Do you like time trials deciding a race, ridiculously exaggerated stage profiles, and guaranteed Michael Albasini stage victories? If you do, then the 71st Tour de Romandie is going to be right in your wheelhouse, super-specific, hypothetical person that surely doesn’t exist.
Romandie has oft-suited the grand tour contender gearing up for the Tour de France who has a good time trial and this year is no different. In the last 7 years, the race has been won by Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana, Ilnur Zakarin, Chris Froome x 2, Bradley Wiggins, and Cadel Evans. Romandie has also usually been part of the biannual Simon Spilak Swiss emergence (3x 2nd place and 1x 1st place after Valverde was disqualified). Romandie was also an important part of Rui Costa’s Swiss period (3 podium finishes). While it is doubtful that we’ll see a Spilakaissance or a Ruiwakening at this year’s race, it will certainly cater to the aforementioned grand tour rider with a time trial.
The organizer, Chassot Concept, has not shaken up the usual order of proceedings too much for this year’s course. There are two short individual time trials (one uphill, the other partly uphill), 2 probably sprint stages, a medium mountain day that could end up in a sprint, and a high mountain stage where the summit comes 27.5 km before the finish. There are 10-6-4 time bonuses for each stage, which may end up being important this year.
PROLOGUE - Fribourg to Fribourg (4.02k)
First up is a prologue, which the organizer has always used to open up the race except when they are feeling frisky and start off with a team time trial. The prologue will take place in Fribourg, which is unfortunately not the arch-nemesis of Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s Frylock, but rather a picturesque Swiss city. The course is 4 kilometers.
Don’t be fooled by the official profile of the course. The organizers have some sort of preternatural, profile-related perversion (consult your doctor if you are thinking you are suffering from PPP) where they have a compulsive need to have the official profiles of each stage to be as misleading as possible.
This is your brain on PPP:
This is what that final kilometer-long climb is actually going to look like:
This is the route that the final climb will be on:
This isn’t going to be a prologue for the big power riders, but is going to suit the climbers. For further proof, the last time that a Fribourg prologue was used, the podium was Paolo Savoldelli, Roman Kreuziger, and Chris Horner (well, on second thought, maybe that’s proof of something else entirely).
Look for the likes of Richie Porte, Ion Izagirre, Geraint Thomas, and Primoz Roglic to gain crucial seconds over the other riders.
STAGE 1 - Fribourg to Delemont (166.6k)
With this stage, we have the more common form of PPP, making mole hills look like murs. Check this one out:
Here’s the much more accurate representation of this stage:
Those two climbs near the end of 4.5 kilometers at 7% may be enough to shed some of the sprinters, but the finish is likely to still see a big group sprinting for the victory. This stage looks like a Michael Albasini-specialty.
STAGE 2 - Delemont to Yverdon-les-Bains (173.9k)
Stage 2 will be for the sprinters (provided they don’t fall off that wall in the middle of the stage):
Again, here is the non-PPP addled version:
STAGE 3 - ITT - Ollon to Villars (9.9k)
You’d be excused if you’ve just checked the results of this race so far. You should tune in, however, for Stage 3 which is almost certainly going to be the decisive stage that decides the GC. Sure, it’s a time trial, but it’s an uphill one.
This stage belongs to Richie Porte if he’s in shape. Primoz Roglic is also a strong choice.
STAGE 4 - Sion to Sion (149.2k)
While Stage 3 will be the most decisive, Stage 4 will be the most fun-- both in terms of racing and scenery.
The summit of Les Collons, which is 13.3 kilometers at 6.4% comes about 27.5 kilometers from the finish. It should be a fun chase down the descent and on the 5 kilometers of flat before the finish.
STAGE 5 - Mont-sur-Rolle - Beneve (181.8k)
Stage 5 will be another one for the sprinters. When this PPP-afflicted profile looks like this, you know the stage is going to be as flat as a Dutch mountain range.
In my view, the two big contenders are Richie Porte and Primoz Roglic. Even though it sounds like a backhanded compliment, Porte is among the elite one week stage racers. If he is recovered from his injury and in good shape, Romandie suits him perfectly. He’ll love the hill sprint TT on Stage 3 and will not be scared by the long but not super steep descent on Stage 4. He’ll also have the assistance of Rohan Dennis and Tejay van Garderen. Roglic probably wants to be more than Porte’s heir apparent to one week stage racing dominance but whether or not he can compete in grand tours, he has proven a knack for this one week racing thing. He’s already won in the Basque country and would be the in form pick. He’ll be liking the lack of summit finishes and the two time trials.
A tier below those two would be Geraint Thomas and Ion Izagirre. Both have decent time trials, can climb, and have had difficulties turning that talent into actual victories in the one week races.
Below them, you have Dan Martin and Rui Costa riding for UAE, with neither showing much form, Pierre Latour for AG2R, Andrey Amador and Jaime Roson for Movistar, Jakob Fuglsang for Astana, David Gaudu and Rudy Molard for Groupama-FDJ, Simon Spilak for Katusha, Daniel Felipe Martinez for Team Ef’d, Guillaume Martin for Wanty, and Emanuel Buchmann for Bora.
Look for Thomas De Gendt, Michael Albasini, and Stephen Cummings to try some longer range attacks.
The Wolfpack is bringing two alpha wolves for the sprint with Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria, though presumably Gaviria is using the race to ride back into some form. Also contesting the sprints will be Michael Matthews, Sonny Colbrelli, Samuel Dumoulin, and Timothy Dupont. With that field, you could probably chalk up two more World Tour wins for Quickstep.
Also, Trek-Segafredo is bringing a team that says “we are mandated to send some riders to a World Tour race.”
Anyhoo, let’s all enjoy that liminal space between the Spring Classics and the Giro d’Italia and enjoy the warm up to the warm up races for the Tour.