatters by the end of the day. It’s a short stage that’s likely to produce fireworks. A long descent to the final climb could also see some action…
Prediction: Rui Costa
Stage Five: Bex – Cevio
A rather hilly stage with the main climb featuring halfway through the day. It looks set for a large breakaway and if they can crest the summit of Simplonstrasse then the rolling run into the line should suit them. It’s 220km in length and the peloton may just choose to rest up given the high mountains to come.
Prediction: Michael Albasini
Stage Six: Locarne – La Punt Chamues
A true mountain stage, finishing atop the Albulapass after a long descent of the San Bernardino. It will be a real mountain man that takes stage honours on this day, possibly even the potential winner of this race overall.
Prediction: Ion Izagirre
Stage Seven: Zernez – Tiefenbachferner
The highest point on this year’s Tour de Suisse and the pivotal queen stage of the race. It will all boil down to the final climb, a mountain peaking a 2780m in height. The altitude gains here are unbelievable and riders will really feel the lack of oxygen as they climb. Only the true mountain goats will be able to conquer this tortuous pass.
Prediction: Tejay Van Garderen
Stage Eight: Schaffhausen – Schaffhausen
Another tough circuit around the town of Schaffhausen that sees no less than eight catergorised climbs. It’s only 100km long and should see attacks throughout the day, not only will this be a final chance for the classics men to grab a stage win, it could also provide an opportunity for some GC men to capitalise and snatch some seconds on the finish line.
Predicition: Michael Alabasini
Stage Nine: Schaffhausen – Schaffhausen
One final test for the riders to really take the fight to the provisional yellow jersey. A 28.6km TT with a long 5km climb just near the finish. The only time check comes at the summit and will mean most riders will be blind to their splits until it’s almost too late. A fast descent to the line will see the final action of this year’s Tour de Suisse…
Prediction: Ion Izagirre
The GC Battle
An eclectic mix of Giro showstoppers and Tour de France form builders will battle it out for overall honours in this race. Ion Izagirre heads the list of favourites, a strong time trialist and climber, the route through Switzerland suits the Spaniard down to a tee. He’s shown great form throughout the 2017 season, top tens in Paris Vasco, Tour de Romandie and Paris Nice.
The Bahrain rider was also up there in the Ardennes classics, proving that he had a knack for following the attacking moves that characterise these type of races. With a few Ardenne-esque stages on this edition of the Tour de Suisse, his chances at overall glory only appear to strengthen…
He was second here last year, narrowly missing out on the victory by 12 seconds to Lopez. The Spaniard will relish the final day’s TT and will put all his focus into taking the overall win on the final day of racing.
BMC come to this race with a very strong compliment of riders that look set to compete for both stage wins and high placings in the overall. Tejay Van Garderen and Rohan Dennis both come off the back of a tough Giro and look to replicate the Americans form in the high mountains. Dennis specialises in the short prologues and looks set to take the first yellow jersey of this race for BMC.
Van Garderen will be hoping to use his new found confidence after a Giro stage win to deliver a strong result here. He took a stage on the highest peak last year and could very well do the same in this edition. On his day, he’s one of the strongest climbers in the peloton and given a gap, he’ll certainly exploit it.
The defending champion Miguel Angel Lopez hasn’t really shown himself this year and only has one day of racing to his name so far. Whilst he may have shot onto the pro scene last year, it’s going to be extremely hard for the Colombian to replicate the form we saw from him in last year’s edition.
That being said, he’s the defending champion, youthful and more than exuberant; if there’s one rider that will attack when the road goes up, it’ll be Lopez.
Another crop of riders fresh from a successful Giro D’Italia are Tom Dumoulin and Rui Costa. No rest for the weary seems to be the motto for the Dutchman and despite claiming a maiden grand tour win just 12 days ago, he’s back and ready to add another stage race to his palamares.
To many he may seem the favourite, after all he’s just conquered the Giro D’Italia and beaten the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana. However, this seems to be a wind down ride for Dumoulin and we may just see him chasing a stage win rather than trying his hand at the overall.
That honour in the Sunweb team looks likely to befall young Wilco Kelderman, Dumoulin’s mountain lieutenant that unfortunately crashed out on the Blockhaus pile-up. He’s eager to show the world the form he built for the Giro and will likely be all guns blazing here. He’s a wily rider that also excels in the TTs, a perfect mix for the 2017 Tour de Suiss route.
As mentioned above, Costa comes to this race after a *close to* successful Giro D’Italia, taking three second place podium results. He’s obviously on top form and is climbing as well as, possibly even better, than he was at the early season Abu Dhabi Tour.
He’s won this race three times before in three consecutive years, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and is the most experienced rider in this race by a large margin, taking five stage wins across Swiss terrain during his career. His UAE team is built to impress and has the sole aim of delivering a fourth win in this race for Costa. The Portugaese rider faces stiff competition this year however and he should have a much harder time dominating the overall classification.
As well as the usual team leaders dominating the favourites spots for this year’s Tour de Suisse, it’s also the turn for some super domestiques to try their hand at a high position overall. One rider who rode to a strong fourth place last year was Jarlinson Pantano, a revilation for the IAM team who also went on to take a stage win at the Tour de France later in the summer of 2016.
