After another thrilling classics season, it’s time for some Alpine stage racing!
The 6 day Tour de Romandie starts this Tuesday.
Roman Kreuziger will be back to defend his title on a very strong Liquigas team (rumoured to be including Ivan Basso?).
As usual, there are plenty of mountains to climb and with the the final day being an Alpine Queen stage the race should stay interesting throughout.
The Tour de Romandie has been raced since 1947. Romandie refers to the French speaking region of Switzerland - approximately 20% of the population - in the western edge of the country
Official Race Site: here
Official list of teams here
Official list of riders here (may not be completely up-to-date)
TV Coverage Times here. Eurosport will be televising and I am sure as always that steephill.tv will provide other viewing options.
Detailed route maps / elevation profiles here.
Tues April 27th:
Prologue - 4.3 kms. This short course takes place in the beautiful, historic village of Porrentruy. Classics fans will be pleased to hear there is a 400 metres cobbled section.
Wed. April 28th:
Stage 1 - 176 kms, 2200 metres ascent
A hilly stage in the Jura mountains north of Lake Neuchatel. Two category 1 climbs and a category 2 - and a few other bumps along the way. Although the last 10 kms are downhill, the course may be well suited to a break-away.
Thurs April 29th:
Stage 2 - 172 kms, 1500 metres ascent.
This stage looks to be for the sprinters. The course will pass through Fribourg twice before a flat finish. Although two category one climbs are listed .... they are tiny (100 metres ascent?). Perhaps a typo by the organizers? The course will climb twice the locally famous and steep cobbled climb "Lorette." Anyone hoping to foil the sprinters will need to attack here.
Friday, April 30th:
Stage 3 - Individual Time Trial - 23.4 kms, 330 metres ascent.
It’s a short time trial, but to keep things interesting the first 7 kilometres are uphill @ around 4%.
The last two beautiful stages are in the Alps and designed for the climbers:
Saturday, May 1st:
Stage 4 - 158 kms, 2000 metres ascent.
For the first time in more than 40 years, Romandie will have a stage finish in France. Starting in Vevey (Switzerland), the route will pass UCI headquarters in Aigle before turning up into the French Alps climbing the Categorie 1 "Pas de Morgins."
The top of the climb is the Swiss / French border - passports please and maybe a quick search of a DS support car. They will then enter Haute Savoie and the beautiful Abondance valley famous for it's cows / cheese. Moo!
The final climb - the Categorie 1 Col du Corbier - is 6 kms at roughly 8% - not easy. And while the summit is 20+ kms from the finish, the last 17 kilometres are uphill (maybe 2% average). Fun stage.
Sunday, May 2nd:
Stage 5 - 122 kms, 2800 metres ascent.
The "Queen" stage. It’s very short, but has three "real" climbs. I often complain that non-grand Tours exaggerate the climb classifications, but the three climbs in this stage are all legitimate Categorie 1 climbs. And the final climb is a real leg buster.
Alex Moos - the sentimental local favourite will be riding his 12th and final Romandie. He hails from mountainous Valais - the Canton (province/state) of this final stage:
" C’est clair, note-t-il, que la montée la plus raide et difficile sera, la troisième, celle d’Ovronnaz. Elle sera suivie d’une descente très technique. On peut s’attendre à une forte sélection, les leaders devant être alors livrés à eux-mêmes. "
<< It's clear that the the steepest climb is the third "Ovronnaz". And will be followed by a very technical descent. We can expect the a thinning (selection), with the leaders having to deliver themselves. >>
Here's a profile of the final climb. Ouch! (the race perhaps skips the last 1/2 km).
Sadly, it's not a mountain top finish, but the end of the descent is less than 10 kms from the finish.
The Race Favourites:
I'll leave that to the Podium Café experts - but clearly defending champion Roman Kreuziger must be at the top of the list. But there are lots of big names here. Menchov, Karpets, (Basso ?), Cavendish, etc.
After learning last year from some patient Swiss fans that Morabito is Swiss and not Japanese - I'll be supporting the BMC team leader.
- Romandie has a small but fun publicity caravan - throwing out hats/shirts/keychains, etc. And a local vineyard returns in 2010 - last year they drove the route and poured fans glasses of wine (to accompany Gruyère samples - pure class!).
- The king of the mountains jersey is sponsored by the producers of Romandie-based Gruyère cheese (yummy). In the past (and maybe this year?), stage winners have been handed truly giant chunks of cheese.
Hopefully the giant cycling cheese will make an appearance: