Tour de Suisse is a historical race only to be shadowed in importance by the overlapping Critérium du Dauphiné. Just like the Dauphiné, the Swiss race which runs from 8th to 16th June this year, is also seen as a training block by many Tour de France GC aspirants. This year’s route with Swiss Alps as the background, provides equal opportunities for all kinds of riders. But with the Swiss tour offering more chances for the sprinters than the Dauphiné, no wonder we see most of the fast-men flock there. With some climbs also to be tackled in the race, there will be few interesting battles in the general classification too.
Prologue – Quinto to Quinto (8.1 km)
The race starts with a prologue in the beautiful town of Quinto.
Stage 1 – Quinto to Crans-Montana (170.7 km)
The race makes its way towards the regular feature of Tour de Suisse that is the climb of Crans-Montana. This will be the seventh time that the race will have stopped in Crans-Montana. Before the finish atop the category 1 mountain, the peloton will have to climb the beast of Nufenen Pass (2478 m) which is the highest mountain pass with a road in Switzerland.
Stage 2 – Montreux to Meiringen (203.3 km)
The start town of Montreux has a rich connection with cycling. The annual local criterium has many famous winner including Fabian Cancellara and Danilo Wyss. The profile for the day is flat with an exception of a category 1 climb before the finish location of Meiringer. The municipality is famous for it’s proximity to the commanding Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes fame.
Stage 3 – Meiringen/Brienz to Buochs (161 km)
The stage is the first sprinter friendly stage of the race. The route starts in Innertkirchen and finishes in Buochs. The attractive village is situated at the lakefront of Lake Lucerne and the bottom of the mountain Buochserhon.
Stage 4 – Buochs to Leuggern (176.4 km)
The lumpy stage will provide a back to back opportunity for the sprinters. The route will go around Leuggern thrice and pass through Bad Zurzach. Leuggern is famous for the Lake of Klingnau, which is well known amongst the ornithologists, the nature reserve in Felsenau and vast wood lands with views of the Black Forest.
Stage 5 – Leuggern to Meilen (186.1 km)
Another stage, another day for the sprinters. The small lumps of Limberg and Stafa, 20 clicks before the finish line provide moderate obstacle for the fast-men. In 1983 the start of one of the stage was on the ferry in Meilen.
Stage 6 – Meilen to La Punt (206 km)
The longest stage of the race takes the riders over four climbs. The first real hurdle will be faced on the category 1 climb up to Davos. The last high Alpine climb of the Albula Pass (HC) will provide a difficult task before the downhill finish in the St. Moritz area.
Stage 7 – Zernez to Bad Ragaz (180.5 km)
The start town Zernez is also a stage host for the biggest amateur stage race in the Alps, the Schwalbe Tour Transalp, and is the venue of the Engadine Cycle Marathon for the eighth time which has now become a classic. The only main climb of the stage is Julier Pass which comes early at 40 km mark. The Julier Pass (2284 m) is a mountain pass in the Albula Range of the Alps. The finish town of Bad Ragaz is famous for its thermal waters and has been regularly visited by Tour de Suisse.
Stage 8 – Bad Ragaz to Flumserberg (26.8 km)
The final stage is an individual time trial which is flat for the first 16.5 kms and then climbs up to the resort area of Flumserberg.
Last year’s winner Rui Costa of Team Movistar will once again take the start line at Quinto. Costa is in fine form and recently finished third at Tour de Romandie. The young Portuguese will like to repeat his performance from last year and stake his claim over the team leader role at the Tour de France. He will be given tough competition by 2012 Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal who dropped out this year from the Italian tour due to lack of form. Hesjedal will be joined in attack by the 2013 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin who has also won the overall classification at Volta a Catalunya. The Garmin-Sharp duo will definitely go as the favorites in the race.
The other important GC rider to start the race is Tejay Van Garderen. There are few pending questions for Team BMC and the American will hope to provide the answers. He comes with a strong team including the World Champion Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet. Team Blanco also looks strong with Bauke Mollema as their leader. He will be backed by his teammates Lars Petter Nordhaug and Steven Kruijswijk.
The race will also see the return of AG2R La Mondiale to racing. The French team will most likely support Jean-Christophe Peraud. JC has been riding consistently well this season with many top 10 places in week long stage races. It will also be interesting to see how his teammate Domenico Pozzovivo rides after finishing the Giro quietly. The diminutive climber will definitely like to win a stage. Team Astana has sent a strong contingent which will be led by Janez Brajkovic. Jani has not been in the same form as last year and will be motivated to get a strong result for his team.
Another team with high GC aspirations will be Team Saxo-Tinkoff. Their leader Roman Kreuziger has always been a good week long stage racer and will have ample support in the climbs from Nicolas Roche. Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi and Thibaut Pinot of Team FDJ will also aim for high position in the general classification. Other big GC riders in the race are Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso and Thomas Löfkvist.
More than the GC contenders, the focus will be on sprinter teams of Orica-Greenedge, Argos-Shimano and IAM Cycling. Matthew Goss will face stiff competition from the dedicated sprint train of John Degenkolb. Heinrich Haussler will also be in the mix of things along with Daniele Bennati. Tyler Farrar has also regained his confidence after a strong showing at Amgen Tour of California. Another rider to watch out for in the sprint finishes is Ben Swift of Team Sky. But above all, these guys will face the biggest challenge in the form of Peter Sagan. The Slovakian won “only” two stages at Amgen Tour of California and will like to add to his tally of wins.
The race is one last chance for many riders to make it to their team’s Tour de France lineup which will provide plenty of action.