This morning the Tour de Suisse unveiled its (June) 2016 route. As per usual, they only announced start/finish villages along with some route hints for the nine day stage race. A detailed mapped route will not be available until next Feb/March. But for me, the big news today is the Stage 4 arrival village. Or lack of one. See below.
The Tour de Suisse views itself as the top stage race in the world after the three Grand Tours.
But in recent years the Tour de Suisse has been arguably losing ground to the Critérium du Dauphiné as the best pre-Tour de France event. The Dauphiné "gimmick" of including a key Tour de France stage as a "preview" seems to have succeeded in attracting a slightly stronger field. Still, we can still be confident that the Tour de Suisse peloton will be talented, and the route beyond beautiful.
A brief summary of the 2016 Tour de Suisse route:
Stages 1 & 2 - Two stages in the tax-haven canton (province) of Zug. A prologue, and perhaps a stage with a few circuits.
Stage 3 - A sprint stage ending in Basel.
Stage 4 - Who knows? I often complain that the TdS seems to avoid the French-speaking "Romande" west side of the country - possibly because the Tour de Romandie serves the region. But perhaps it is because no-one is interested. Here is a quote from the official Tour de Suisse press release:
The start location for the fourth stage (14.06.) will be Rheinfelden (AG). The tour organisers would like to end this day of racing in Western Switzerland but have not yet struck lucky. They would welcome any approaches by interested locations in Western Switzerland.
Is that embarrassing? Announcing that they can't find a town in French speaking Switzerland willing to host a stage finish. How will this get resolved? My prediction: UCI headquarters is in Suisse Romande. Verbier will "volunteer" for a stage that passes Aigle and a waving Brian Cookson.**
** this prediction is based on absolutely nothing.
Stage 5 - A mountain top finish in Carì, a small ski station in canton Ticino, the only time the race ventures into Italian-speaking Switzerland. The stage begins in the canton of Wallis which means the race needs to cross the Alps. Likely high passes would be Nufenenpass, or Furkapass plus Gothardpass, or Oberalppass plus Lukermanierpass.
Stage 6 - Another mountain-top finish, this time in Amden (near St. Gallen). A stage with a surprise?
6th stage will start at Weesen (at Walensee), mountain-top finish at Amden (5km higher above). Course might surprise some.— Tour de Suisse (@tds) October 28, 2015
My sources tell me :)
Stage 7 - As in 2015, the TdS will visit the super-high, super-steep Rettenbach glacier in Austria. It's a spectacular place for a stage finish, but perhaps another sign that Swiss ski stations aren't that interested in hosting a stage?
Recall, Thibault Pinot won there in 2015:
Stage 8/9 - The final two stages will be in the Davos region. Davos is where the world's business elite annually plot how to exploit good people like you and me. But at least it's a beautiful alpine location perfect for cycling.
Showdown in the new finish hub Davos Klosters for 8th & 9th stage => perfect infrastructure for 2 hard days in the mountains, 1 time trial.— Tour de Suisse (@tds) October 28, 2015
For the Cyclo-tourists:
Similar to last year, the Tour de Suisse will hold four amateur events, open to anyone, the morning of stages, replicating all or part of that days's route. It's well run, and will likely include one of the time trials, and the Austria stage among others. In 2015, your author participated in the Rettenbach Glacier event completing the 51 kilometre climb only an hour and eleven minutes slower than the fastest pro. Yikes.
A Final Word
The Tour de Suisse is always beautiful, and always full of stars. Let's hope that the seemingly embarrassing - at least to me - lack of a host town for stage 4 is nothing too serious for the future of this historic race.