The 6 day Tour de Romandie starts tomorrow (Tuesday).
Tour de France champion Cadel Evans will be back to defend his 2011 Romandie title. Most teams are fielding strong line-ups, many in preparation for the Giro in early May. Notable participants include 2010 winner Simon Spilak (Valverde had his title stripped), 2009 winner Roman Kreuziger, Mark Cavendish, Ivan Basso, and many more.
The route in a nutshell: Lots and lots of ups and downs. But nothing too crazy leaving most of the stages wide open.
This preview will focus on the course, but please feel free to use the comments for some FSA DS smack talk.
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. A list of former Romandie winners reads like a who's who of cycling: Merckx, Hinault, Bartali, Koblet, Kübler, Thévenet, Zoetemelk, Roche, Rominger, etc. etc.
- Official Race Site: here (French, English, German).
- Official list of teams and riders here (may not be completely up-to-date).
- See Leader's Jerseys here.
- An excellent free official race iPhone app here. Android app here.
(while the apps are in French the course details and live updates should be useful to anyone)
- Eurosport will be televising and I am sure as always that steephill.tv will provide other viewing options.
Weather: It's been cold and very wet for the last couple of weeks, and Tuesday has the potential to be completely miserable. Then it is forecast to clear up and be significantly warmer. Fingers crossed for dry roads in the later stages. But expect lots of lovely helicopter shots of the Swiss countryside.
OVERVIEW OF THE 6 STAGES:
Tuesday: Prologue - 3.3 kms - Lausanne
This short prologue is flat and in fact even a little downhill. It's not at all technical, mainly straight lines with just three 90° turns. Most riders will just be happy to get this likely cold and wet little ride over and done with.
For the Tourists: In this Olympic year, enthusiasts will note that the last kilometre of the route will pass the official IOC Olympic Museum - on the banks of Lake Léman (Lake Geneva) - the museum has a very nice cycling section.
Photo: Chris Boardman's 1992 TT Bike at Olympic Museum.
Wednesday: Stage 1 - 185 kms - mid-mountains
After a flattish start, mostly alongside Lac du Neuchatel, the route will enter the Jura mountains for a hilly 2nd half including 3 categorized climbs.
For the Tourists: The race finishes in the Jura town La Chaux-de-Fonds - the third largest town in Swiss Romande (after Geneva, and Lausanne) with less than 40,000 inhabitants. It's famous for high quality watches and the architect Le Corbusier.
Thursday: Stage 3 - 149 kms mid-mountains
Another hilly stage in the Swiss Jura mountains. 3 categorized climbs. Nothing too crazy. The last 15 kms is about a 1% average uphill which might give the sprinters some trouble.
For the Tourists: I've got nothing.
Friday: Stage 3 - 158 kms - mid-mountains w/uphill finish
The route passes four Swiss lakes (Bielersee, Neuchatel, Murtensee, Gruyère) as the race leaves the Jura region, then crosses the "plain," and heads towards the Alps. This stage is full of ups and downs and - depending on the pace of the peloton - I expect is more difficult than the profile suggests. The last 6 or so kms are uphill, although it's not steep.
For the Tourists: The last 50 or so kilometres are in the Gruyère region. Expect beautiful helicopter shots as the peloton crosses the long bridge over Lac de Gruyère. They will then pass the beautiful medieval perched château / village of Gruyère soon after the last PMU intermediate sprint.
Yes, our favourite cycling cheese is back:
Saturday: Stage 4 - 184 kms - Mountain stage
Welcome to the Swiss Alps. This is the Queen stage, at least in terms of
big medium climbs. And if it's sunny, this will easily be the most beautiful stage.
The first 36 kilometres go ever so slowly up until Col des Mosses, then a fun descent allows the peloton to make it's obligatory ride-by of UCI headquarters in Aigle. The route then heads into the sun-filled, micro-climate of the Valais canton. High Alps everywhere. The route will head up twice more but never too high - it's only April.
The final climb may be close enough to the finish to be decisive for a great climber-descender - but then again, it might not.
For the Cyclo-Tourists: If the final 2 climbs followed the road much higher they would reach La Grand Dixence Dam - the third tallest dam in the world. Switzerland has dozens of high altitude hydro-electric dams/lakes. Cycling up to these dams is some of the least known, but best cycling in the alps. The roads are usually quiet, well surfaced, and the views at the top beyond stunning. And most of the climbs are hors-categorie huge. Warning: From Personal Blog: 12 Great Cycling Climbs to Alpine Dams/Lakes.
La Grand Dixence Dam:
Sunday: Stage 5 - 16.5 km ITT
A strange but beautiful location for an Individual Time Trial as the medium sized ski station of Crans-Montana is more used to being the top of a fairly big mountain climb. But this ITT starts most of the way up the mountain. Several uphill kilometres increases the difficulty. But it's short and never steep.
For the Tourists: With the recent cold weather and precipitation, the ski lifts will likely still be open at the finish line.
In summary, an almost always hilly, but not too mountainous, 2012 Tour de Romandie.
So, who is your FSA DS team bringing?
photos by Will