Tour de Suisse 2014 preview
Guide to the scenic nine-day race
By Niall McGlone
Last Updated: 13/06/14 3:16pm
The nine-day event is this year made up of two time trials, three high-mountain stages, two medium-mountain stages and two days that could end in sprints.
Sir Bradley Wiggins is arguably the biggest name on the start list and will be keen to follow up his win at the Tour of California with another general classification triumph, but Rui Costa has won the last two editions of the race and is back for a tilt at three in a row.
Mark Cavendish is also in action and will be targeting the flatter days, but he will face stiff competition from the likes of Peter Sagan.
Here is how the race will pan out...
Prologue: Saturday, June 14 - Bellinzona (individual time trial) - 9.4km
The race begins with a time trial around the city of Bellinzona and the stage should create some early time gaps between the general classification contenders. The course starts out flat as the riders head out through the city streets, before looping back and climbing 4.5km into the stage. The riders will crest that ascent at 7km and then follow a technical and winding descent all the way into the finish.
Stage 2: Sunday, June 15 - Bellinzona to Sarnen - 181.8km
The general classification riders will battle it out on a mountainous second stage that takes in four categorised climbs. The first begins at 40km as the riders hit the Gotthardpass, and this hors-categorie ascent should thin out the peloton by the time they reach the summit. Rising to over 2,400m, the equally tough Furkaspass comes next, before the category-two Grimselpass. A long descent off that leads into the final climb of the day, 20km from the finish. That could provide the launchpad for repeated attacks as opportunists look to hold off the chasers on the flat run to the finish.
Stage 3: Monday, June 16 - Sarnen to Heiden - 202.9km
Stage three is another hilly stage as the peloton heads east out of Sarnen towards the Austrian border. After a rolling start, the road rises at 70km on the category-two Sattel climb. The descent off that could see riders who were distanced get back on before the next category-two climb at 130km, while the breakaway will be looking to stay clear as they reach the final ascent at 175km. Although the final lump into Heiden isn't categorised, the finish should suit the more punchy climbers and provide an explosive finale.
Stage 4: Tuesday, June 17 - Heiden to Ossingen - 160.4km
Stage four should provide a rare chance for the sprinters, as there are just two category-four climbs to contend with on today's route. A rolling stage is unlikely to see any significant action until the riders reach the first ascent on the finishing loop around Ossingen. The peloton will hit the category-four climb to Benken twice, but at just over 1km long, it is unlikely to cause any major problems. The sprinters' teams will be looking to set it up for a bunch sprint on the uphill finish.
Stage 5: Wednesday, June 18 - Ossingen to Buren AD Aare - 183.6km
Stage five is another chance for the sprinters to grab a stage win with only two category-four and two category-three peaks standing in their way. The fact that three of those climbs come in the opening 80km means any sprinters who have been distanced will have ample chance to chase back on before the peloton crests the final summit 25km from home. The sprinters' teams will be looking to keep their fast men towards the front as they look to set it up for another bunch sprint.
Stage 6: Thursday, June 19 - Buren AD Aare to Delemont - 183.5km
The race returns to the high mountains for stage six as the peloton heads north to Delemont. The first category-one climb comes after 40km, but it's unlikely we will see any attacks from the main protagonists here after the breakaway moves clear. Next up is the Col des Pontins, and once the riders have crested that, it's downhill to Delemont for an undulating finishing circuit. The category-two Col des Rangiers at 150km could see further riders attempt to break clear before the final category-three climb comes just over 10km from the line. The general classification men are unlikely to risk anything until that final climb, and the day looks more likely to be one for a breakaway rider.
Stage 7: Friday, June 20 - Worb (individual time trial) - 24.7km
Stage seven sees a return to the time trial bikes in what could be a crucial day for the GC. The rolling 24.7km route around Worb will be a damage limitation exercise for a number of the general classification men, while it will be a chance for others to move up the leaderboard. The profile should suit time-triallists who don't mind a climb.
Stage 8: Saturday, June 21 - Delemont to Verbier - 219.1km
The penultimate stage promises to be another battle between the general classification contenders. It's hard to see anything happening before the peloton reaches the foot of the first climb, after 185km. The category-three Volleges begins to ramp up as the peloton passes through Martigny and it eventually tops out 205km into the stage. The peloton will be thinned out before the general classification men battle it out on the slopes up to Verbier. The punishing ascent will sap the energy and the strongest rider over the top could stay clear on the short descent to the finish.
Stage 9: Sunday, June 22 Martigny to Saas-Fee - 156.5km
The Tour de Suisse ends with another mountainous stage that will decide the winner of the race. A brutal day of climbing begins after the riders pass through Sion, where they will start the climb of the category-one ascent to Veysonnaz at 30km. The peloton will be thinned out by the time the riders crest that climb at 39.9km and begin the descent towards the category-two climb of St Martin.
The riders will have time to prepare themselves for next test of the day as they reach the slopes of Eischoll with 105km in the legs. There could be an opportunity for a rider to attack on the descent as they look to gain time on the bunch before they hit the foot of the hors-categorie climb towards Saas-Fee. The summit finish will provide the final chance for the general classification riders to make a race winning move.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step)
Alex Dowsett (Movistar)
Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky)
Luke Rowe (Team Sky)
Ben Swift (Team Sky)
Sir Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
A difficult one to call, because stages seven, eight and nine all have the potential to be pivotal. The strong time-triallists, such as Bradley Wiggins, will look to make their gains on stage seven, while the climbers, such as Domenico Pozzovivo and Bauke Mollema, will be targeting stages eight and nine. The race could go down to the last stage, and for that reason, stage nine is arguably the key day.
2013: Rui Costa (Por)
2012: Rui Costa (Por)
2011: Levi Leipheimer (USA)
2010: Frank Schleck (Lux)
2009: Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
2008: Roman Kreuziger (Cze)
2007: Vladimir Karpets (Rus)
2006: Jan Ullrich (Ger)
2005: Aitor Gonzalez (Spa)
2004: Jan Ullrich (Ger)