Tour of Romandie Preview
Racing in Switzerland returns and will take this week's World Tour schedule, the peloton will be in the French speaking region of Switzerland as it's been the case since 1947. The race is 6 days long and it has a list of winner with a big reputation, including Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana in recent years.
The race has this year a similar structure to it's normal with a prologue and a time-trial book-ending the week, with a combination of flat finishes, hilly stages and a summit finish.
As it's been the case almost every year the race starts with a short prologue. Very short in fact, only 3.9Km long with a short punchy climb midway and very technical roads to deal with. For those who race Romandie they must be accostumed to the unusual kind of route, the weather can play a big part in the stage as rain would make it one absolutely for those who are willing to take risks, technique and risks will be vital in the opening day although it shouldn't open big gaps.
The first road stage comes as a hard challenge. It won't be easy to predict how this stage will unroll, it has a 5 classified climbs but several more that will make it too hard for the sprinters. But for the climbers the climbs may come too early on to make differences so they should try to keep their overall ambitions safe, so it opens up the chance of a breakaway succeeding or late attacks being successful.
In such a hard edition it would seem as this is the most sprinter-friendly stage, it isn't completely flat, it's the complete opposite in fact. It's rolling roads and a long drag halfway through the stage make it a breakaway suited stage, but the teams of the fastest riders will surely try to keep the escapees under control.
Stage 4 has a different finish from the previous days, in general it's another very rolling stage with no real flat terrain. In the final portion of the stage alone there is a 4.2Km climb at 5.3% average gradient summitting with 13.5Km to the finish, a 5.9Km at 3.1% climb summitting with just a mere 4Km to the finish, which itself will be quite hard with the final 900 meters having a 8% gradient. It's a hard stage and gaps are definetely a possibility in the finale, the puncheurs should have their saying in the stage but the climbers will be to the fore aswell, although with the following stages coming the few seconds that may be lost.
In the penultimate day of the race comes the queen stage, the only high mountain stage and it will be a hard one. Several climbs including the hard Jaunpass will build the fatigue that will be quite noticeable by the end when the riders reach the final climb.
The ascent to Torgnon is 10.3Km at 6.5% in it's categorized part, it's quite a hard climb with a small flat section near the end, the KOM banner will come with 3Km to go but it doesn't stop climbing until the riders enter the final kilometer. It's the stage where the biggest gaps will be made. But as it has been the case in the last few years, there's a chance this stage will decide who will fight for the overall, but then the final time-trial will set the winner.
And just like the prologue, the final time-trial doesn't come very flat. It will be a somewhat hilly one with a couple of punchy climbs before the intermediate point, and from there on it is mostly downhill and flat roads until the line, it is 17 kilometers long so there is definetely a lot of space to create gaps between the specialists and the non-specialists, and after a hard week of racing the recovery will also come to play as it will be a very intense effort.
Using Morges as a central point of the race (also as the finish of the second stage), it's possible to see that it will be a normal week for a central Europe country, rain is set to fall on stage 2 and 3, which may make for more dangerous roads and crashes hampering the GC ambitions of some riders. Besides that it will be cold on the weekend, so very cold conditions are to be expected on the queen stage.
Looking at the startlist there look to be two teams splitting up from the field, the first is of the defending champions Primoz Roglic. He will start tomorrow as the main favourite for the race, with two individual challenges and a summit finish in a 6-day stage-race there is hardly any other race that would suit him as well. His skillset is perfect for the conditions the riders will race in, and he has been unbeatable this season, only entering the UAE Tour and Tirreno-Adriatico but winning both overall. Besides that he will also have a strong support behind him, most noticeably Steven Kruijswijk who had a strong comeback to form last season and looks to be back in his best legs.
On the other side there is Geraint Thomas. His form as been off for the whole season so far due to a very large off-season, but he is slowly coming back to good form and with his main goal just two months away he is expected to be in a glimpse of his race weight. Like Roglic he is considered one of the main contenders as the race favours time-trialing, and he will be in for a shot of a win in both the stages. He will have in Kenny Elissonde a very realiable support for the mountains.
