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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

In recent years, individual time trials have done little to excite fans at grand tours, but the 100th edition of the Giro d’Italia is poised to finish with a race against the clock which could potentially hand the maglia rosa over to one of four riders on the last day. Starting on the famous motor racing circuit of Monza, the stage comprises 29.3km of predominantly downhill racing, concluding at the capital’s extraordinary Duomo di Milano. There is no great amount of technical demands to be negotiated, nor does the topography offer anything in the way of climbs to separate the general classification big names on the last day. Of course, that is not to say it is simply a case of climbing upon the bike and finishing some 29.3.km later with immense ease. A handful of tight turns are present later in the course, which given how hard the frontrunners are expected to be pushing, are always capable of punishing the slightest lapse in concentration when cornering. A total of 75 seconds separates current maglia rosa owner Nairo Quintana, from the chasing pack of Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot, Tom Dumoulin and Ilnur Zakarin; these five riders capable of finishing in almost any order after the time trial. Regardless of who does succeed in securing 2017’s centenary edition of the Giro d’Italia, the script for Stage 21 is far from certain.

Giro d'Italia 2017 Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin has had to dig extremely deep in order to limit his losses in this final week of racing, yet has successfully placed himself within touching distance of his first overall grand tour stage victory. Just how much energy he has had to invest is the greatest question mark hanging above him, potentially hampering his efforts here and leaving him just short of the maglia rosa. The Dutchman’s prowess against the clock has been almost unmatchable in recent years, though this course does not provide the rolling terrain and technical nature which has often seen Dumoulin bury his opposition. Regardless, his talent for this discipline is indomitable, and the motivation of winning the pink jersey can only serve has added fuel en route to victory.

Thibaut Pinot produced another aggressive display during yesterday’s stage, culminating in his first Giro d’Italia stage win, as predicted by Spokenforks beforehand. Of those currently challenging for the overall win, Pinot appears to be in the strongest condition in this decisive week of racing and seems the one most likely to overachieve on Stage 21. Despite having previously been seen as a weak time trialist, the French rider has worked hard on this skill, now finding himself as reigning national time trial champion and winner of Stage 3’s individual time trial at 2016’s Tour de Romandie. Though he would favour a route with at least a few hills, being a larger rider could prove beneficial on this flat power based course, a second place finish overall is certainly achievable; perhaps even more.

Vincenzo Nibali did not produce the sort of ruthlessly cunning display which has often seen him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at major races like these. Now sitting a total of 39 seconds back on race leader Nairo Quintana, he will be looking over his shoulder at Thibaut Pinot and Tom Dumoulin, both of whom could perform strongly enough to push the defending champion off the podium. He has ridden his concluding stages with a cagey mentality, making it difficult to gauge what Nibali might be able to muster with the pink jersey at stake. This course is not well suited to his attributes, yet there should be enough to just about keep his toes upon the Milanese podium.

Nairo Quintana seems the rider most likely to lose out on Stage 21, the Movistar captain far from being enamoured with the rigours of flat individual time trials. The Colombian has not succeeded in using the final mountain stages to build enough of a buffer to his rivals heading into this time trial, now finding himself with Tom Dumoulin and Thibaut Pinot placed within the margin of loss which Quintana is expected to suffer during the final stage. It will be extremely difficult to defend a modest 43″ and 53″ lead to the Frenchman and Dutchman respectively, especially on this mid-distance route, lacking anything resembling favourable terrain for Quintana; slipping off the podium lurks ominously in Milano.

Ilnur Zakarin was a major protagonist yesterday, igniting the fuse upon the final climb of the Giro d’Italia, author of the attack which culminated in Thibaut Pinot winning the stage and Tom Dumoulin losing time to all major rivals. The Russian was a competent rider in time trials earlier in his career, but has now chosen to hone his talents in the mountains instead. Despite this factor, he now looks to be one of the sharpest riders in this final week and will be confident of turning in a performance which harks back to his previous prowess against the clock. It will be difficult to progress further up the general classification on Stage 21, his greatest chance of doing so being a plummeting Nairo Quintana falling down to fifth.

