Tour de Suisse – Stage 9 Preview

The breakaway did indeed cause an upset on Stage 8 and saw a powerful blend of nineteen riders establish an unassailable lead; gradually disintegrating until only two men were left out front. It was down to AG2R’s Jan Bakelants and Alexey Lutsenko of Astana who found themselves in a two man sprint to decide the victor in the Swiss capital of Bern. Despite the apparent lack of action amongst the general classification contenders on the day, Geraint Thomas of Team Sky still managed to sneak a total of three seconds advantage out over current race leader Thibaut Pinot. A race against a clock on the final day is set to decide the overall outcome of this year’s Tour de Suisse, requiring Pinot to defend his jersey in an unfavourable position with Geraint Thomas and Tom Dumoulin fancying their chances of overturning the deficit and stealing the title at the death.


The time trial itself is 38.4km of the sort of rolling terrain which the peloton have spent the last week or so battling upon day after day. Yet again the riders have been provided with a relatively flat opening to the stage after the initial descent which starts after 1km and takes them down to the level terrain by the 3km marker. Though several kilometres of flat roads are present for some time, a gentle gradient will begin lifting them up towards the Category 3 climb of Liebewill. Though the ascent itself is short at only 800m in length, the preceding couple of kilometres could make it difficult for some riders to select the right gear and tempo due to the little kicks in terrain which lead to the climb.  Considering the average gradient of this short Category 3 climb is 9.25%, anyone who does fail to find the right rhythm as they fight their way to the summit could loose time rapidly.

Around 23km will then remain of the time trial set to decide the winner of this year’s Tour de Suisse, the course will see each rider push on after this as they sprint up another short and sharp unclassified hill; this marks the highest point of the day’s stage. From here a rapid descent then follows before they hit another kick in the terrain, a 1.1km rise which once over the other side shall lead them downhill to just shy of 4km from the finish. After which point the Category 3 Aargauerstalden will bring them up to the final 2.5km run in once its 400m ascent and 4.25% average gradient have been tackled. Several technical corners populate the last couple of kilometres right up to just 200m from the line, meaning some contenders could ship time even at this late stage if they pick the wrong line through the bends.



Current race leader Thibaut Pinot has his work cut out in order to walk away from this race as 2015’s champion, but that is not to suggest he is set to be walked over by the opposition. A talented climber, Pinot will favour this rolling terrain in order to reduce the deficit to time trial specialists on the day, though shall remain aware of how this stage is certainly no mountainous course. Much has been made of his supposed ineptitude against the clock in recent years, whereas a glance through his performances in the last couple of seasons displays a solid ability to place within the top ten when not racing a team time trial or prologue. If you also factor in the ‘magic’ of the yellow jersey when defending the lead, there is little to suggest he will be embarrassed by the abilities of his rivals. He could well fend off Tom Dumoulin’s attempt to win overall, but Geraint Thomas looms heavily behind Pinot and should win the overall today.

Beyond another dose of misfortune, Tom Dumoulin should almost be guaranteed the stage win on the final day at the Tour de Suisse. Only bettered by Tony Martin at last year’s time trial, the Dutchman has grown since then to become the biggest threat to breaking the Martin/Cancellara/Wiggins dominance of the World Championships. His performance in the last week has been extremely impressive, not only demonstrating his time trialling form on the opening day’s prologue, but also sticking with the big name climbers on some of the toughest climbs. The question on the day shall be as to what margin he wins by it seems, Pinot’s 1’14” perhaps within the realms of possibility to catch, but Geraint Thomas is bound to prove a much tougher man to reel in at 50″ to Dumounlin. His showings throughout the entire race and a likely win on Stage 9 should be satisfying enough for the Dutchman, regardless of how close he comes to regaining his yellow jersey at the final time of asking.

Geraint Thomas has paced his efforts at this race very well indeed, maintaing a presence amongst the favourites, yet ensuring he never rode himself into the ground for the sake of a fruitless attack. The Sky rider knows how rare these opportunities to lead the team are and has clearly seized upon this with great effect thus far. His prowess at climbing has grown substantially in recent years and has subsequently been highlighted as the cause behind his diminishing time trial performances; not to say these are poor though. If there is one thing he has proven this year so far, it is how well the Welshman can adapt to differing terrains and disciplines when targeting a specific race. His performance on the queen stage’s ascent of the Rettenbachgletscher should have been almost impossible for any rider previously so heavily invested in the Spring classics, yet Thomas seemed to find little hardship when transitioning from the short efforts which won him E3 Harelbeke to only just being distance by Thibaut Pinot on Stage 5’s summit finish. Today’s time trial course suits him relatively well with a blend of flat passages and short climbs, combing this with his current GC placing, Thomas is clearly the favourite to walk away from here as champion.

For the day’s stage win, Adriano Malori has the potential to push Dumoulin close for the victory, but his showings during this race so far have been rather disappointing. The Italian has progressed like his rival to become a rising name in the time trial discipline, but does not seem to have struck form so far this season against the clock. A course built towards top average speed would have favoured him more, but his climbing is solid enough to cope with the day’s rolling terrain regardless. Should he find himself in good condition, Malori might be the only man able to stick the pace of an extremely motivated Tom Dumoulin on Stage 9.

Fabian Cancellara’s names is written throughout the Tour de Suisse and its time trialling history as of late, but it seems too much for him to add another entry today. The Swiss hero started this race off the back of an infection and had to be prescribed medication in order to make it to the startline; though this did not stop him from just missing out on the prologue victory to Dumoulin. With the Tour de France not far away now, Cancellara will not wish to scupper his recovery from illness by going too deep for the sake of a stage win which has no bearing on the overall outcome. Though his name will no doubt be in the upper mix of the stage’s final classification, even if he had entered this race without having to recover from an illness, the requirements to beat Tom Dumoulin were always bound to be too great.

Though still developing as a time trial specialist, Bob Jungels will be worth watching to monitor his current progress when pit against the clock. The Luxembourg time trial champion is often better on rolling terrain such as this, but the distance here might be a little too much for him right now. His condition at the Tour de Suisse is relatively unknown as it stands, so his showing on the last day will be of definite interest to those wishing to see his talents grow.

Another young rider who is still developing, though seems capable of turning his hand to anything right now, is Michal Kwiatkowski. Despite having lost a large amount of time unexpectedly early on in this race, his form has not been too shaky and the Polish rider certainly appeared in good condition when animating two stage’s with his presence amongst the breakaway. Some would suggest he is riding himself into form at the tail end of this week, if this is the case, you cannot discount Kwiatkowski from a reasonable placing in a discipline which he often performs well at. His biggest difficulties of the day will be the course’s lumpy terrain and possible fatigue from his efforts in yesterday’s large breakaway.

Other names which all have the potential to fill out the eventual top ten on the day include: Steven Morabito, Simon Spilak, Silvan DillierMatthias Brändle and Martin Elmiger.


Tom Dumoulin looks poised to take another stage win here in the time trial, obviously riding at such a high level during this Tour de Suisse, where only bad luck seems able to prevent him from winning Stage 9. The biggest story of the day shall be the battle for time between Dumoulin, Pinot and Thomas. There is certainly a strong chance that Thibaut Pinot shall surprise many pundits with his efforts on the day in an attempt to defend his ownership of the yellow jersey, but the victory is likely to be Geraint Thomas‘ for the taking. The Welshman has been tactically astute in this race and has set himself up to take the victory on the final day nicely, requiring a strong performance, but not one which is greatly beyond his abilities right now.

1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Geraint Thomas 3rd Adriano Malori

Overall Outcome: Geraint Thomas


Tour de Suisse – Stage 8 Preview

Peter Sagan was edged out by Alexander Kristoff for the victory on Stage 7 of Tour de Suisse, reversing his apparent struggles at the race to rediscover his imperious spring form and secure a win. Whereas on the previous day Sagan was victor thanks to his ability to navigate such a technical finale, on Stage 7 he came unstuck due to exiting the final position which left him stifled with 300m remaining as the Norwegian Kristoff unleashed his sprint to the line. Stage 8 offers a similar course which should favour the puncheurs who possess the required guts and determination to survive the rolling Swiss terrain and leave enough power in the tank to conquer finale and walk away from Bern with a win in the bag.


A 152.5km route will take the peloton on an out and back race which starts and finishes in the Swiss capital of Bern. The day includes four passes of a categorised ascent which features on a city centre circuit intended to wear down the big names and set the strongest riders up for the harsh finale which will crown the winner in Bern. Four laps of the 38.7km city centre circuit comprises the entire day’s racing, despite the first 90km failing to feature a recognised climb upon the stage profile, the terrain maintains a rolling style for the entirety of the 152.5km. Overall there are four recognised climbs upon the final lap of the city centre circuits, which should ensure a reasonable shelling of contenders as the tempo is increased ahead of a difficult fight for the line.

