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TOUR DE SUISSE

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21.06.2015 @ 16:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Since he won the queen stage, Thibaut Pinot has constantly been losing seconds to Geraint Thomas, Simon Spilak and Tom Dumoulin who all have a chance to win the race in the final time trial. As usual, the race against the clock will play a major role in determining the winner of the Swiss race and with four potential winners, the scene is set for a hugely exciting battle.

 

The course

The Tour de Suisse always includes a long time trial of 30-40km and as the climbs in Switzerland are not very steep, it always plays a huge role in determining the overall winner. Mostly it has been held in rolling terrain in the flatter part of the country but in certain editions, the race has been decided in a mountain time trial – most recently in 2013. Most often it has been held on the final day and after last year’s unusually early position, it is back at the end of the race for the 2015 edition. With the race returning to Bern for the first time since 2009, it is the typical rolling affair that has often characterized the stages around the capital.

 

The stage is 38.4km long and is held on the same circuit around Bern that was used for the circuit race roday. After a short descent, the first part of the circuit is almost completely flat and brings the riders into the hilly terrain on the southwestern part of the country. After 6km of racing, the road gradually starts to rise before the riders hit the bottom of the category 3 Liebewill (800m, 9.25%).

 

The summit is located 22.6km from the finish and leads to another short uphill section that culminates at the highest point of the course with15.9km to go. From there, the road is mainly descending but there’s a small climb (1.1km, 5.2%) to break the legs with 10km to go. The descent ends 3.7km from the finish and then the riders go up the category 3 Aargauerstalden climb (400m, 4.25%) whose summit is located with 2.5km from the finish. From there, the road is almost completely flat. The finale is very technical as there will be a left-hand turn with 1.1km to go and right-hand turns just 800m and 200m from the finish line.

 

In 2009, Fabian Cancellara beat Tony Martin in a lumpy time trial in Bern on the final day of the race to seal his overall victory. One year earlier he surprised the sprinters in a road stage on the final day when he beat Philippe Gilbert in a 2-rider sprint. In 2007, the Swiss won the time trial on the final day while it was Jan Ullrich who ended his professional career by winning the time trial and the overall in Bern in 2006.

 

 

 

The weather

After two days in dry conditions, there is a big risk that the 2015 Tour de Suisse will end under the rain that has threatened the peloton almost every day. All day there is a risk of showers but most of the rain is forecasted to fall in the morning and in the evening. This means that it may actually be dry during the time trial and there is a bigger chance that the late starters will have dry roads while they may still be wet for the early starters. The temperature will reach a maximum of 20 degrees.

 

There will be a moderate wind from a westerly direction which means that the riders will mainly have a cross-headwind of a headwind in the first part before they turn into a cross-tailwind or a tailwind for the final section back to Bern. The conditions should be fairly constant throughout the stage, meaning that everybody should face the same kind of wind during their rides.

 

The favourites

Going into the Tour de Suisse, everybody expected the race to come down to two stages: the queen stage to the top of the Rettenbachferner and the final time trial. That prediction has turned out to be true as the other road stages have mainly been about survival for the GC riders. However, the tricky Swiss finales have allowed a few splits to happen and since the battle on the Rettenbachferner a few days ago, attentiveness has allowed Geraint Thomas to take back 13 seconds that could potentially turn out to be decisive.

 

With such a steep climb as the Rettenbachferner, there was a big chance that the race would have been all but decided at the start of the time trial. That is definitely not the case and the organizers could probably not have wished a better scenario for the final battle. Thiabut Pinot managed to gain significant amount to of time on the steep slopes but the best time triallists among the GC contenders all defended themselves pretty well. Hence, the race still has four potential winners as Pinot, Thomas, Simon Spilak and Tom Dumoulin all have a realistic shot at the overall victory. To make things even more exciting, the worst time triallist has an advantage while the strongest time triallist has most time to make up. The scene is set for a very exciting fight!

 

Tour de Suisse time trials are never flat and as the stage is held on the same circuit that was used for today’s stage, it is evident that this is not a stage for the powerful specialists. There may not be any major climbing but the riders still have to face a total of 478m of altitude. The many ups and downs mean that it will be hard to find a rhythm and the course suits more versatile riders than the big engines. This means that the top end of the leaderboard should be dominated by GC riders and the stronger specialists.