Vasil Kiryienka could prove to be the man to beat on the last stage of the 100th Giro d’ItaliaTeam Sky having undoubtedly looked after their Belarusian powerhouse with the intention of adding another stage win to their collection. The stoney faced rider will not have to worry about any climbs or particularly technical segments here, focusing instead on generating huge amounts of watts and sustaining them throughout the 29.3km course. He crashed in the final corner of the first individual time trial, yet still held the fastest time for a while and will now likely view that error as motivation to take the win in Milano.

Bob Jungels will be expected to recover the maglia bianca from Adam Yates on the final stage off the Giro d’Italia, the young rider being renowned for his ability against the clock since his early days. Many anticipated that he would begin to diminish in the concluding stages, yet the Luxembourg time trial champion has managed to match the majority of big names when required and may even push for the win here. Though not truly playing to his strengths, he appears comparatively fresh to others, which may prove enough to deliver the victory.

Those who may challenge for the last stage honours on offer at 2017’s Giro d’Italia are Luis Leon Sanchez, Manuel QuinziatoJos van Emden and Tobias Ludvigsson.

Outcome:

1st Vasil Kiryienka 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Thibaut Pinot

Final General Classification:

1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

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Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

The first of this year’s two decisive individual time trials at the Giro d’Italia is to be tackled on Stage 10, taking the shape of a rather long 39.8km course, covering a range of technically demanding roads from Foligno to Montefalco. The opening 12km – 13km of the time trial will benefit those who specialise in the purest form of racing against the clock, seeking to churn huge amounts of power as they sail through relatively simple roads. However, it is from this point onwards that the thoroughbred time trialists may see their ambitions clipped by those able to take advantage of the hills and technical sections, producing a varied mixture of contenders for Stage 10 honours.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin continues to impress when having to compete with the far more talented climbers at this race, demonstrating his abilities when finishing behind mountain goat Nairo Quintana by only 24″ on Stage 9, after producing another well judged ride up a climb which broke many contenders. The Dutchman has become one of the leading lights in time trialing during recent years, though has now admittedly switched focus to grand tours, yet has managed to avoid diminishing his form against the clock in pursuit of better showings uphill. He may not be as powerful upon the shorter and more simple TT courses, but for Stage 10’s mixture of power and precision, Dumoulin will be expected to turn in a dominant performance which will secure the maglia rosa; for what may prove a longer time than many expect.

Bob Jungels is another rider who will view the day’s course with eager eyes, no doubt seeing the combination of opening power section and following tricky run to home as ideal territory from which to secure a stage victory. The opening week demonstrated how strong Jungels is at Giro d’Italia so far and he will have sought to conserve energy ascending Blockhaus compared to his major rival for today Tom Dumoulin. A slightly fresher Bob Jungels could prove a serious challenger for the talented Tom Dumoulin, pushing the latter’s skills all the way to line if he wishes to win both stage and maglia rosa in Montefalco.

Vasil Kiryienka could prove Team Sky’s best chance of immediately salvaging something from 2017’s Giro d’Italia, after team leader Geraint Thomas saw his general classification chances scythed down when hemorrhaging time after being brought down by a parked motorbike. The Belarusian rider is extremely talented when it comes to this distance and choice of terrain, but is unlikely to have entered the race with much freedom to consider winning on Stage 10. Regardless, if given permission to totally commit himself to winning this stage, Kiryienka is capable of turning in a storming ride without a great deal of preparation.

Geraint Thomas will be the other option for Team Sky to ease their wounds after the disaster of Stage 9, the Welshman potentially encouraged to channel his frustrations into a stage winning performance here. It is easy to forget how gifted Thomas has previously proven to be against the clock, mostly as a result of playing lieutenant to both Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome for so long now, yet that does not mean he cannot still rise to the challenge. The course does in fact suit him relatively strongly and there is no doubt that he will not wish to ride the rest of the Giro d’Italia simply for the sake of finishing, especially as he has never looked stronger on a bike as of right now.