With a little over 20km remaining, the peloton shall summit their penultimate climb which is the 800m Liebewill; likely to crack some legs with an average gradient of 9.25%. Despite the climb summiting here officially, the reality is that the uphill run shall continue for several kilometres further until they break the 700m altitude mark and begin dropping down with around 15km separating them from the finish in Bern. Less than 4km shall be left to conquer as the frontrunners square to the finale climb before the finish line, the Category 3 Aargauerstalden likely to function as a springboard for somebody attempting to get away late on. Though only 400m in length and possessing a relatively tame 4.25% average gradient, its impact upon the outcome is bound to be dictated by the intensity at which it is ridden. Once completed, the last 2.5km are almost entirely flat, yet will test the abilities of this targeting a win, due to an array of technical turns late on. A total of six corners are present after the last climb, all of which are bound to be tackled at high speed and fought shoulder to shoulder upon in order to gain primary position for any possible sprint.

A winner here shall not only need the strength to maintain a good position in the last 2.5km, but the ability to navigate so many technical corners late on could be the difference between a win and minor placings. The finishing straight itself is a total of 200m in length, making it an attractive prospect to any rider who bolsters a potent acceleration which can see them exit the corner and gain an advantage which cannot be cut in such a short period of time.



Once again the Tour de Suisse has managed to create a finale which is likely to prove hard work to control for those wishing to set up the finish for their punchy sprinters. If a breakaway times its move well and possess the right composition of talented riders, there is a good chance of a move making it all the way to the line on Stage 8. However, given the amount of classic specialists, sprinters and puncheurs who could all dominant here, it seems that the common interest will be to ensure that a bunch kick decides the outcome in Bern. With this in mind, Peter Sagan looks to be the favourite yet again to commit to a charge to the line and attempt to reverse his fortunes from Stage 7 in order to finally gain his hat trick of wins at this year’s Tour de Suisse. The Slovak champion is perhaps the most in form rider at the race currently and has once again demonstrated his reputation for being the most consistent man when it comes to sprint finishes. Short climbs which are not excessively steep and numerous corners which place positioning above speed mean Sagan’s proven skill-set places him right at the fore to challenge for the win on Stage 8. If his team manage to reduce the amounts defensive efforts required of Sagan late on, leaving him well placed and fresh ahead of a likely bunch sprint, the incumbent wearer of the black jersey has a solid chance of winning once again here.

As stated throughout the week, Alexander Kristoff appeared to be lacking any noteworthy form and was subsequently a surprise victor when beating Peter Sagan to the win on Stage 7. Despite congestion behind him causing Sagan to alter his sprint a likely aid to his victory, Kristoff managed to stick the pace and manoeuvre himself into position to take advantage of a favourable finale. Katusha invested plenty into setting their leader up for the win and if they appear in numbers once again on the front of the peloton, it comes as an ominous warning to anyone else hoping to win in Bern. Throughout this season Kristoff has managed to go beyond expectation on numerous occasions, so despite the technically demanding run in not suiting him on paper, there must be caution when ruling out the strongmen entirely in his attempt to make it two wins on the bounce in Switzerland.

Home support shall be out in force for Orica-GreenEDGE’s Michael Albasini who should feature once again at the pointy end of a day’s racing which plays to his strengths. The biggest issue for the Swiss rider shall be gauging which is the most worthwhile endeavour between that of a sprint finish or joining a possibly successful breakaway group. Throughout the week he has stretched his legs and given pundits a reasonable indication of his current form, which combined with this fitting stage, should make him a real contender for the win. His team could look to make the final 20km or so particularly handwork for his rivals as they shall be aware that in the limited 200m sprint to the line, many other riders possess a sharper acceleration than Albasini, making a thinning of the pack advantageous for the Swiss rider. A tactually astute racer, if the race unfolds favourably for him, it is difficult to see him losing once placed in the perfect situation.

Sep Vanmarcke finally provided a showing of his form on Stage 7, a particularly interesting insight in the wake of a disappointing classics campaign for the Belgian. This series of circuits could be reminiscent of the bergs which populate his home nation, possibly inspiring him to try something late on as a solo breakaway rider. As mentioned before, Vanmarcke is a very difficult man to pull back once he has decided to give it everything to escape the peloton, even more so on terrain which looks favourably upon his talents. Despite the finale possibly being too tough for him when it comes to winning the stage, it seems likely that he will show his face and make life harder for the favourites regardless.

The course for Stage 8 is particularly suiting to the attributes of Greg Van Avermaet of BMC, the Belgian rider known for his ruthless blend of speed, strength and determination to hold off his pursuers. He has a great chance of winning if he chooses to join a breakaway on the day, as it is unlikely that he will find any escapees faster than him upon this rolling and technical finale. If he decided his odds are winning are better off amongst a bunch sprint, Avermaet certainly has the potential to surf through the bunch and place himself in the first five riders or so before hitting the front and accelerating sharply over the last 200m. Given the course being so favourable for the Belgian classics specialists, it seems difficult to imagine that he has not marked this as a serious target before his likely participation at Le Tour de France.

Etixx-Quickstep have failed to make their presence here felt much so far and could decide to give it everything ahead of the final day’s time trial which holds limited hope in terms of a win for them. On Stage 8 they might look upon Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar as two men worth backing to feature within a decisive breakaway which makes it to the line first. Both are able to commit to a high work rate in order to stay away and are equally skilled when it comes to navigating a tricky run in which features tight bends and a brief climb within the final 10km. If one of these riders makes it into a move with riders such as Michael Albasini or Greg Van Avermate, the peloton will certainly have their work cut out in order to prevent them deciding stage honours amongst themselves.

Davide Cimolai turned out an unexpectedly good performance to gain a third place finish on Stage 7, adding to his case for possibly going yet further on today’s stage. The Italian usually survives these sorts of testing days in the saddle and should find the benefit of a lead out reduced somewhat due to the twisting nature of the finale; bringing him further into contention.

Though a strong time trial performance is always likely from the Swiss rider, Fabian Cancellara will be aware that stage honours upon the final day are likely to be won by the those sitting within spitting distance of the yellow jersey right now. Instead, Cancellara may decided to switch focus and attempt to steal a march on the favourites during the technical run into Bern; a course which would make the classics legend a difficult man to catch.


The city centre circuits which form the day’s racing could prove to be the foundations of a conclusion which proves extremely difficult to control when it matters most. Assuming that the sprinters’ teams manage to drag any dangerous breakaways back within their grasp, Peter Sagan will once again be the favourite to find a safe passage through the last 2.5km and sprint to victory upon the short 200m finishing straight. Yesterday showed that Alexander Kristoff can summon up the strength to contest a win at this Tour de Suisse when the course is favourable, even despite his form appearing shaky during the week so far. A harder day should see Greg Van Avermaet and Michael Albasini come to the fore, knowing that starting an early sprint before the line comes into view, could mean the head of the bunch is chasing them round the deciding corners with little luck. Both Avermaet and Albasini also have the potential to join strong breakaway forces, likely to attract interest from Zdenek Stybar and Sep Vanmarcke.

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Michael Albasini


Tour de Suisse – Stage 7 Preview

As forecast by Spokenforks yesterday, Peter Sagan did indeed spoil the chance of any such party for the sprinters, utilising the technical finish to his advantage and delivering a potent acceleration late on to take yet another career victory at Tour de Suisse. The Slovakian’s account is by no means closed at this year’s edition and Stage 7 offers him yet another opportunity to exploit his current vein of form and pocket a hat trick of stages in 2015. With a finale which should see the toughest of the sprinters rise to the top once again, Sagan will instead have to switch from technical ability to brute strength and determination to win this contrasting challenge.


The remaining stepping stones towards the final day’s individual time trial should all favour the strong sprinters and classics riders who have signed up to contest 2015’s Tour de Suisse. Stage 7 offers yet another jagged day’s profile, though it does fail to reach anything greater than 800m during its entirety from Biel to Düdingen. The 164.6km route which links the start and finish towns encompasses four categorised climbs, but should guarantee a bunch kick of sorts; even if the composition is likely to alter given the uphill run to the line against a 4% gradient. It is upon two laps of the Düdingen town centre which we shall saw all four climbs feature, as the teams attempt to break one another’s hopes by upping the pace and shelling the more lightweight sprinters out the back of the peloton.

Once again the day shall open with a reasonably long period of flat, this time providing the peloton with 60km of simple riding to get themselves up to speed and ticking over nicely. Despite the profile clearly displaying a transition to rolling terrain after this period, it is not until the riders pass through the day’s finish for the first time after a little over 90km of racing, that they shall begin the 36.8km circuits which comprise the finale and contain all four categorised climb present on Stage 7. The Category 3 Freiburgstrasse is first on the agenda, a short 1.1km ascent which will do damage if its 6.3% average gradient is ridden at an intense tempo late on. After this, the pack sweep down momentarily before squaring up to the Category 3 Hauptstrasse, a mysterious ascent which lacks any level of documentation beyond its supposed distance of 4.1km, though it is believe to possess gradients around 6% – 8%; any such climb’s attributes are magnified by the high speed with which the peloton shall begin the run in.

