Tour de Suisse 2015 – Stage 1 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Tour de Suisse 2015 – Stage 1 Preview

By David Hunter

Risch Rotkruez – Risch Rotkreuz 161.1km

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There is no messing about in the Tour de Suisse! The first road stage and bam, straight into some hard racing. The stage looks very hard and it’s going to rain, making it a challenging start to the race.

There will be plenty of nice camera shots, as the race takes place beside Lake Aegeri. There are two different laps, that have to be completed twice. The first lap has a cat 2 climb, 5km at 5%. The second lap is much more demanding with a cat 1 climb, 4km at 9%. The climb includes some switchbacks as the riders head out of the town and up into the countryside. Luckily, the descent is not technical, which is good news as the roads will be wet.

The final climb crests with 12.7km remaining and it is possible to hold off a chasing peloton. Twice up the climb will seriously hurt the legs of most riders and the main bunch will be very small, maybe only 30 riders or so. That means few teams will have enough men to chase any escapee, so it’s a good idea to attack on the final climb. Being able to have the legs would obviously help!

The start list is full of top sprinters, but this climb is far too hard for riders like Cavendish, Kristoff and Degenkolb. A “sprinter” who has a chance of remaining with the bunch is Michael Matthews. I know I shouldn’t really refer to him as a sprinter, but I can’t help it. His progression has been amazing and is now amongst the best climbers, in the world. Very few climbs seem to cause him difficulty and this one is within his capability. Michael Albasini is another who would like to make the final selection, but I think the climb is too hard for him. Matthews should be their man and Orica will have riders left, to try and control the end of the race. Clarke, Chaves and Meyer should all survive the final climb and will be very important if Matthews makes it too. If not, both Clarke and Meyer can sprint well, from a small group. Orica have got plenty of options!

My only slight concern is Michael Matthews is just returning from altitude training and as we all know, you cannot rely on finding your first stages easy. The opposite can also be true, as some riders are flying after a period at altitude. We’ll have to wait until the climb to see how he gets on, but the team would hope to see him, or Albasini, at the end of the race.

Another “sprinter” who should be around at the finish is Peter Sagan. He normally goes well in this race and he would have noted this stage, when looking through the road book. He’ll find it very hard to beat Cavendish and Kristoff, in the flatter stages, so must take advantage of the harder days. He should have support left in the finale, with Breschel, Majka and Valgren, all capable climbers. He’s fresh from winning the Tour of California, which included 6th place on Mont Baldy. After a disappointing start to 2015, Sagan looks like he’s coming good.

Normally, the climb would be too hard for Greg Van Avermaet, but he is in great form. BMC would hope that one of their fast men would make it to the finish. They have GVA, Gilbert, Drucker, Dillier and Wyss. All of these riders have a fast finish, it really depends on how hard a team makes the climb.

It would be a good idea for CCC to make the climb hard. They have Grega Bole, fresh from a solid Giro where he was climbing well. The Slovenian finished in the top 20 of two mountaintop finishes, in the final week. He did crash but should be over that now. He packs a very fast finish, but would not fancy sprinting against Matthews and Sagan. His team have a big interest in making the race as hard as possible.

Other riders who have a fast finish are: Cimolai, Elmiger, Moser, Rojas, Ventoso, Roelandts, Kwiatkowski, Stybar, Agnoli, Bakelants and Gasparotto.

If we get attacks from the main GC riders, it’s hard to imagine that any sprinter will make the selection. We could have a situation where the final peloton is under 20 riders. If that happens, Kwiatkowski, would be the favourite. He packs a very fast sprint, much quicker than the other GC contenders. His team also have an interest in making the race hard. These teams are faced with a dilemma, if they commit to making it hard, they must go all the way and drop Matthews and Sagan, otherwise it’s a waste. For that reason, I’m looking forward to this stage.

So, will we get a sprint from 50 riders, 20 riders, 10 riders or a solo attack?

Prediction Time

It’s going to be difficult to shake Peter Sagan. He’s just 5 seconds behind the yellow jersey and looks set to take it over. The battle for yellow will be as exciting as the battle for the stage. Van Avermaet is on the same time, with Matthews at 8 seconds. I’m unsure how Matthews will react, after his spell at altitude, so Sagan is my pick. He doesn’t mind the rain and has an excellent record, in this race.

David Hunter

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