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Mountains are Better than a Field - Suisse Course

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Chris has the field for this, but I have the mountains. The course is pretty good, I think, but if I could read the profiles I'd be more sure.

Adrian Michael via Wikimedia Commons

First off, this is not a profile:

Suisse 2

The race organisers have pointlessly tried to add a 3D effect, which makes the things less informative. All I ask for is a 2D line with a sensible y-axis. This is not that.

Anyway, what faces the Riders?

My first impression of the course was: This is hard. Only one stage that I would say is certain to be a sprint, a long TT, loads of medium mountain stages and one HELL of a mountain top finish.

Stage 1: Risch-Rotkreuz  ›  Risch-Rotkreuz (5.1k)

Suisse Prologue

This is Fairly Harmless Prologue. The Tour de Suisse drags it out every year, and Fabian Cancellara usually wins it, not that I'd ever say that they favour him, or that one year they left out a load of mountains so he could win the whole thing. There's a tiny bump,but only a rise of 25 metres. It's near as flat as can be, and since Tony Martin's gone to the Dauphiné even after his good showing here last year, leaving two favourites. Tom Dumoulin in the first. One of the more versatile riders in the peloton, he has history of winning TTs both short and long, hilly and flat, taking the devilishly difficult final stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco, stage 3 of the ENECO Tour last year, finishing 2nd in the long time trial in the Tour de France last year, and 2nd in both of the time trials here, both to the absent Tony Martin. You can expect to see his (in fairness, quite nicely coloured) skinsuit crossing the line with a good time. He may be challenged by Polish ITT champion Michał Kwiatkowski, who already has one World Tour TT this year, winning the first stage of Paris-Nice, and is a specialist in prologues, with a good record in short time-trials especially. He hasn't raced since Liège, and cannot hope to win the overall here with such altitudes in the mountains, so he may be targeting the ITT. Finally, Peter Sagan seems to be climbing and time trialling better than he's sprinting at the minute, so he could be a good shout for the stage. However, my money's on Dumoulin.

Stage 2: Risch-Rotkreuz  ›  Risch-Rotkreuz   (161.1k)

Suisse 2

Boy, Rotkreuz paid the organisers quite a bit of money. Also, it's stage 1 if it comes after a prologue, but it's down as stage 2 for some reason. This stage starts with a steep climb, followed by 40 kilometres of flat, with the same climb then repeated, before 25 kilometres of flat and then a different climb, which is also repeated. I think that this is the final climb on Strava, mostly because Bob Jungels holds the KOM. It's just under 4 kilometres long, and very steep, 11% basically the whole way, which will shake off the sprinters, probably including Sagan. With just 9 flat kilometres to go to the finish after the descent, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that some lesser GC contenders make it to the finish to contest the stage. Think Arredondo, Thomas or Kwiatkowski again.

Stage 3: Quinto  ›  Olivone   (117.3k)

Suisse 3

Oh look! A huge, cruel, pointless mountain! The first 18 kilometres of this rather short stage are up the Gotthardpass, which could annoy some sprinters just a tad. It's long and steep, and first up will drop anyone who you usually see at the business end of flat stages. However, there is a long descent and a valley, so they should, for the most part get back. At least Sagan and Kristoff will, if they don't go up it too fast. Assuming they do, Tinkoff and Katusha will chase, and they'll be in the best position to win the stage finishing somewhere other than Rotkreuz if they can get over the two final climbs, as the finish seems slightly uphill. I reckon Kristoff may just have the edge, but they could be challenged by Michael Albasini. However, I'm not certain, because of the profiles, or a break could just as likely win.

Stage 4: Flims  ›  Schwarzenbach   (193.2k)

Suisse 4

Yet another stage that's just difficult enough to annoy some sprinters. Some climb inconsistency, with the steep 600 metre climb being a cat 2, but that's about it. The finish looks just slightly uphill to me, but I think that most of the sprinters should be there. Kristoff to win this one.

Stage 5: Flumserberg  ›  Rettenbachgietscher   (237.3k)

Suisse 5

Here are the mountains, Ladies and Gentlemen, here are the mountains, and what a summit finish we have lined up. It's the feared (and fearsome) Rettenbachferner, which isn't in Switzerland, it's in Austria, but I think we're all willing to forget that. It's just under 13 kilometres long and has an average gradient of over ten per cent. What else. Oh yeah, it rises to 2669 metres, which is higher than the Galibier, and is the highest summit finish I've ever seen. Much of the climb (a third) is at 13%, and it even rises to 22% for a small kick around the last kilometre. Not something you want to get near with a ten-foot bargepole if your name is Mark Cavendish, John Degenkolb or any of those other foolish, foolish sprinters who came here. And let's not forget the length of the stage. It's 237.3 kilometres, and in a stage going over 2000 metres twice, should be quite an ordeal. But who'll win it? This is one of the two big GC days, and it follows that a top climber would come out on top, so let's have a look at all the top climbers here...oh wait. The three favourites on paper will be Romandie mountain stage winner Thibaut Pinot, Tinkoff's Rafał Majka, so far quiet this year, and AG2R's Domenico Pozzovivo, who crashed out of the Giro and who I can only assume is looking for revenge at the Tour. My personal favourite would be Pinot, I was very impressed with how he won on Champex-Lac. Oh, by the way Chris, Kwiatkowski and Dumoulin don't have a hope. However, the times up this will probably not be the fastest, as no one really has any climbing domestiques, the startlist full of puncheurs, so we could see the GC contenders isolated early. On a non-cycling note, the next James Bond film was shot here.

Stage 6: Wil  ›  Biel/Bienne   (193.1k)

Suisse 6

The easiest stage of the race, this stage to Biel goes over several uncategorised lumps, but the most of them are early in the stage, which looks like providing a sprint. Assuming Kristoff and Cavendish didn't get lost and stranded on the road to Rettenbachgietser they'll be challenging. I imagine Cavendish won't have the legs firing quite enough to beat Kristoff, who may get another stage.

Stage 7 : Biel/Bienne  ›  Düdingen   (164.6k)

Suisse 7
I think they may have begun to run out of ideas here. Yep, it's another stage with some short climbs and an uphill sprint. Just begging for Sagan and Kristoff to go all over it, unless Albasini can get in the way.
Stage 8: Bern › Bern (152.2k)
ARGH! Yet another one! You get the idea by now, cat. 3s, but this time there's a cat. 3 at the finish, which sort of reminds me of the final stage of the Arctic Tour of Norway last year, with a similar climb right near the finish. (It was the one where Kristoff caught Hushovd in his final race) Yeah, Kristoff for this one. Come on, Suisse organisers, this stage is on a Saturday, where you get the biggest audience. Surely there are some mountains?

Stage 9 (ITT)  »  Bern  ›  Bern   (38.4k)

Suisse 9

Enter the main reason why the TDF contenders aren't here. Also, the only other real GC stage, and with all those skinny climbers who will have the top of the GC...Cat, meet pigeons. The favourite is undoubtedly Dumoulin, he's the best time-triallist over long distances in this race, but it may have a pronounced effect on the GC. That climb in the middle shouldn't be too hard, there are just some little ramps. I doubt this will have enough impact to give Dumoulin or Kwiatkowski the GC, Pinot's not the worst time-triallist,and nor is Majka or Pozzerwagen, but perhaps one of those three could lose time, and the yellow jersey could change hands...

TV:

Frankly, I'm not sure. I think some Eurosport (Dutch anyway,) will be showing it, but nothing on British television. SRF Zwei is the host broadcaster, and they ALWAYS show it, but they haven't got it listed as far as I can see.