Having repeated this double header for the second time, the bunch have almost 20km to get their act together and ensure the teams’ selected men for the day are moved into position ahead of the finale. The road remains rolling and features four roundabouts during the last couple of kilometres to add to the anxiety. This is followed by several turns ahead of the final uphill 800m, eventually exiting onto the finishing straight with 500m remaining. Though the straight is long enough for many of the top sprinters to get up to speed, they shall have to compete with a steady 4% gradient which should add a few wildcards into the mix as the battle for victory on Stage 7 is ignited.



The impressive form which Peter Sagan is so clearly in right now makes him the obvious favourite for a more difficult sprint finish which could see him triumph once again this week. As mentioned previously, his speed is not at the same level as the likes of Mark Cavendish, John Degenkolb or Alexander Kristoff for example, but his technical skill to position himself and strength means a win on Stage 7 is plausible. The longer finishing straight certainly diminishes his odds of winning, though the tricky concluding 2km will be favourable as they navigate several turns and four roundabouts before the riders catch sight of the finishing straight. Another advantage for Sagan is the possibility of the attrition rate increasing during the town centre circuits; he is one of the strongest of the sprinters once life gets more testing on short climbs before the finish and could even ask his teammates to push the pace if he feels everyone is rolling over these ascents too easily.

John Degenkolb has taken stage wins on uphill finishes before and has the brutish force to stay in contention despite the wearing hills which shape the finale. He should be confident of being at the fore when entering the 500m run to the line, a straight which would allow him to start his sprint and reach a maximum speed if all plays out well. Degenkolb’s speed is possibly unrivalled on this terrain, making him a real danger to the hopes of Sagan if he manages to exit the final corner in a good position. With the incline and finishing straight’s length, the German strongman has a real chance of winning here should he be on form.

Usually Alexander Kristoff would be labelled as key favourite on this type of stage finish, but with his form so far at the Tour de Suisse leaving plenty to be desired, there is a chance he might not even be in the mix to contest the win. Despite this apparent absence of form right now, he still managed to muster an impressive third place finish yesterday, regardless of the fact it failed to suit him well at all. Many of his victories have come independently of a well drilled leadout team to, the Norwegian being well versed in looking after himself in the midst of the maelstrom which often decides these sprints. His efforts on the previous day could leave him somewhat short on potency though, possibly reducing his odds of winning, despite being the fastest man against the gradient alongside Degenkolb.

Frenchman Arnaud Démare does appear to be resurrecting a certain level of form as this race develops, but he is still likely to come up short against rivals currently in their pomp. This will come as a disappointment for both himself and his team given how the technical run in and uphill sprint do suit the Frenchman particularly nicely. Should he find himself riding well on the day, Démare should put in a good showing regardless of his injuries from Stage 2, making a top ten placing well within the realms of possibility.

BMC could play two cards with one man, Greg Van Avermaet possessing a skill set which could see him victorious in either a bunch kick or a sprint from a small breakaway. The Belgian classics specialist suits the uphill conclusion well and has already managed a podium placing when finishing third on Stage 4’s uphill battle. Though lacking the speed of Degenkolb or strength of Sagan for example, he could leave with the win if he starts his sprint much earlier or successfully picks the right breakaway which delivers him to the line amongst lesser sprinters.

With Michael Matthews having packed his bags and gone home already, Orica-GreenEDGE might decide to place their hopes upon Swiss favourite Michael Albasini for Stage 7. The finishing circuits could prove attritional enough to bring him to the fore after the faster rivals have been drained, Albasini’s form upon uphill finishes makes him a contender for the win if conditions prove favourable. The finish itself would probably have suited him more if the straight was somewhat longer, so, much like Van Avermaet, his better option might be to join a well timed breakaway.

As we have already witnessed at this year’s Tour de Suisse, even the most innocuous lumps and bumps of a stage profile end up being greatly exaggerated due to the tempo which is set upon them by the frontrunners. A hard race would make the two passes of the town centre finishing circuit reminiscent of a classic, ensuring that strong riders who pack a punch in a sprint could contest the victory. Jurgen Roelandts appears in good form at the moment and was only bettered by Peter Sagan on the previous day, no doubt providing him with the confidence to attempt something on Stage 7. Another name more synonymous with the classics is Sep Vanmarcke, a rider known for his immense strength and ability to turn out a rapid sprint at the end of some of the hardest days in the saddle. A move made upon one of the final climbs could prove dangerous for the peloton; Vanmarcke recognised as an extremely difficult man to drag back even when solo.

A dark horse who remains worth watching in the concluding kilometres of Stage 7 is Katusha’s Daniel Moreno who is evidently in good form at the moment. The Spanish rider has already secured a pair of second places and a sixth place finish behind Michael Matthews as well, clearly demonstrating a high level of race fitness currently. Today’s stage profile might not look horrendous on paper, but we have already seen expectedly calm passages explode under the groaning pressure of certain teams at the start of the week. Moreno is good in an uphill sprint, having taken La Flèche Wallonne thanks to such talents and could seriously fancy his chances against big name rivals. Like many mentioned above, he does not bolster the speed of Degenkolb, Kristoff or Sagan, but if the race proves a lot harder than expected on paper, Moreno could put in a barnstorming effort in the final 800m and steal a march on the big names.


Stage 7 has the feel of a day which could be plunged into chaos within the passing of a second, be it due to tougher terrain than expected or a miscalculation by the peloton which lets a strong breakaway slip off the front. Regardless of the vast array of riders who could all make it into a break and subsequently dominate a sprint finish, the conclusion should be fought amongst the sprinters and their supporting cast of teammates. In this situation there is a strong case to be made for the flying Peter Sagan who appears borderline unstoppable right now; as long as the course is suiting. On this occasion the longer finishing straight does reduce his chances of winning somewhat, but the technically demanding final 2km could level this off to a certain degree for him. Not far behind the Slovakian ace should be John Degenkolb, the immensely strong sprinter likely to have the speed to make him the fastest in the final 500m to the line. The biggest worry for the German is ensuring he makes it into a good position once he has exited the last bend, of which he has the talented support to do just this and would be the hardest man to beat if all goes to plan. A mixture of classic specialist and strong riders will feature around the two mentioned above; Alexander KristoffGreg Van Avermaet and Michael Albasini all possessing the skills required to win this finish which could prove more demanding than many expect heading into it. Beyond these, Daniel Moreno warrants a mention as an outside bet, primarily due to his current run of form at the Tour de Suisse, but also thanks to the uphill finish which could see him get a jump on the major sprinters.

1st Peter Sagan 2nd John Degenkolb 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Outsider: Daniel Moreno


Tour de Suisse – Stage 6 Preview

Yesterday’s Queen stage lived up to expectations and saw an elite group of contenders left in the final 5km to wrestle their way to the top of the fearsome Rettenbachferner. Impressive performances from Geraint Thomas, Simon Špilak, Domenico Pozzovivo and Miguel Ángel López all warrant their own column inches of acclaim, but it was the dominant showing of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot which stole the show and won him both the stage and overall race leadership. It had been a while since we last witnessed such a display from the talented rider and he stands atop the general classification with an advantage of 47″ to his nearest rival Geraint Thomas. With relatively tame parcours now remaining, it is the individual time trial on Stage 9 which is set to decide whether or not Pinot can keep yellow upon his shoulders. Tom Dumoulin demonstrated immense determination to limit his losses to Pinot and remains a great threat to the overall win while only 1′ 37″ behind in tenth place, but it is the proven time trialist Geraint Thomas who looks poised to seize upon his leadership role here and attempt to take the overall win from Pinot at the death.


Thursday’s Stage 6 offers an immediate contrast to the previous day’s war of attrition between the mountain men, this day is aimed at luring the sprinters out and seeing who has survived the last 24 hours in the best condition. A 193.1km stretch from Wil to Biel should ensure a sprint finish is guaranteed, though rolling in nature upon the profile card, the stage’s early kilometres are the highest points after their departure, so the day should not prove too difficult to control for the sprinters’ teams. One climb is present during the day’s ride, the Category 3 Auensteinstrasse which is only 1km in length, but an energy sapping 8.3% gradient for its entirety. Though that is officially the sole recognised climb, that is not to suggest that the day is lacking in climbing, a total of 1167m being racked up during the stage despite never venturing north of 600m in altitude.

A variety of climbs around 2km in legnth are spread throughout the day, but having not been formally recognised by Tour de Suisse for this stage, there is little data for the peloton to anticipate their efforts. Once all of these diminutive climbs have been tackled, the riders will see the tempo increase rapidly as they ride onto the final 25km of predominately flat terrain. Anxiety will begin to spread throughout the pack as the need for the sprinters to position themselves ahead of this testing finale is paramount. The technical conclusion to Stage 6 is almost a reversed run in; beginning with an extended stretch of flat road which turns left tightly at 800m from the line, the sprinters will then swarm to readjust their position as they exit and then enter the final right-angled turn which sends them streaming right and onto a short 200m finishing straight. The ability to jump from wheel to wheel and a potent acceleration are set to be likely attributes which the eventual winner shall need to possess in order to win Stage 6.



