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