Tour de Suisse Preview: TDF dark horses sharpen their knives

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Can you hear that? The low rumbling gradually getting closer? Don’t worry, it’s just the 2022 Tour de France slowly approaching, preparing to gobble up anything and everything in its path.

But before that are the preparatory races. Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard are warming up at the Critérium du Dauphiné, UAE Team Emirates’ two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar has opted for his home Tour of Slovenia, but the Tour de Suisse seems to have the bulk of the GC talent outside of the top three favourites in the hunt for Tour de France glory.

The reason they’re all in Switzerland for their final tune up before the big one across the border in France? A total of 21,185 metres of altitude gain across eight stages. If the riders don’t arrive with their climbing legs packed in their suitcase, they’ll certainly leave with them.

The route

Starting in the northern municipality of Küsnacht, the peloton will complete four laps of a circuit featuring two category three climbs, the second a 2.7 km-long kicker with an average gradient of 8.2 % that comes within the final 10 km before the finish line.

Another lumpy day follows on stage 2 as the peloton heads westwards to Aesch, three classified climbs backloaded onto the day, a parcours that is then pretty much replicated for stage 3 save for a category one climb lumped into the first half to wake the bunch up.

A flatter day follows on stage 4. Soon after the start in Grenchen is a third category climb and then nothing until the second category with 20km which then gives way to a downhill run to the finish line in Brunnen.

The first 50 km of stage 5 is a descent down into a flat approach to the second category Monte Ceneri, then some more flat before another finishing circuit punctuated by third category climbs, this time in Novazzano, and with the most uphill finish of the race so far.

Finally, the race reaches the proper mountains on stage 6. The HC Nufenen Pass, 13.6 km at 7.8%, is plonked right in the middle of the route from Locarno to Moosalp, a 17.7 km 7.6% HC summit finish to really sort out the GC standings.

Like stage 5, stage 7 also starts from Ambri, but this time heads up the first category Lukmanier Pass, a 29.2 km slog at 5%. Then come two third category bumps before another HC summit finish at the Liechtensteinian (had to Google that) ski resort of Malub, 12.6 km in length at 8.7%.

The race remains in Liechtenstein for a final day time trial, a 25.6 km flat course in Vaduz to settle the general classification once and for all after two days of hardcore climbing.

The contenders

As previously mentioned, the absence of Jumbo-Visma’s Tour contenders as well as Tadej Pogačar looks to leave the race for the taking as far as the Ineos Grenadiers are concerned. If only the Tour de France was this simple!

Take your pick of contenders for the general classification from the British squad. Geraint Thomas, Adam Yates and Dani Martínez all have the requisite skills to finish first overall, and that’s without mentioning Tom Pidcock who is looking increasingly, sneakily, likely to make his Tour debut this July.

The GC fight in Switzerland should be more compelling as far as potential Tour contenders are concerned than the race’s counterparts in France and Slovenia. Bora-Hansgrohe bring new employees Aleksandr Vlasov and Sergio Higuita while Max Schachmann also managed fourth last year. The German squad’s performance at the Giro d’Italia announced the team as a GC outfit to watch out for.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) should also provide some competition in the mountains, although the final time trial will likely undo most of the week’s work for the Spaniard. Jakob Fuglsang and Michael Woods will prop up Israel – Premier Tech’s hopes, while you’d imagine Cofidis’ Ion Izagirre will either win a stage or finish seventh overall, or maybe both. Who knows!

Meanwhile Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ will take some time out from putting the world of tennis bang to rights to either race an anonymous week over the border or pull off a result that once again gets the French very, VERY excited ahead of their home Grand Tour.

And that’s all before discussing the most notable rider lining up who will not go on to race the Tour. A certain Remco Evenepoel. The Belgian is yet to make the podium of one of the big one-week stage races, although came close with fourth overall at the Tour of the Basque Country earlier this year, and will surely be looking to take that next step in his career.

Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) and his entourage will also be on the start line, the Slovakian likely still picking dust and dirt out of…everywhere…after his American sojourn for the Unbound 100 last weekend.

The action gets underway on Sunday June 12 just after 1 pm local time.

CyclingTips star ratings:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Martínez, Yates
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️: Vlasov, Landa, Evenepoel
⭐️⭐️⭐️: Lutsenko, Thomas
⭐️⭐️: Schachmann, Woods
⭐️: Pinot, Izagirre, Pidcock

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