Sprinters are offered little here in regards to a real top speed drag race, the finishes at Tour de Suisse often acting as a greater platform for the classics styled riders and puncheurs instead. Despite today’s technical final kilometre, it is the closest thing the real thoroughbred sprinters have to a dry run of the sprints which they shall be targeting at Le Tour de France in just a few weeks. Hence why Mark Cavendish is the man most fancied to win this stage, coming here in good form and wielding a leadout train which has the ability to deliver him safely into position when it matters most. With two dangerously tight bends once under the flamme rouge, positioning is imperative for those wishing to feature in the sprint, making Cavendish’d sprint train of Mark Renshaw, Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin and Zdenek Stybar priceless. The short 200m sprint could see Cavendish struggle to get up to speed fast enough, but the Brit is renowned for the ability to hold a gap, rather than continually pulling away from his rivals.

John Degenkolb is certainly in good form this year, taking both Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix during the sprint, but is likely to find this short, technical finish not to his suiting today. The German does own a solid leadout at this year’s Tour de Suisse, so has the potential to exit the last bend in a good position, but often finds himself without support in the final moments before he starts his sprint. A longer sprint after the corner would have offered him a greater chance of winning, allowing him to empty the tank and burn off his opponents before the line. He remains a danger despite the poor course for his abilities, where a messy finale could see him placed higher than expected and once he hits the front at full gas the win might be his.

This race has already proven that Peter Sagan has rediscovered form since leave the Tour of California after a dominant showing. Though Sagan does not have the raw speed to beat a rider such as Cavendish, this tricky finale which exits onto such a short finishing straight could level the playing field somewhat and the Slovak rider would be dangerous to underestimate given recent showings. A leadout is less of an imperative for Sagan too, a man who has taken several wins when riding solo in the finale and surfing wheels before hitting the front. If he can get the jump on his bigger named sprint rivals after the final corner, Peter Sagan could certainly win this tricky stage finish.

This stage fails to suit Alexander Kristoff, but even if it did, making a case for the Norwegian would remain a difficult task given his apparent struggles at this attritional race. He prefers a real battle for the line, often against a gradient and a much longer run at the line which allows him to get upto maximum speed. A certain level of support should be present for Kristoff as they approach the finish, a luxury which has often been absent, despite taking major victories in the last year; so he could be better positioned than expected after the last turn. This season has seen him regularly perform beyond expectation and to feature competitively at the end of Stage 6 would perhaps be one of the most impressive so far.

Once again Lampre-Merida have two options in Niccolo Bonifazio and Davide Cimolai, but could be left scratching their heads as to who is best to support on Stage 6. The young Bonifazio clearly possesses the required technical prowess and potent acceleration to win this stage, but has not looked comfortable the last couple of days in the saddle; if he has recovered then he should be well back by the team. Should Bonifazio appear ropey, Davide Cimolai can step in and offer the team a reasonable alternative, he would prefer a more difficult conclusion to the stage in regards to terrain, but the complicated finish might play out favourably for him regardless.

The last man to cross the line home yesterday was Arnaud Démare, a sprinter who would certainly be considered a strong contender if form was more apparent right now for the Frenchman. Technically testing finales are well within his abilities and the short finishing straight would allow him to utilise is rapid acceleration to get the jump on his rivals before they can begin closing him down. If he is in a better condition than expected on the day Démare, has everything to make him a real threat to the rest of the contenders.

A messy fight for positioning as the peloton hit the final bend could see some unexpected names placed at the fore with only 200m remaining; Jasper StuyvenTom Van Asbroeck and Jurgen Roelandts perhaps able to find themselves in the eventual top ten.


Mark Cavendish is the fastest man here, but is bound to have preferred a stage finale more suiting to his attributes. Regardless, he will not wish to have ridden the Tour de Suisse to simply walk away empty handed, so will no doubt invest everything into winning Stage 6. His team support is extremely talented and should guarantee him the required pacing in the concluding kilometres that it will be a struggle for anyone else to swamp him before the last bend. His biggest concern could come from Peter Sagan who has been approaching great form ahead of Le Tour de France and will be a threat on a stage finish which is more about positioning and acceleration than top sprint speed. Sagan has often found himself chasing Cavendish’s wheel, but Stage 6 could end up being the perfect opoorutnrit to remedy this frequent situation. Beyond those two, a real mixture of riders could fill the minor placings, but both John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff are bound to manage a threatening charge to the line if all goes well in the last kilometre for themselves and their leadouts. A real dark horse for the stage win is Frenchman Arnaud Démare, a rider who is tailor made to take this victory, but his form is absent at the moment and he looks to be suffering from yesterday’s demands and a crash earlier in the week.

1st Peter Sagan 2nd Mark Cavendish 3rd John Degenkolb

Outsider: Arnaud Démare


Tour de Suisse – Stage 5 Preview

The winds of change will be firmly blowing in the favour of the mountain goats on Stage 5, a reshuffling of the protagonists is guaranteed after Tuesday saw the toughest of the sprinters fight amongst themselves for stage honours in Schwarzenbach. Though a certain level of sparring has already been witnessed between the pre-race favourites, Stage 5 is the only pure mountains stage during the Tour de Suisse, ensuring that the summit finish shall set the scene for a showdown which has the potential to decide 2015’s champion before the week is out.


Starting in Unterterzen, the peloton will take in an HC climb of Bielerhöhe en route to the crushing  Rettenbachferner at Sölden, a second HC ascent which acts as summit finish and finale for this 237.3km day in the saddle. This queen stage is a brutal affair, a day which would be far from enjoyed regardless of the day’s final climb, instead all the general classification hopefuls will do their utmost to lay everything down upon the Rettenbachferner and take the stage win convincingly. Like yesterday, the peloton are afforded an extended period of flat terrain in order to warm themselves up ahead of the approaching trials, on this occasion being gifted 80km of steady work. After this point the road begins to rapidly tilt upwards, sending the peloton onto a collision course with the first of two HC climbs during Stage 5.

The Bielerhöhe is a long climb which stretches on for 34.4km, averaging a steady 4% for the most part, the climb itself truly earns its HC status in the final 15km, seeing the slopes increase to a more substantial 6% right to the summit. Relief at the top shall be short lived for the riders as they realise that over 100km still remains once over the Bielerhöhe, though an extended descent shall offer a small level of respite en route to the big finale in Sölden. A 12.1km ascent of leg breaking gradients awaits them in the latter stages, the Rettenbachferner averages a numbing 10.7% and ensures there is no let up for its entirety. The climb itself opens with slopes around 7%, but these soon increase to those in excess of 11% within the first couple of kilometres, going onto max out at an average of 12.8% before 6km have even been overcome. From here only a marginal decrease occurs, the gradients dropping down to 8% for a kilometre by the halfway point, but this is not extended any further as the following 4km rocket back up to a grinding 10.5%.

Survival will be the key goal for the majority of the peloton, but the few who feel that a stage win is within their grasp will take eager notice of the final 2km which are to be contested at 9.9% and then 7.9% up to the finishing line in Sölden. Even the most renowned climbers present in this year’s field will struggle to make the Rettenbachferner look normal business for them, the likelihood of a winner being crowned through brute strength rather than effortless pace the obvious scenario. Regardless as to who does emerge victorious here, it would be somewhat of an injustice if they did not then go on to claim the overall title at 2015’s Tour de Suisse.



Attention for the day’s victory will of course be focused upon those synonymous with performing upon these arduous mountain stages, but there is scope beyond the general classification battle too. If the big names are too busy concerning themselves with how one another feels on the final climb, a less threatening rider could be allowed to slip away and steal a famous win at the Tour de Suisse. Of the major contenders present here, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang was many pundit’s favourite to be the dominant force as the race entered this decisive stage. The Dane has been given unquestioned leadership and will look to make the most of this before he returns to his usual role of supporting the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru. Despite lacking the calibre of career wins which would suggest he has what it takes to win Stage 5, he has often only been one or two places shy of a major win at races such as Le Tour de France and La Vuelta a España. He has proven to be aggressive on the medium climbs thus far in the opening days and will be confident of working his way to the Rettenbachferner’s summit without blowing up like those who dig too deep early on the slopes. Fuglsang is all too aware of how unusual it is for him to wield leadership at a race such as this and with the knowledge that a win here could also deliver him the overall victory, he might just summon up a career best performance on Stage 5.

Another animated rider who has been aggressive earlier than expected is Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, a rider who previously stated that his chances of winning the Tour de Suisse overall had greatly diminished because of the Rettenbachferner summit finish. However, he has proven to be in brilliant form this year, displaying so on terrains as varied as Paris-Nice and E3 Harelbeke. The approach that Sky have almost trademarked for day’s such as these could prove a winning formula for the Welshman, avoiding going into the red unless absolutely necessary and maintaining a high, even tempo right the way to the line. Despite not being a standout favourite for this difficult finish, his ability to pace such a monstrous climb means he cannot be ruled out from benefiting most should others crumble around him.