Victor Campenaerts has enjoyed some impressive results during individual time trials recently, rising rapidly beyond people’s previous expectations and outperforming some highly regarded specialists along the way. Another rider who is expected to enjoy the nature of the course, a strong showing here is well within his abilities, though his responsibilities to captain Steven Kruijswijk could stand in the way today.

Others likely to challenge the top ten are Ilnur ZakarinAndrey AmadorTobias LudvigssonTanel Kangert and Vincenzo Nibali.

Outcome:

1st Vasil Kiryienka 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Geraint Thomas

Giro d'Italia Stage 20 Preview

GIRO D’ITALIA 2016 – STAGE 9 PREVIEW

Course:

Today’s 40.5km time trial from Radda to Greve shall provide our first true battle of the general classification contenders, taking the riders through Chianti’s rolling terrain and offering a technical challenge ahead of the Giro’s first rest day of 2016’s edition.

Giro d'Italia Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin may have lost the maglia rosa after Stage 8, but it is easy to imagine that he was instead saving his efforts in anticipation of winning the stage here and in the process take back the leader’s jersey. However, there has been much talk after the disappointment of Friday that he has actually been suffering from fatigue and may now instead struggle to turn in the type of performance we had anticipated from the Dutchman. Regardless, Dumoulin is still the most talented in-form time trialist on Stage 9 and is certain to be leading the pack once again.

Bob Jungels has already showcased his strength at this year’s Giro and will be confident of seizing upon Dumoulin’s potential weakness to secure his first grand tour victory. The terrain is to his liking and it will lean favourably to his technical abilities; he is very much a man to watch here.

Ilnur Zakarin is no stranger to time trials and certainly has the climbing talents to challenge for the win on a stage such as this, but his recent performances have raised some doubts. The Katusha rider will need to negotiate some technical and high power segments on Stage 9, but his recent focus on climbing performances are certain to have diminished his maximum output somewhat. This opening week has shown that Zakarin has the talent to aim for a podium place at the Giro d’Italia and could rather be focusing upon performing in the mountains and limiting his losses here instead.

Alejandro Valverde is an interesting pick for stage honours, the Spaniard is by no means a specialist time trialist, yet this type of rolling terrain could really help him produce a powerful performance. His showings during the opening week have wobbled somewhat, but it now looks as if he is finding his rhythm once again, potentially laying the foundations for a win on Stage 9.

Vincenzo Nibali‘s performance on Stage 8 looks to have quelled his critics concerns for the moment and appears to be a convincing stepping stone to securing him at least a podium place by the end of this tour. The Italian champion has had to invest the time and effort into his time trialling abilities in the last few years, now finding himself more competent than ever, so should definitely be considered for the win on terrain which allows him to call upon his climbing prowess.

Stefan Küng is a real wildcard today, the young Swiss rider is more than proficient in time trials and is extremely unlucky to find himself without a win having looked on course for Stage 1 victory before a crash derailed his chances. There are no question marks over his talent, but the real concern is whether or not he can perform upon this type of lumpy terrain.

Fabian Cancellara is of course Switzerland’s most legendary cyclist and has found his greatest glories when battling against the clock. The Swiss rider was ill ahead of the Giro’s start, but has since recovered, though to what extent exactly is not understood. Though this course does suit him convincingly, it is tough to imagine him winning after a poor build up to this challenge; a challenge where any weakness is exposed and magnified.

Other capable of finding themselves amongst the top ten by the end of the day include Esteban ChavesTobias Ludvigsson and Rigoberto Uran.

