Here’s what’s going to happen (we think) at the men’s Tour de Suisse
As the Critérium du Dauphiné rages on in France, plenty of other big names are gearing up for a battle of their own not all that far away. The men’s Tour de Suisse gets underway on Sunday in Frauenfeld.
While the Suisse is often seen as playing second fiddle of the two pre-Tour de France tuneup races, its most recent winner did go onto win that year’s Tour (Egan Bernal in 2019). Plus, neither Primoz Roglic nor Tadej Pogacar are racing either the Suisse or the Dauphiné this year, leveling the playing field a bit. In their absence, we’ll have a chance to see the likes of Richard Carapaz, Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel, and Tom Dumoulin in Switzerland this coming week.
In other words, there are plenty of reasons to tune in. Plus, the race is one of the most scenic on the WorldTour calendar, so you won’t want to miss out on all the Alpine views. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming men’s Tour de Suisse … along with some bold predictions about what we expect to happen at the race.
A quick rundown of the key details
After the two-day, 2.1-rated, inaugural edition of the women’s Tour de Suisse kicks off on Saturday, the WorldTour men’s race starts on Sunday. It will run for eight stages.
The first of those eight days of racing is a flat time trial of 10.9 km. Riders will then take on three stages with hilly finales before stage 5 challenges the GC hopefuls with a late first-category climb and then an uncategorized ascent to the line. Stage 6 will take riders over the Gotthardpass and the Lukmanierpass. Stage 7 will pit riders against the clock again with a 23.2 km time trial, but this one goes up and over a first-category climb. The race will conclude with a challenging stage 8 that features two early first-category climbs and then an hors categorie trip over the Gotthardpass.
Less than two days before the race, we are still working with a provisional start list, but the list of potential GC contenders includes Richard Carapaz, Pavel Sivakov, Tiesj Benoot, Esteban Chaves, Maximilian Schachmann, Jakob Fuglsang, Mike Woods (who didn’t end up racing the Dauphiné as we’d initially thought), Wout Poels, Rigoberto Urán, Mauri Vansevenant, and, perhaps, Julian Alaphilippe. Other big names set to attend are Mathieu van der Poel, Michael Matthews, Marc Hirschi, Tom Dumoulin.
What’s going to happen
With the basics of what you absolutely must know out of the way, let’s get into some predictions about how things will play out this coming week in Switzerland.
Richard Carapaz will finish on the podium, leaving Ineos management with some tough decisions to make
I know, I’m only a week removed from predicting an Ineos Grenadiers triumph in my last pre-race analysis piece – but I’m not going to change things up just for the sake of changing things up. Richard Carapaz is the best GC rider at this race and what’s more, he has all the reason in the world to crush it at the Tour de Suisse. I’m hesitant to say definitively that he will win considering his dearth of results so far in 2021, but he should at least finish on the podium.
For now, it’s not clear whether the Ineos Grenadiers will back Carapaz, Geraint Thomas, Tao Geoghegan Hart, or perhaps even Richie Porte at the upcoming Tour de France. Carapaz was great at last year’s Vuelta a España but he has had a quiet 2021 campaign from a results standpoint, unlike Thomas and Porte. He needs a big result to prove himself worthy of leadership, and he has a golden opportunity at this Tour de Suisse. Plus, the stage 7 time trial goes up and over a first-category climb, which should favor him more than a long flat TT would. Knowing Carapaz’s potential, he’s my top favorite to take the overall title (although I’ll admit that I might bet on the field if given the choice).
Whether or not he wins outright, Carapaz should put in a big performance in the mountains, and that will complicate the pre-Tour decision-making process over at Ineos, particularly if Thomas, Geoghegan Hart, and Porte continue to shine at the Dauphiné.
Max Schachmann will challenge for the overall win but he’ll continue to be underrated
Behind Carapaz are several GC hopefuls I’d put into a second tier, with Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) among them. Schachmann has won the last two editions of Paris-Nice and counts a bevy of other strong results on his career palmares. A great climber with some explosiveness and a good time trial, he is one of the top one-week racers in cycling right now. Against this field and more long grinding climbs than overly steep ones on the parcours, Schachmann looks like a strong contender for the overall win at the Tour de Suisse. That’s part one of this prediction.
My longer-term prediction is that even if he wins the whole thing, he still won’t get quite the credit he deserves in articles like this one moving forward. For starters, the cycling world tends to overlook the exploits of one-week specialists and stage-hunters that aren’t sprinters, which is a shame. After all, one-week races and Grand Tour stages that don’t feature major GC action take up the lion’s share of racing days on the WorldTour calendar. To be honest, I mostly decided to write this section so that I could gripe about the fact that riders like Schachmann and Ion Izagirre don’t get enough credit.
What’s more, the achievements of Schachmann and every other Bora-Hansgrohe rider tend to get overlooked because of all the focus on Peter Sagan. In any case, that doesn’t mean that Schachmann won’t shine anyway in the one-week races where he tends to thrive. In short, keep an eye on the German all-rounder in this race and in every other race he does. He deserves it.
Tom Dumoulin will be in decent shape despite his lengthy break from racing
The Tour de Suisse will mark Tom Dumoulin’s return to competition after he announced in January that he would be taking a break from racing. As such, the Jumbo-Visma rider has not raced since October of last year – but I’m not expecting him to be all that rusty in his return.
The former world time trial champ and Giro d’Italia winner is eyeing the Tokyo Olympics in less than two months. He may not have raced in a while, but he has been training at home, and more and more lately we’ve seen riders thriving in competition without much racing buildup. All of that should be reflected in strong performances in the two opportunities Dumoulin will have to put his TT chops on display in Switzerland.
Rohan Dennis and Stefan Küng are both on the Tour de Suisse start list, so Dumoulin will face stiff competition on those stages, but top 10s seem possible.
Marc Hirschi will remind us of why his signing was such a big deal
Marc Hirschi broke through in a major way last year, winning La Flèche Wallonne and a Tour stage and finishing on the podium at Worlds and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. When he surprisingly transferred from DSM to UAE-Team Emirates after such a big season, it was big news. So far this year, however, he has registered only one top five finish, on a single stage of the Tour de Romandie.
The Tour de Suisse, however, will give the Swiss all-rounder a chance (several chances, actually) to shine on home roads. In particular, stages 2, 3, and 4 are lumpy enough to provide Hirschi with opportunities to put his punchy skillset on display. Hopefully, he’ll make the most of those opportunities, giving us a chance to see him battling with Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel, and Michael Matthews for stage wins at the Tour de Suisse.
Mauri Vansevenant will deliver his first GC top 10 in a WorldTour race
Promising prospect Mauri Vansevenant joined Deceuninck-QuickStep midway through the season last year, and he enjoyed a strong start to 2021, winning the GP Industria & Artigianato and finishing on the podium at the Trofeo Laigueglia and delivering top 10s at the Tour de la Provence and the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. The Tour de Suisse looks like a great opportunity for the 22-year-old Belgian to take his first GC top 10 in a WorldTour race.
Vansevenant is a strong climber with some punch, and put in a respectable showing against the clock in his lone individual time trial so far this year at the Itzulia Basque Country. He finished 11th overall there, and the field at the Tour de Suisse isn’t quite as strong with neither Primoz Roglic nor Tadej Pogacar in attendance. Keep an eye on Vansevenant when the road goes up in Switzerland – and it won’t be long now until it does. The Tour de Suisse gets underway in less than 48 hours …