Thibaut Pinot seems to have been destined to rise as one of the best climbers in recent years for quite sometime now and Stage 5 might allow him a chance to shine in order to refresh people’s memories of his talents. The Frenchman will be seeking to reach peak form ready for the Le Tour de France, so it is wise to consider that his training may not have left him as well prepared for this race as others present. Despite this, the agonisingly steep Rettenbachferner should guarantee that the peloton’s best climbers are forced to the front during its ascent; meaning Pinot will be a prominent face. A good performance here would help him to gauge his current preparation for Le Tour and also take some rare glory which would be certain to bolster his confidence for the summer’s main objective; finishing on the podium in Paris. If he plans an attack well enough, the harsh gradients are likely to prove too much to overcome in order for those behind to catch him, making Pinot a real contender for the victory in Sölden.

Katusha have a good chance in Simon Spilak for the stage, a rider who often demonstrates his best when tasked with the world’s harsher climbs. The issue for the Slovenian is perhaps the shaping of these two HC climbs, neither of which play to his more explosive strengths, instead demanding a cool head to pace the rider steadily from bottom to top. His condition appears good so far at this race and a canny move here could see him get away from his better fancied rivals on the final climb.

With the general classification still so gingerly organised ahead of the fifth day, a wide variety of riders could all find their way into yellow quite surprisingly and one such underdog is Kristijan Durasek. The Lampre-Merida man is evidently in strong form right now and probably the next best after riders such s Geraint Thomas and Jakob Fuglsang during the first few days. The Croatian could be underestimated by some bigger names here, but has already demonstrated that he can prosper on testing terrain such as Stage 3 of this year’s Tour of Turkey. If he sees the opportunity to make a move, it could prove to be a worthwhile endeavour, as those behind hesitate under the reluctancy to help a rival by chasing Durasek; leaving him with a difficult advantage to pull back.

Rafal Majka is the reigning King of the Mountains at Le Tour de France and it will be of key interest to try and display some of this previous form ahead of team selection for the grand départ. He appears to be riding himself into fitness like many here, but the steep finishing climb does play to his strengths and it would be of little surprise to see him stretch his legs with an attack; especially with his chances of winning overall now heavily reduced.

Despite only now returning from injury at the Giro d’Italia, Domenico Pozzovivo has appeared relatively lively upon his first outing since May. The diminutive climber has often excelled on fearsome slopes similar to that of the Rettenbachferner and would be a strong contender when at peak fitness. Though it is not expected that Pozzovivo has marked this day as a real target, if he feels capable during the race, he is certain to at least attempt a potent attack of his.

Plenty of contenders still remain who have a chance of performing well here and even subsequently taking the race lead if a commanding performance is forthcoming. Sebastien Reichenbach sits within spitting distance of the lead and is clearly a talented climber when on top form, should he find himself in that position on Stage 5, the Swiss rider could launch a breakaway move and never be seen again by the frontrunners. Robert Gesink and Jurgen Van Den Broeck are two major team leaders who could muster a strong performance during the finale, despite predominately being here to gain race fitness ahead of Le Tour. Both have the talent, but are often seen as inconsistent when it comes to such stages, though Gesink is perhaps the more likely of the two to feature late on. Beyond this, a further host of riders could all lay claim to being key protagonists once placed upon the Rettenbachferner; Warren BarguilSergio HenaoEsteban Chaves and Julian Arredondo all worth keeping note off as the fireworks fly in the decisive final moments.


As there has been little to indicate who is strongest ahead of such huge day in the saddle, attention has to be turned to those considered to be the most talented on paper for this mountaintop finale. In this respect, Thibaut Pinot is perhaps the man to beat and could use this as a true test of his form in anticipation of Le Tour. Should he emerge as the lead rider, Geraint Thomas and Jakob Fuglsang are unlikely to be far behind, both competing here in seldom afforded leadership roles; of which they shall do their utmost to make worthwhile. The attrition rate will be high, so it might simply be a case of the favourites pacing themselves within view of the line, before then emptying the tank in an attempt to win the stage outright in the final meters. Behind these a broad scope of riders could also feature as supporting cast, or even cause an upset, by taking an unexpected win through some impressive tactics and display of strength. Riders such as Rafal Majka and Domenico Pozzovivo have proven form for this sort of outing, while Warren Barguil and Esteban Chaves are perhaps outsiders who cannot be discounted due to innate talent.

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Geraint Thomas 3rd Jakob Fuglsang


Tour de Suisse – Stage 4 Preview

After a couple of days which saw the strongest men of the peloton drawn to the frontline, Stage 4 now offers the sprinters an opportunity to make their time here worthwhile. Plenty of big name riders are present at the Tour de Suissand the outcome could offers us some insight as to the potential battle for the green jersey at this year’s Le Tour de France.


A 193.2km course links the towns of Flims and Schwarzenbach, offering a relatively calm start today the day with an opening passage of flat terrain until the 60km marker. At this point life suddenly gets a lot harder for the peloton as they are tasked with tackling the 8.9km ascent of Wildhaus. The Category 2 climb is likely to see a serious shelling of the peloton as the strongmen look to shatter their faster finishing rivals on the 6.8% average gradient, before they even catch sight of the finish.


Just shy of 125km will still be left once the leaders have hauled themselves over the climb, after which they will ride onto the finishing circuit at 82km remaining which will comprise the day’s finale. The Category 3 Husenstrasse is the main feature of these laps, a 1.8km ascent which is ridden at an average gradient of 5.7%. The latter stages of these laps include rolling terrain which eventually strikes flat once again with less than 10km separating them from the finishing line. Though not present upon the stage profile, another 1.2km climb is present during these final 1okm of the race, the 3% gradient dragging onwards to the 7km marker, at which point they roll down to the flamme rouge and hit the run in at 900m; which is raced entirely uphill at a constant gradient of 3.4%. In total this 29.2km circuit shall be used twice, once the peloton have passed the finish line for the first time at around 58km remaining.


Though Peter Sagan displayed a strong demonstration of form to win on the previous day, Stage 4 looks to be a more favourable finish for his faster rivals. That does not mean it is easy to dismiss the Slovak rider’s chances though, he truly favours riding this race as part of his Tour de France build up and a running total of 10 stage wins proves that Sagan’s familiarity with this race always leaves him a danger.

Alexander Kristoff is the favourite for many due to his prowess on this draining terrain, but specifically the finishing circuit and uphill finish which looks set to grind down the majority of his opponents. The Norwegian has been in incredible form during the year and will certainly seize upon the opportunity here to stretch his legs and take a win ahead of a likely appearance at Le Tour de France. If all remains together as they pass under the flamme rouge, Kristoff will be the man to beat on a finish which even he would struggle to design more favourably.

Another strongman sprinter who should be able to cope with the day’s demands is the German powerhouse John Degenkolb. His spring campaign proved extremely fruitful, seeing him walk away with a historic double of Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. Though Kristoff might be strongest throughout the day, Degenkolb is likely to be the stronger of the two in a sprint finish and has often outgunned his rival in similar surroundings. Degenkolb will need to ensure his line of sight is not mobbed by Katusha, but assuming he can survive the day and find a clear passage to the finish, the German could be unstoppable.

Orica-GreenEDGE could decide to invest their efforts into supporting their sprinter Michael Matthews, a man who put in a spirited performance yesterday and was only found lacking very late on. The support is certainly present if he decides to contest the stage, but the draining finishing circuit might prove too much for the Australian; this season has seen unexpectedly impressive showings at Milan-San Remo and the Giro d’Italia though.

Possibly the only team with two realistic options in a sprint finish is Lampre-Merida, the Italian team having turned up at Tour de Suisse with Davide Cimolai and Niccolo Bonifazio. The former suits this uphill finish well, but is likely to find this winning opportunity slightly too soon in regards to his developing form. The latter is clearly closer to race winning condition and possesses a sharp finish, but the rising star could see himself swamped by stronger rivals on the difficult drag to the line.

Ahead of his campaign to take Le Tour’s green jersey in the coming weeks, Mark Cavendish will seek to demonstrate a level of form before he leaves the Tour de Suisse and finish his final tune ups before the grand départ. Not much is made of his climbing ability, but he remains one of the best in regards to sprinters and should be present at the finale. Though the finish is uphill, the Brit has often remarked that he is the fastest regardless of the gradient, a belief which secured him the rainbow stripes on similar terrain.

José Joaquin Rojas could certainly prove a threat on Stage 4, his form is evidently growing after managing a solid 10th place on Monday. He often comes to the fore after an attritional day and will certainly deem this stage a worthwhile opportunity to sink his efforts into. Given he is not the fastest man on this list, Rojas will need to ensure he is well placed as they enter onto the finishing straight, if he manages this he could pull off a surprising win.

Others who stand a chance of featuring in this challenging finish include Arnaud DémareMatteo Trentin and Jurgen Roelandts; all of which have the potential of being some of the fastest in a testing bunch kick.