Outcome:

1st Bob Jungels 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

Giro_d'Italia_Preview_2016

Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

After hurtling our way through the classics season we now find ourselves on the precipice of 2016’s first grand tour of the season – the Giro d’Italia. The oncoming explosive battle for the overall win will be ignited right away with a head to head battle between Fabian Cancellara and Tom Dumoulin in a 9.8km prologue round the Dutch streets of Apeldoorn, set to determine who will see their shoulders emblazoned with the maglia rosa at the end of the day.

Giro_d'Italia_Preview_2016

Contenders:

Fabian Cancellara is the standout contender for today’s race against the clock, the Swiss legend appeared in fantastic form during the spring and has long circled this as a huge target in his farewell season. Unfortunately for ‘Spartacus’, the last 24hrs has seen him suffer from a bout of stomach flu, but he appears in high spirits having confirmed that he will participate regardless. This year has seen him return to an extremely high level of time trialling for the first time in several seasons and he will be the man to beat; even if still sweating out the flu.

Tom Dumoulin has joined the ranks of the elite time trial specialists during the previous couple of seasons, but today’s prologue does not exactly play to his strengths. The Dutchman usually performs best when the terrain gets bumpy, so this course which comprises greatly of flat straights is likely to hinder him somewhat. On the other hand, home motivation and support has often been a source for stage wins at grand tours such as this and there will no doubt be plenty around to help him over the line.

Anton Vorobyev will be on many pundits ‘ones to watch’ list for this curtain raising prologue in the Dutch streets, hoping to fly under the radar and steal a win from beneath the big name riders’ noses. The young Russian rider was U23 World Champion in 2012 and comes here after a very impressive showing at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe which featured wins upon both the time trial and queen stage.

Bob Jungels always remains a threat on these short blasts against the clock given his ability to dish out the power, but would have preferred either a hillier or more technically demanding course to truly be a favourite.

Jos Van Emden shall be another source of home support during this prologue, the thirty-one year old Dutch rider looking to build upon recent efforts in prologues to win here; no doubt a long held ambition of his in the build-up to 2016’s Giro d’Italia.

Outcome:

1st Fabian Cancellara 2nd Tom Dumoulin 3rd Anton Vorobyev 

Rapido Guide – Tirreno Adriatico Stage 7 Preview

Course:

With several names still in contention for the overall win at Tirreno Adriatico the outcome will be decided by the final day’s individual time trial. The 10km blast around the streets of San Benedetto Del Tronto is poised to determine 2016’s edition of the race, but our attention instead turns to the likely contenders for stage victory on the concluding day.

T07_SanBenedetto_alt

Contenders:

Fabian Cancellara is in fantastic form so far this season and it is easy to see him taking the victory here with a barnstorming run which sets him up nicely for the classics season. Tony Martin is renowned for his abilities against the clock and this flat course should suit him well, though the short distance might make it difficult for the German to really put the power down effectively. Taylor Phinney is still on the road to recovery, but today is a fantastic opportunity to notch another won during his recuperation, the shorter course offering Phinney a realistic chance of causing an upset. Other riders likely to pepper the day’s final top ten are Alex DowsettStephen CummingsMaciej Bodnar and Bob Jungels.

It is also worth mentioning, that in the battle for the overall classification at Tirreno Adriatico, we expect World Champion Peter Sagan to overturn the deficit and walk away with his first stage race win in the rainbow bands; despite having not won an individual stage.

Outcome:

1st Fabian Cancellara 2nd Taylor Phinney 3rd Tony Martin

Tour-de-Suisse-Spokenforks-Prologue-PreviewTour-de-Suisse-Spokenforks-Stage-9-Preview

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.

Course:

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.

Tour-de-Suisse-Spokenforks-Prologue-PreviewTour-de-Suisse-Spokenforks-Stage-9-Preview

Contenders:

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.

Outcome:

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 – 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.

Course:

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.

Tour-de-Suisse-Spokenforks-Prologue-PreviewTour-de-Suisse-Spokenforks-Prologue-Preview

Contenders:

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.

Outcome:

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