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 Gilbert, Michal Kwiatkowski, Peter 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