Tour de Suisse 2015 – Stage 4 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Tour de Suisse 2015 – Stage 4 Preview

By David Hunter

Unterterzen – Solden 237.3km


Time for the Queen stage, although it’s still early in the race. The gaps today will shape the GC, although we have to wait until the final stage and the lengthy ITT, before anything is decided. This stage is not only difficult, but very long. At 236km, it’s the longest stage in the race and great work for the TDF riders.

The stage features two HC climbs. The first comes halfway into the stage and is a monster. It can be classified in different ways:- 29.5km at 4.5%, 16.2km at 6.3%, or 12.8km at 7%. Put it this way, this climb is horrible. It’s extremely long and very challenging. This is just the starter, the main meal is still to come.

The final climb to Solden, is 13.3km at 10%, or around 11km at 11%. It goes all the way to 2669m of altitude and is a beast of a climb! It’s not very often, you see a climb that is over 10%, for over 10km. Remember that the legendary, Alpe d’Huez, is 13.8km at 7.9%. Yes, it’s harder than that!

Most of these riders will not have competed on such a climb, especially as race leader. Riding in support of another, is nothing compared to fighting at the front of the peloton.

The battle between the GC favourites is well matched. The big threats are Jakob Fuglsang, Dani Moreno, Simon Spilak, Thibaut Pinot, Geraint Thomas, Domenico Pozzovivo, Esteban Chaves, Rob Gesink, Julian Arredondo, Rafal Majka, Sergio Henao, Winner Anacona and Sebastian Reichenbach.

I haven’t included the current yellow jersey, Tom Dumoulin, in that list. He is becoming a better climber and should last well into this climb, but he just won’t compete against the real mountain climbers. It’s been a good run for him, and he’ll try to limit his losses, as he’ll make a lot of time back in the TT. If he can finish within 2 minutes of the winner, he’ll still have a chance of making the podium.

Due to the final TT, the battle for GC is between Fuglsang, Thomas, Spilak and Pinot. A poorer TT rider, like Arredondo, might just be allowed some freedom as they will lose a lot of time, in the TT. But, all these riders will want to take such an iconic stage, there will be no gifts today!

Jakob Fuglsang is looking very lean and fit. This is his big chance to show everyone what he is capable of, who knows, he might just end up as team leader in the TDF;) Of the four riders I’ve mentioned as GC riders, he is the poorest TT rider of the group. He would really be looking at losing around 1 minute(more on a bad day), in the 40km ITT. That puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders, going into this stage. He has looked very impressive and I’m excited to see what he can do. He will be supported by Miguel Angel Lopez, winner of the 2014 Tour de l’Avenir. He’ll need him, thanks to Katusha’s double strike force.

Having Moreno and Spilak as contenders, is a massive plus for the team. They can use the old, one-two, and force the other teams into chasing and defending. Or when the others attack, they can share the work, although, Spilak will be team leader. Moreno will lose time in the TT, so he’ll work for Spilak, who is in great form. Spilak has been excellent this season, but hasn’t won. He is a very consistent rider, who rarely has a bad day. He should be able to cope with the steep gradient, especially if we get some bad weather. He actually missed the first attacks, on stage 1. However, he had no trouble in riding across the gap and then matched the attacks of Fuglsang and Thomas.

What about Geraint Thomas? He has never managed to compete on a climb like this before. I’m not saying he won’t, but it would be a surprise. Thomas is used to working for Froome or Porte, and dropping them off a few kilometres from the end. If his team can do a good job, he might get close. He’ll have Henao, Siutsou and Lopez to help pace him up the hill. He’s an excellent TT rider, so even if he gets distanced, if he can limit the damage, he still has a chance for the GC. He’s in a similar position to Dumoulin, but should go better on the mountain.

Thibaut Pinot is the best climber of this group. 3rd in the 2014 TDF, he has all the talent required to be a world class rider. Going against him, is his tactical brain. He doesn’t always time he attacks well. He made a big mistake in the Criterium International and that cost him the title. He usually goes well in Switzerland, winning the Romandie Queen stage, this year. He’ll have Steve Morabito to help. The Swiss rider, used to be a brilliant domestique for Cadel Evans. He’ll be a big help. So close to the TDF, I don’t know how deep the Frenchman will actually go. It can be dangerous, but with the win in sight, he might just risk it.

What about the “wee” men? We have Pozzovivo and Arredondo, who are at an advantage, thanks to their size. On such a climb, being light, is certainly a big help. Surely, it’s too soon for Pozzovivo to be challenging for a win. A top 10 result would be great for him, as he recovers from his Giro crash. Arredondo has still to do well, riding with the main group, apart from San Luis. He needs a big performance to show Trek that he could be their team leader, in the Vuelta. He has looked in excellent form, but couldn’t follow the attacks on stage 1. Top 5 is within his capabilities but winning will be too much.

We should remember stage 1. It had a climb of 4km at 9%. Fuglsang, Thomas and Spilak were the strongest. I’m still not convinced that Thomas will last the whole climb, but he might just! Pinot has the talent, but also has one eye on the Tour. This is a battle between Denmark and Slovenia.

Prediction Time

Astana and Katusha have been brilliant in 2015. Both teams are close in beliefs and this is hard to call. The weather is for some rain and not high temperatures, nice conditions for both. Spilak has the benefit of an extra teammate, in Dani Moreno. The Spaniard is a threat on GC, so needs to be marked. The Slovenian also knows that he can TT better, so just needs to defend and finish with the Dane. For that reason, I think Fuglsang, will take the stage. Spilak will be close by.

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David Hunter

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