As ever, the Tour de Suisse has the potential to ratchet up the intensity and shell many contenders on this list before the riders can even begin to think about the finish. Assuming that the likes of Alexander Kristoff and John Degenkolb survive the day, it could be a showdown between the two dominant forces of the Classics this season. Though Kristoff has been in imperious form all year, the recent return from high altitude training could see Degenkolb in better shape and with a sharper sprint to take the win. Peter Sagan is ‘Mr.Consistent’ and will doubt be present within the top 5, but a faster selection of rivals should put the win beyond the Slovak today. The most interesting man to watch shall be Mark Cavendish, at 30 years old the Manxman is supposed to be tailing off nowadays, but many within the sport suggest he is perhaps in the form of is life currently.

1st John Degenkolb 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Mark Cavendish



Tour de Suisse – Stage 3 Preview

The previous day’s outcome was indeed decided by the intensity at which the leaders rode the final climb, choosing to hit it hard and make it a race of attrition which immediately brought the big names to the fore. With no classics specialists present, it was unclear as to who the favourite was in a group of nine which were left to decide the win amongst themselves. Whilst the likes of Tom Dumoulin, Geraint Thomas and Simon Spilak all contributed to animating the latter stages of the race, it was while they were occupied with playing cat and mouse, that Lampre-Merida’s Kristijan Durasek shot off the front to solo his way to victory at the death. Once again on Stage 3, the general classification riders are likely to dictate the composition of any bunch or breakaway which will fight for the victory, possibly offering the likes of Peter Sagan and Philippe Gilbert to do exactly what they were expected to do on the previous day.


A profile which is not overly populated by hills, Stage 3’s standout aspect is the climb which begins from the start and the decisive bumps which are set to influence the outcome late on. Having spent the opening two days racing in and around Rotkreuz, the peloton finally get offered an excursion further afield, a short 117.3km ride from Quinto to Olivone. An HC climb opens the day in the shape of the draining Gotthardpass, an 18.8km slog up its slope which averages out at a grinding 5.8%. The ascent is extremely consistent, offering no real change to either steeper ramps or flat sections, the riders will look to pick the right gear early on and spin their way to the top with minimum effort. Once completed, a long descent follows from the day’s 2093m ceiling, sweeping downwards for around 40km before they find themselves racing upon flat roads once again.

There is little else to concern the peloton until they dip under the 20km marker and start approaching the day’s second climb; the Category 2 Zona Cumiasca. Its 7% average gradient is likely to cause a stir as riders with an eye on the win look for a clear line of sight through the ranks, in order to ensure no rivals slip away under the radar during the 4.9km ascent. With less than 15km remaining once this has been summited, life at the head of the peloton will be testing, the intensity increasing as riders seek to prepare themselves for the finale climb and its run to the finish. Once they start the remaining 9.4km, the rest of the road to Olivone is entirely uphill, the first 3.2km of which form the Category 3 Via Cantonale (avg 6.8%). A further 6.4km remains even after this is tackled, but it leads all the way to the finale. It will take a strong rider to cover attacks on the final climbs here and it would be no surprise if we see the general classification riders and puncheurs taking control once again.



The home support will be out to cheer Michael Albasini once again after the previous day failed to unfold to his advantage, Stage 3 possessing a greater chance of playing out in his favour. He has the skills and ability to either launch a race winning sprint in which he would be a difficult man to beat, or smuggle himself within an elite breakaway in the latter stages and dominate from a reduced bunch. The uphill finale is the type of terrain which gets the best out of the Swiss rider, but considering the lack of respite in the build up to the finale, he will need the tempo to be slow enough for him to conserve energy ahead of a battle against the gradient and rivals.

Orica-GreenEDGE also have a possible auxiliary plan in Michael Matthews, though it has already been stated that he is simply here to gain fitness rather than contest wins. If he is to target a stage at this year’s Tour de Suisse, this one appears too unpredictable on paper to make investing his efforts into staying with the best worthwhile.

Though he was never a ‘dead cert’ to figure in the latter stages of the second day, Peter Sagan was perhaps expected to remain in contention for longer than he managed. He is clearly building some form since his consistent display at the Tour of California and could look to feature as part of an elite group which escapes in order fight for the win amongst their ranks. He could end up overexposed once again and have to close too many gaps by himself, the long uphill battle to the line does not really suit the Slovak rider as much as he would like either. Regardless, the ambition to win at the Tour de Suisse is clear for Sagan, but this stage does not appear the most convincing in regards to his chances.

Given the surprising fact that Michal Kwiatkowski lost over ten minutes on the second stage, the Pole could now find himself in a position to attack with little interest to pursue him. His abilities right now seem broad and it cannot be stated that the win here is beyond him. Etixx-Quickstep could instead show support for teammate Gianluca Brambilla, a rider who offers a certain level of insurance as he can prosper in both a long climb or short sprint to the line on his best days.

Daniel Moreno is likely to have felt that Stage 2 could have been played out in a much more favourable fashion given being supported by teammate Simon Spilak in the deciding group. Hesitation proved to be the undoing for this pair on Stage 2, but Moreno stands a good chance of rectifying this today if he has recovered from his efforts. The finish itself would allow him to muster up something reminiscent of an Ardennes finish, the type of terrain which has often got the best from the Spanish rider. Should he be spotted at the front of the peloton during the final climb, he will be a dangerous man.

José Joaquin Rojas has a good chance of staying with the front runners late on and is often one of the best in these uphill sprints which run right the way to the line. The Spanish rider was not far off the pace on Stage 2 and was another victim of the intense speed at which the mountain men decided to tackle the final ascent on that occasion. Though he struggles to dominate in these situations, Rojas is usually in the mix as the race reaches its conclusion and this could be a good opportunity to win if he plays it well.

Many expected Philippe Gilbert to be more prominent late on during Stage 2, but like many, he struggled to stick the pace and was left working his way through chasing groups. Today is a much more appealing ride for the former World Champion, now likely to find a level of freedom to make a move due to his loss of time and subsequent position on the general classification. Of course, BMC once again have the option of backing teammate Greg Van Avermaet, a man who could be their best card to play when ensuring they are represented in any breakaways which have the potential of going right the way to the line.


Davide Rebellin has seen his form fluctuate throughout the season so far, but could certainly find himself in with a chance of winning, should he be riding one of his best days. The unique shaping of the day’s profile means he could either feature extremely early as part of the day’s formative breakaway or late on in a similar move which attempts to sneak off in the deciding moments.


If the race proves to be a somewhat easier affair than forecasted, Lampre-Merida could pin their hopes on Davide Cimolai in an uphill sprint to the finish. The Italian rider is developing a certain prowess for performing on drags to the line, but this might just prove too difficult on this occasion.

This year has seen Alexander Kristoff consistently go beyond expectation, finding himself in the midst of some extremely impressive form. Though this will be seen as a crucial stepping stone to form at the Tour de France for the Norwegian, he might just find himself in a position where opening the legs up for an explosive finish could be a worthwhile endeavour for himself and the team.


Once again at the Tour de Suisse the stage is incredibly difficult to call ahead of the day, only once we see the intent of the peloton during the day will we begin to whittle down the riders capable of featuring in the conclusion. Daniel Moreno knows that if he plays his cards right on Stage 3, not only could he win the day, but also walk away as overall leader through a small margin of victory. His movements will be closely marked on the final climb, making the chance of a small bunch sprint possible as the general classification try to prevent someone such as Moreno going clear. This would pull the likes of Philippe GilbertMichal KwiatkowskiPeter Sagan and Michael Albasini much closer to the possibility of taking the win here, but a tough ride by the frontrunners could still exclude these men from the deciding moments. Whoever does win, is likely to do so through an ability to read the race well more than just brute force, though a sharp kick would be beneficial given the greater chance of several riders being together with only a couple of kilometres left.

1st Daniel Moreno 2nd Michael Albasini 3rd Philippe Gilbert

Outsider: Michal Kwiatkowski


Tour de Suisse – Stage 2 Preview

The opening day’s prologue saw only thirty seconds separating the first 120 riders over the line, ensuring no surprising time gaps opened up after only one stage. Attention is now drawn to the second day in the saddle, one which could prove difficult to control for the general classification hopefuls, possibly drawing them to the fore along with the self-styled classics specialists. An elite group to decide the outcome will be the most fancied conclusion to the day, but the biggest challenge for many will be to avoid any possible slip ups leading to a loss of time before the battle for the overall has even started.


By no means gently easing the peloton into life at the Tour de Suisse, the opening road stage of the race takes the shape of a sawtooth 161.1km ride from Rotkreuz to Rotkreuz; the same start and finish as the previous day. A total of four climbs are present on the course and will look to soften up the riders ahead of the final climb which shall be completed with only 12km separating them from their return to Rotkreuz once again. The highest point of Stage 2 scrapes in just under 800m, making it a stage which should not impact upon the general classification come the end of the week, if all goes to plan for the major names. With 88km remaining the peloton shall have to ride the 5.4km ascent to Dorfstrasse, averaging out at 4.8% for the entirety, it is a climb which should not prove too problematic.