Now at Trek Segafredo, the Colombian has been relegated to a super domestique role and has been protecting his team leader in Alberto Contador for the majority of this season. Pantano looked on top form in Paris Nice and often looked the stronger of the Trek pair, constantly pulling Contador up to the wheels of the stronger GC riders.
He’ll be quite content with this year’s route and will be happy with the position of the final TT. He’s the current Colombian TT champion and will be motivated in his country’s colours to take a good result on the final day that hopefully propels him up the GC.
Sebastien Reichenbach is another super domestique turned team leader for this race and he’ll be hoping to impress in front of home crowds. Outside of the top GC riders in this year’s Giro, he was the strongest climber and really impressed in the final week through the toughest stages. A stage win here is an aim but a GC victory is the ultimate dream…
Other riders worthy of a mention include 2015 winner, Simon Spilak, a rider that excels in the bad weather and loves an attack up a rain soaked mountain. He’s seemed a little off the pace this year however and his TT has really diminished in strength. A top ten might just be a realistic aim for the Slovakian rider.
Domenico Pozzovivo also comes to this race from the Giro and is another that could ride into a strong position overall. Philip Deignan will lead Team Sky’s hopes, David de La Cruz on the aggressive moves for Quickstep and Tim Wellens will be hoping to possibly take enough time in breakaways and late moves to claw a good position on the final GC.
Our pure outsider pick lies with the Hammer Climb terminator, Carlos Betancur. Can the Colombian roll back to his glory years of 2014 when he won Paris Nice and replicate a similar style of aggressive and explosive racing here? We hope so…
Sprinters swap for the Classic Men
With not many flat roads across the Alpine country of Switzerland, it comes as no surprise that many of the peloton’s top sprinters have passed up on this mountainous stage race. Instead, it’s the classic specialists and rouleurs that should dominate the intermediate hilly stages.
The real battle lies between Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet, the World Champion has the most individual stage wins in this race with thirteen and looks the favourite to take even more in 2017 with the rainbow stripes on his shoulders. Van Avermaet is a little less prolific at this race and has only ever taken two third places on this race.
In most of the stage races that they rider together, the World and Olympic champions split the stage wins between them with none of them really dominating the other. A similar thing looks set to happen in this race with stage three’s possible bunch sprint look set to be taken by Sagan and stage two’s lumpy Ardennes style stage likely to be a Van Avermaet day.
Joining the likes of Sagan and Van Avermaet to give this race it’s strongest ever one-day rider lineup is 2017 Flanders champion, Philippe Gilbert. His appearance is yet to be confirmed, but if reports are correct he seems to be the rider most likely to spoil the stage hunting party of Sagan and Van Avermaet.
The Belgian now looks full recovered after his kidney tear at Amstel Gold, taking a strong 4th place in the recent Tour of Belgium. Like Van Avermaet, Gilbert will be eyeing up the hillier stages and will hope to bring some more stage wins to Quickstep’s impressive 2017 tally.
Quickstep will also have Yves Lampaert, Gianluca Brambilla and possibly Fernando Gaviria joining Gilbert on the start line. All have the potential to take stages in their own right and their Belgian outfit will be eager to create an attacking race to bring home as many wins as possible.
One rider known for taking stage wins in home races is the nations favourite, Michael Alabsini. He heads a strong Orica Scott lineup here to support the Swiss rider in his endeavor for more Tour de Suisse stage wins. He already has three to his name, can he take even more this year given his incredible Ardennes form?
Looking to take the fight to Sagan on stage three, the only possible bunch sprint finish, will be Sunweb’s Michael Matthews and Trek Segafredo’s John Degenkolb. Both are strong riders looking to impress their new teams for 2017, a stage win here will only add to a possible renewal in their contract for 2018.
Predicted Top Ten
1st Ion Izagirre (Resilient in the mountains and strong in the TT, this is a route made for Izagirre)
2nd Jarlinson Pantano (The Colombian can climb, TT and sprint, a vital mix for this kind of route)
3rd Rui Costa (He’ll take his stage win but will be let down in the final day’s TT)
4th Tejay Van Garderen (Carrying his Giro form through, he’ll take another stage win and finish highly overall)
5th Miguel Angel Lopez (Optimistic for a man that’s only raced one day in 2017)
6th David de la Cruz (He’s aggressive and a great climber, the classic-esque stages will provide an opportunity)
7th Sebastien Reichenbach (He’ll finish top three on the queen stage and ride himself straight into the overall fight)
8th Wilco Kelderman (Determined to show us his Giro form, strong on the mountains and TT)
9th Tim Wellens (Breakaways and late attacks may just slowly chip away at the top ten for the Belgian)
10th Rohan Dennis (The strongest TT rider may just take the opening and closing stages of this race)
As always, thanks for reading the preview! Who do you think will win this year’s race? Feel free to leave a comment below. To keep up with all the race action and daily previews, make sure to follow @InsidePeloton96 on Twitter for live updates…