The Tour de Suisse is underway and while we are surely all enjoying the Peter Sagan show in Switzerland, there is another race going on - that for the overall classification. And whether you think the route for this year's Tour de Suisse sucks or is totally rad, you have to admit it is slanted towards the climbers more than the TT riders. Which is probably why Tony Martin, Bradley Wiggins, and Cadel Evans all decided to play bikes in France instead.
Summit finishes appear on stage 2 (Really? They had one that early?) as well on stages 8 and 9. There is a TT on stage 7, but it is a mere 33km long and has a substantial climb in the middle. So really, we have a climbers' party. Though how much of a climbers' party is it? There are not a lot of really tall climbs, so it may not be as simple as just comparing the pure climbers... So, speculation and poll action on the flip!
On Sunday's summit finish on Verbier, Rui Costa crossed the line 4 seconds ahead of Fränk Schelck and 12 ahead of Mikel Neive and now leads the overall. With two more summit finishes, Costa might be expected to hold onto that lead - or Schleck, Neive, or another climber close on the overall could have a better day and take back the lead. Really, it's hard to predict.
But what about that pesky time trial? The big question is whether the TT favors the climbers or not. There is a healthy amount of climbing - I count around 300m gained in the first 12km. The climbing section is followed by a downhill, then lumpy roads to the finish. Hmmm. On paper, it sounds like a good TT for people like Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, and the other diesel climbers.
In Friday's time trial, two battles will be waged simultaneously. First, there is the battle between the climbers - who can have the least disastrous time trial? If you peruse the results sheet from the prologue, the poor prologues of the top three in GC immediately strike you. All three lost at least 36 seconds in a mere 7.3km... ouch. Moreover, Costa and Schleck finished on the same time. Really, these two just like playing together, don't they? Of the three, Fränk is probably the least bad time trialist... but really, it's anyone's guess how Costa will do. How many times has he needed to really try in a TT?
Second, there is the battle between the climbers and the TT riders. Levi Leipheimer, Tom Danielson, Thomas Löfkvist, and Roman Kreuziger are sitting 3rd to 13th on GC with Kreuziger highest placed. The climbers will have these riders on their minds all week as they go through the lumpy middle stages of the tour and the game is to minimize time losses in the TT and try to retake lost time in the final two stages, including the steep finish on Saturday. In this group, questions abound. Has Levi recovered from his broken leg yet? He surely wasn't on fire in Cali a few weeks ago, but who can forget how he won Suisse last year in the final TT? Kreuziger just rode the Giro, so he may be fatigued... And while he had a really bad day there that tanked his overall hopes, he also had some particularly bright moments of good form. Löfkvist? He always seems to be up there, but when was the last time we called him to win something? If you think a TT oriented rider may win this, who climbs the best? Well, at Verbier, all four I mentioned finished in the same group, 22 seconds down on Costa. Man, this is a hard race to call, isn't it?
So, will the race be won by a pure climber or a decent climber with a good TT? My pick is one rider of each type on the podium. The TT will likely see time gaps of 45-90 seconds between riders like Costa and Schleck on one side and Leipheimer and Kreuziger on the other side. So can the climbers pull out an extra 20-60 seconds in the final two stage finishes? That's a hard task for them, especially since Movistar is not looking too strong right now. Where does that leave us?
By deduction - for me at least - it seems as if the best climber of the TT riders will likely win. That points to Kreuziger. What do you think?