The final 44.8km of Stage 2 is formed by two passes of the 22.4km circuit based around Rotkreuz, including a testing climb of the Category 1 Michaelskreuz. This should see a stirring amongst those with an eye on the stage win, likely to keep their powder dry on the first pass of the 4km (8.9% average) Michaelskreuz, before making their move on the second ascent which concludes with around 12km left from the line. Tempo at which this is ridden will dictate the attrition rate upon the slopes, an elite group of general classification and classics men is likely to form and aim to close down any remnants of the day’s breakaway. Once they have descended from Michaelskreuz, they do not find flat terrain once again until 5km from the line, of which these are almost pancake flat right to the line. The finish itself demands great attention as the fast finishing contenders are required to navigate a technical finale which includes a roundabout just before the flamme rouge and an extremely tight bend 500m from the line. Even after this the road still curves onwards, before the remaining sprinters are given their finishing straight which only lasts for 200m. The fastest man might not win here, rather the one with the greatest agility and sharpest acceleration.


Orica-GreenEDGE bolster the greatest depths when attempting to walk away with the win here amongst their ranks. A pairing of Michael Albasini and Michael Matthews provides the Australian outfit with two dangerous options en route to the finale in Rotkreuz. Albasini enjoys this sort of testing terrain and could well be the man Orica-GreenEDGE decide to back on a day which is likely to see the final 20km ridden at a high tempo. His team could seek to take command of the peloton during the decisive run in and attempt to shell a few rivals out the back of the lead group, hoping to set up a bunch kick from a selection of strongmen. If the attritional rate does not prove to be as high as many expect, Matthews is sure to be the fastest man present in a larger group which decides the outcome of this stage. Despite his team having played down his chances at the Tour de Suisse, Matthews climbs extremely well for such a fast finishing rider and will no doubt seize upon the slightest chance to add another win to his growing palmares this season.

Peter Sagan was disappointed with his showing during the opening prologue and is sure to see Stage 2 as a golden opportunity to take one of his increasingly elusive wins. He will need the final climb and concluding descent to play out nicely in his favour, avoiding having to invest too much energy in ensuring any gaps are closed immediately should they appear before him. Though he could find himself short on team support late on, Sagan has proven in the past how capable he is of clinging on for grim death, bridging back as soon as the road stops tilting upwards. His form at the Tour of California was impressive, clearly beginning to build towards a condition which was synonymous with the talented Slovak a couple of seasons ago; the sort of form which has already secured him nine previous stages at this race. Sagan will ultimately be hoping for a sprint finish from a rather tired group of leaders, relying on his strength to be enough to force his way over the line first.

Should he decide to strike out and take the yellow jersey early at this Tour de Suisse, the tough final climb and its descent right to the line could suit Michal Kwiatkowski. Performances at The Tour of Britain and the Ardennes Classics allow comparisons to how this finale could play out to his advantage, slipping off the front and soloing his way to the line. If the attritional rate swings towards that of the general classification riders, meaning the majority of the peloton are left out from contesting the win, Kwiatkowski has a potent sprint which would see him favourite to win from a small group of of overall contenders.

Much like Orica-GreenEDGE, BMC also possess two fantastic options in Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet for the stage win. Realistically, both will see their best chances coming from going on the attack in the final kilometres, either solo or part of an elite breakaway move. Both are in good form heading into the Tour de Suisse and could prove a difficult duo to manage for the peloton if they collaborate on making life difficulty for their rivals late on. If Gilbert attacks from far out, Avermaet can afford to follow the wheels and have an easier ride to the line than those chasing his teammate, hoping his reduced efforts can give him the edge in a possible sprint should Gilbert be caught.

Jose Joaquin Rojas poses a threat within any bunch sprint, he climbs fantastically well on this type of terrain, even better than Michael Matthews on several occasions. A slight gradient at the finish would have been more desirable for the Spaniard, but remains a threat given his natural turn of pace after a tiring day. Rojas will have to stay alert to make the most of his chances on Stage 2 and needs to position himself well late on to ensure he is not swallowed up by others coming to the front.

Others who could feature if it comes down to a larger group sprint are Zdenek Stybar, John Degenkolb and Niccolo Bonifazio. In regards to late moves off the front of the peloton Daniel Moreno and Geraint Thomas could be worth monitoring as they tackle the second and final ascent of Michaelskreuz. Perhaps even Domenico Pozzovivo could mark his return to racing since his nasty crash at the Giro d’Italia by animating the final moments of Stage 2.


As mentioned above, the intensity at which the leaders tackle the final climb will decide the composition of riders who then go on to contest the victory in Rotkreuz. Given a slightly shorter stage length than average for this type of race, Stage 2 could be ridden at a higher tempo than expected in order to make the race more difficult for the fastest riders who do not climb with the best. With this in mind, the strongest riders such as Michael Matthews, Michael Albasini, Philippe Gilbert and Jose Joaquin Rojas should all make the cut when pushed to the limit. Peter Sagan might just be the biggest obstacle for the rest of the contenders, on his day the Slovak is one of the most difficult men to dislodge from your wheel, but lately a win has often proved a step too far. Regardless, he has incredible form at this race despite only being 25 and familiarity often finds rider’s rediscovering their best form; whether or not they go on to maintain it. If the rate of attrition falls below expectation and a larger group ends up coming to the line together, Matthews will remain the man to beat, even if his team has talked down his desire to win at this race.

1st Philippe Gilbert 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Michal Kwiatkowski

Outsider: José Joaquin Rojas

Tour de Suisse – Prologue Preview

For those wishing to avoid a particularly testing edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of this year’s Tour de France, many have chosen to ride the historic indicator of summer form; the Tour de Suisse. With a strong field containing a blend of time trial specialists, strongmen and sprinters; the opening day’s prologue should see many stake their claim to the first yellow jersey heading into the following nine stages. The absence of Lampre-Merida’s Rui Costa means we are destined to see a new champion of the race for the first time since 2012, the former World Champion having won this consecutively for the previous three years.


At a short, but potent, 5.1km in distance, the prologue in Rotkreuz will require a total emptying of the tank by any rider who wishes to stand a chance of winning this first challenge of the Tour de Suisse. Not long enough for the thoroughbred time trial experts, yet too long for the sprinters, the names which comprise the final top ten on the day are likely to be a unique mix for a WorldTour race against the clock. A relatively flat affair which fails to reach more than 450m at its highest peak, the intense point-to-point ride contains little technical challenges and is concluded with a pancake flat final kilometre which possess a 500m finishing straight. The course itself should fancy those who can get up to speed rapidly and put down as much power as possible during its brief entirety; a situation which means the idea of pacing will vanish out the window for plenty riding for the win.



A small handful of renowned time trial riders are present at this race, seeing them picked as the favourites for this blast around Rotkreuz’s prologue. The most well known by far is the Swiss national hero Fabian Cancellara, coming here after a disappointing Spring campaign which saw his tilt at the monuments stymied by injury. The Trek-Factory Racing rider has won a total of 16 prologues during his impressive career, five of which were all won at the Tour de Suisse. In March this year he came within a whisker of adding another to his palmares, but was edged out into second place by Adraino Malori at Tirreno-Adriatico. He fell ill during this week, but a course of antibiotics has left the Swiss rider deeming himself fit enough to ride the Tour de Suisse and is now sure to start. Cancellara is a class act, making it difficult to exclude him totally from fighting for the win, but with a less than desirable build up to this prologue, perhaps he will have to settle for the minor placings.

Adriano Malori has risen to be one of the most consistent time trial specialists in the peloton as of late, cementing his hopes of being a contender for the rainbow stripes come September’s World Championships. His sole prologue win came earlier this year when beating Cancellara by a second at Tirreno-Adriatico, as well as also winning two longer time trials this year when racing the Tour de San Luis and Circuit Cycliste Sarthe – Pays de la Loire. Malori will consider this a worthwhile litmus test of his form and condition approaching the summer, making it likely he shall give it everything to take the win which would place him in yellow.

Many pundits are expecting a closely fought duel between the Italian Malori and another rising time trial star; Tom Dumoulin. The Dutch rider has already finished third at the World Championships despite only now being 24 years old, while also having already got the better of some of the best against the clock. Perhaps the biggest indicator of his development as a rider has come in his performances alongside Tony Martin, one of the world’s finest in this discipline seeing his advantage over the Dutchman diminish almost race upon race. Though perhaps a longer and more technically demanding course would have placed the win firmly within his hands, Dumoulin still remains one of the key protagonists to fight for this prologue.

Away from the pure time trial riders come a mixture of mountain men, classics specialists and sprinters; Michal Kwiatkowski perhaps being the most likely to muscle his way into contention for this race. The Polish rider seems able to turn his hand to any discipline within cycling so far and not only has a good record against the clock in general, but already possesses three wins in prologues. The most recent of these wins coming at Paris-Nice this year, beating specialists Tony Martin and Rohan Dennis. As an overall contender for the Tour de Suisse, Kwiatkowski may decide to not bury himself too deeply in this opening affair, but will be aware that this is one of his best chances of taking the jersey during the tour itself.

Another overall hopeful who could chart well in this 5.1km race against the clock is Welshman Geraint Thomas, a rider who at one point was extremely consistent in this discipline. However, as he has developed as a rider, Thomas’ focus has shifted upon the ability to climb more than anything else, possibly leaving him short on power for this sort of hell for leather charge through Rotkreuz. Regardless of this, his form this year has been eye-catching to say the least and will no doubt look to seize upon his leadership opportunity at the Tour de Suisse with a solid time.