The main opposition will come from Bora. A double-headed leadership one would say, on one side there is Emanuel Buchmann who's been having a superb season so far with great results in every race he's been, most recently Basque Country where he came close to winning. On the other there is the Tour of Turkey winner Felix Grossschartner who is unquestionably in great form, both are very solid against the clock but the climbing is where they should be more confortable despite the competition. If the riders above are in great form they will have a tough time to bring the victory home, but they are two of the main contenders for the podium.
EF Education also bring a strong team into the race, with several options as to who can lead the team, depth should be the card they'll play. On conservative role should be Daniel Martinez, perhaps the more suited rider to the route. Behind him will be Michael Woods who just finished 5th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and will be on the start line at the Giro. What will make them a very dangerous team is the trio of outsiders Tanel Kangert, Hugh Carthy and Joe Dombrowski who have all had good displays this season and can make the race complicated for the other teams.
Astana will be lead by a duo that's shown great form in the last weeks, Merhawi Kudus comes from a strong 3rd place in Turkey, and Jan Hirt from a 7th place in the Tour of the Alps. Time-trialing is their weak spot so they should be active in the harder stages. Groupama-FDJ will also have cards to play, with Sebastian Reichenbach and David Gaudu at the start line, and UAE Emirates will have Rui Costa in the lead who's finished 5 times in the Top6 since 2012 and comes with good form into the race.
Besides those there are some good riders but they will struggle to be in the fight for the top places. Gianluca Brambilla for Trek, Mathias Frank for AG2R, Remco Evenepoel and James Knox for Deceuninck, Nicolas Roche for Sunweb, Damien Howson for Mitchelton, Winner Anacona and Eduard Prades for Movistar, Simon Spilak for Katusha, Louis Meintjes for Dimension Data, Guillaume Martin for Wanty and Roland Thalmann for the Suiss national team.
They lit up the sprints in last year's Giro and they are the headliners when it comes to the fastes finishes. Although the stages aren't suited for them, with only one stage realistically fit for them their teams will definetely take advantage of it. Sam Bennett needs no presentation as he's been dominating the sprints where he shows up this season, as for Viviani he hasn't been winning as much this season but looks in no lack of form, specially with the team backing him up more than Bora will.
They are the fastest men in here but not the only. The Italian fleet come behind, Sonny Cobrelli will be one to watch as he has a big climbing prowess that can see him in contention for more stages than the previous. Giacomo Nizzolo, Simone Consonni, Matteo Moschetti, Jakub Mareczko and Andrea Pasqualon will also look to be up there in the faster finales.
Besides them there are some smaller names, Pattrick Bevin for the harder stages, Eduard Prades and Odd Christian Eiking aswell, they'll be good names specially for the two hilly stages, where late attacks can also favour the explosive riders.
Coming from his recent hour-record Victor Campenaerts is the big favourite to take the lead on the opening day. His prologue skills are well known and he's a very strong rider technically, who can also handle the short pitches. Swiss TT national champion Stefan Kung is also a prologue specialist though. Alongside Roglic there riders will be the main favourites for the individual challenges.
But there's a long list of powerful riders with them, most noticeably Jumbo-Visma duo Jos van Emden and Tony Martin. van Emden is more suited for the opening stage, Martin will prefer the longer time-trial. Also Bora's Maciej Bodnar, CCC's Joey Rosskopf, Mitchelton's Cameron Meyer, Sky's Dylan van Baarle and Filippo Ganna, Trek's Ryan Mullen, Katusha's Alex Dowsett and Bahrain's Jan Tratnik.
⭐ Woods, Reichenbach, R.Costa, Grossschartner, G.Martin, Spilak, Howson
I predict Primoz Roglic will take the final win. Baring bad luck I see no reason why he couldn't take the win again, with the Giro approaching he should be in good form, although he hasn't raced much this season he looks to be able to get brilliant form from training alone. The race suits him like a glove and with Kruijswijk having his back I see no-one who can beat him.
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