Home interests are also represented by Swiss team IAM Cycling and their Austrian rider Matthias Brändle, a man who won the Baloise Belgium Tour‘s prologue just last month when beating Rohan Dennis to the victory. The course on that day probably played into his hands more favourably due to the amount of corners and bends, meaning his more thoroughbred rivals were left bereft of opportunities to really lay down the speed on some clear straights. The Austrian rider will be approaching a peak in his form as he hopes to make the Tour de France selection, a big motivator for giving it everything in pursuit of the yellow jersey here.

Bob Jungels is another force against the clock, but the distance and course does not quite suit the Luxembourg rider as much as he would like. Despite this, he performed very well on a relatively similar 7km prologue at the Critérium International this Spring, bettered only by a second after a surprising performance from an in form Fabio Felline. Jungels is building for a likely Tour de France selection, though this might come somewhat too soon for him to be at peak condition, however he shall remain a likely name to feature in the top ten.

Beyond those mentioned above come an interesting mixture of sprinters who could find themselves higher up the placings than expected. Michael Matthews is one of two such riders who has form when competing in this sort of test, a reasonably consistent competitor despite being a sprinter; his form this year should see yet further improvement. Third place at this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico prologue was Greg Van Avermaet, a strong performance which left him finishing two seconds behind Malori and only one behind Cancellara. A fifth place at the Baloise Belgium Tour during its prologue this year also confirmed his ability, making Avermaet well worth watching in today’s competition.


A longer and more demanding course would have made Tom Dumoulin the man to beat, but the prologue looks to be a much closer affair than expected. Though Fabian Cancellera has the class and history at this race, a recent course of antibiotics should result in a loss of top end ability for the Swiss rider heading into the race; though he remains a contender regardless. Factoring in form, ability and suiting to the course, Adriano Malori seems the man most likely to walk away with the victory on day one of the Tour de Suisse. Assuming he can put out the watts in such a short period of time, Malori should find himself in yellow by the end of the day.

1st Adriano Malori 2nd Fabian Cancellara 3rd Tom Dumoulin

Outsider: Michal Kwiatkowski


Continental Lift: Rutland – Melton International CiCLE Classic

As a nation bitten by the cycling bug relatively recently, Britain lacks the historic monuments of the sport which sees millions tune in across Europe during the spring, but perhaps that sentiment is no longer valid. The Lincoln Grand Prix has long been hailed as the sole classic upon which the British can hang their cobbles loving cap upon; the Michaelgate dishing out agony to contort faces like those on the slopes of the Koppenberg. If Lincoln is the nearest thing to a classic like De Ronde or Liége-Bastogne-Liége within Britain, where is the doppelgänger for Paris-Roubaix‘s notorious dash across farm tracks and cobbled sectors?

Nestled in Britain’s smallest county is the Rutland – Melton International CiCLE Classic, a 160km tear around Rutland’s towns and villages. Tasking the riders with draining climbs, sweeping lanes and sectors played out upon gravel roads; the race being distinctly continental in flavour. It is a difficult task to summarise the CiCLE Classic in relation to the domestic scene as it is such a stand alone event, a curious blend of Tro-Bro Léon and Paris – Roubaix perhaps the most succinct. Clouds of dust floated gently skywards as rider and bike fought for purchase over the crunching country tracks, a mad cavalcade of support cars charging from behind in anticipatory support of scuttled tyres. The attrition rate was always going to be high, and thankfully the route was baked by streaming sunshine for the most part, the parcours only ever one downpour away from becoming an authentic day in Flanders.


Exiting from Oakham, it was evident that this race attracts a passionate crowd of locals and enthusiasts, many already assembled early for the junior race’s finale. Youngsters who left the morning’s start fresh faced and eager to display their wares now came home exponentially aged by a route which saps the muscles fibres, rattles the bones and leaves them dusting themselves down. These gruelling races serve as experience to blood the next generation of hopeful professionals emerging from the domestic scene. The operation of the CiCLE Classic is exposure to a top level race, a rarity amongst a British calendar which is seeing its top races cut for the professionals; let alone the youngsters. Its ranking as a UCI 1.2 race attracts continental interest lack no other race currently existing without strong backing from British Cycling; the overnight establishment of other major UCI races such as London-Surrey and Tour de Yorkshire undermining the independent effort put into hosting a race such as this. The Premier Calendar for example has diminished greatly over the years, suffering from a devastating lack of infrastructure and funding. British Cycling’s ability to create a new race with a click of the fingers from ASO is becoming an insult to the long serving grassroots races which have brought through new talent consistently.


The parcours was immediately taking no prisoners during the elite race, Steele Von Hoff had seen his chainring concede defeat early on and called upon the strength of his NFTO teammates to find him a safe passage back to the head of the race. By now the sun had broken through and burnt away the lazy clouds which had long lingered since the departure from Oakham; the prospect of uninterrupted sunshine luring plenty out onto the roadside. From the meticulously planned family BBQs which wafted and taunted rider and spectator alike, to those who erupt from their doors in a panicked dash, the sudden realisation of a race happening as the broom wagon skirts past their driveway. Thundering through the lanes gives you only a glimpse of the faces which form the technicolour mass of cyclists, but it is enough to see the strain being etched deeper with each pass, dust which lightly floated up beneath the wheel now cakes brow and bike like clay. Shredded dossards reveal those unceremoniously introduced to the shifting gravel which left riders sprawled on the dirt tracks, scrambling to remount and begin their chase through the billowing trails signifying the peloton’s presence.


Upon the penultimate pass through Melton’s town centre ahead of the finale, the damage dealt by the terrain had become evident throughout peloton. Though a small breakaway still hung off the head of the bunch, their escape was rapidly being curtailed, the rabble of riders which now formed the nearest thing to a peloton deciding their rivals’ excursion had existed long enough. Melton would see its winner crowned on the next charge down the far stretching high road into town, a finishing straight flanked by spectators now basking beneath an unspoilt sky. Speculative whispers skimmed above the crowd, second guessing any break’s survival, those out on course the only source of unofficial updates for the masses staring intently at the final bend in anticipation.

Like desperadoes charging into Dodge City, the lead riders thundered upon the horizon, now finding only a drag race to the line standing between themselves and possible victory. Heads cocked acutely throughout the crowd, eyeballing down the road as the front runners hurtled down to the line; 400m…300m…200m…100m. No victory salute is run up like a flag above a conquered castle here however, Steele Von Hoff is the first man home in the sprint, but unaware that he has been chasing a non-existent breakaway for the final kilometres. NFTO’s awaiting reception soon enlightens him to the fact he has sprinted to more than just a minor placing at this noteworthy race. For 2015, Australian National Criterium Champion Steele Von Hoff is the latest to write his name into the history of this rather un-British of British races. Surviving exploding drivetrains, shifting tracks and the travelling circus which encompasses the peloton on a day stalked by disaster, Hoff navigated the pitfalls and secured another likely stepping stone back to the UCI WorldTour.


Whether stood in a town centre, upon a village green or seemingly in the middle of nowhere; Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic draws people to its roadside with ease. Assembled outside pubs, driveway BBQs or simply sitting on a bank waiting for the next pass of riders; the style of this race proves to be extremely watchable. Locals are evidently aware of how this doorstep event is worth coming out for, but it does not take much to hear accents from further afield mumbling across the crowds. Cycling unites people like so few sports seldom do, there are no losers when watching a bike race, just a shared appreciation for the spectacle set before everyone. Some might have a favourite rider or team, but it is usually the friends and family of the riders who you meet at the roadside exclusively backing one man. Unlike football, there is no club to represent where you come from for example, to support a cycling team in the same vein would be to simply back brand sponsors. Instead, the banner under which everyone can and does unite is that of the race itself, Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic proving to be a rare beast which operates at the top of the British calendar, but retains a strong regional charm.

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Whereas other races in the country have developed in stature and forfeited their personality along the way, Melton-CiCLE Classic is like venturing across the border into a small piece of the continent. The champion of British one-day races, which would be considered alongside that of Tro-Bro Léon if it were located the other side of the channel. Within the country’s smallest county, you will not only find racing which imbues the air with a hint of frites and trappist beer, but also a race certain of its identity. Not festooned with banners for British Cycling, SkyRide et al, it instead succeeds thanks to a core team of personnel who invest the upmost into creating this day, injecting their character along the way to shape this unique event. Even the prizes have avoided being swamped by generic trophies emblazoned with sponsors names, instead replaced by Melton Mowbray pork pies or the rider’s weight in ale. Though the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic trades on distinctly continental traits, it is no mongrel to be attended by those considering it a discounted version of those seen in Belgium or France. A British Classic may seem impossible to some, but in Rutland you will find this unusual creature thriving, bubbling away as its reputation grows year upon year. There is no exaggeration to be had when stating household names from the WorldTour now weigh heavy on the horizon for this race; waiting for an invite to leave their mark here soon.