 

In the last few years, the time trials in the Tour de Suisse have been won by Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara – at least when it hasn’t been a mountain time trial – but this year the dominance is likely to be broken. Martin has decided to skip the Swiss race and Cancellara is far from his best condition. Instead, the stage is very likely to be won by the rider that is knocking on the door to take over the top position in the time trialling hierarchy and so the Swiss time trial could mark the next step in the transition.

 

Last year Tom Dumoulin finished second behind Martin on numerous occasions, including the long time trial in the Tour de France and both time trials in the Tour de Suisse. He ended it all by finishing third at Worlds and this year he seems to have taken another step up. He may not have done an awful lot of time trialling this year but whenever he has had the chance to ride his TT bike he has shown signs of improvement. He was ill before Paris-Nice and so was not in his best condition in that race. However, he put his skills on show when he took an impressive victory in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco time trial whose many steep climbs made it one for climbers more than for specialists. One week ago he confirmed his good condition when he won the prologue in this race.

 

Since then Dumoulin has proved that he is fully ready to go for glory in the first stage of the Tour de France which is his big objective. He has been riding extremely well and his performance in the queen stage was beyond impressive. When such a big guy to finish 10th on one of the hardest climbs in Europe, he has to be in excellent condition. The performance also proved his great time trialling skills as he stayed within his limits all the way up the ascent without being bothered by his rivals, passing several riders before he got to the top.

 

Tomorrow’s course is tailor-made to a strong guy like Dumoulin who also excels in the Ardennes classics. He likes short hills and is very strong on the flats. It is very hard to imagine that he won’t come out on top in the time trial but it will be hard for him to take back 1.24 from Pinot and 50 seconds from Thomas. Last year he beat Pinot by 1.33 in the 54km time trial in the Tour de France.

 

However, there’s a big difference between a time trial at the end of a grand tour and a TT at the end of a shorter race like the Tour de Suisse. Furthermore, Pinot didn’t look strong in today’s stage and even though he has improved a lot in time trials, he delivered poor performances in both Pais Vasco and Romandie. In the former race, he lost 1.01 to Dumoulin over a very hilly 18.3km distance. That is likely due to the reduced amount of time trialling in the Tour which has probably prompted him to focus more on his climbing. There is a solid chance that Dumoulin will take back enough time on Pinot but it will be hard for him to beat Thomas who is a better time triallist. In any case, we will be very surprised if Dumoulin doesn’t win the stage.

 

His biggest rival is likely to be Adriano Malori. The Italian has been rather anonymous in this race and apart from an attack in stage 6 we haven’t seen much from him. He did a poor prologue but his condition is clearly not bad. He has been climbing well and as he is guaranteed to be part of the Movistar roster for the Tour de France, he should be very close to his best.

 

Malori has improved a lot in time trials but he still prefers shorter, flat courses. He suffers a bit more in the longer races and is working hard to improve. He showed signs of progress when he finished sixth at the Worlds and this year he has probably taken another step. He hasn’t done much time trialling this year but he has finished in the top 2 in the five of the six TTs he has done. He is a versatile rider and even though he would have preferred a flatter course, he should be able to do well in this lumpy terrain. It will be hard to beat Dumoulin but he is the one with the best chance to create the surprise.

 

Fabian Cancellara has won the Tour de Suisse TT numerous times in the past but he is unlikely to do so again tomorrow. The Swiss is clearly not in his best condition and is mainly using this race to get back to his best for the Tour de France. Furthermore, he fell ill just before the race which didn’t make it any easier for him. Nonetheless, he still finished second in the prologue and if it hadn’t been for his illness, he would probably have taken the win.

 

However, there’s a big difference between a prologue and tomorrow’s hilly time trial. Despite not being the time triallist he once was, Cancellara is probably still the best prologue rider in the world. Tomorrow’s tough stage will be more about condition and even if he had been at 100%, it would have been hard for Cancellara to beat Dumoulin. He has to be on a very good day to come out on top but he should still be among the best.

 

Geraint Thomas will be extremely motivated to give it his all in the time trial as he has a big chance to take the first WorldTour stage victory of his career. It should definitely be possible for him to beat Pinot by 34 seconds and he should find the course to his liking. He is a solid time triallist even though he is not among the very best and apart from a few victories in the Bayern Rundfahrt TTs he has rarely been in the mix in the very long time trials. Furthermore, his improved climbing has probably cost him the edge in the TTs. On the other hand, the lumpy terrain should suit him very well. With a big motivation and great condition, he should be one of the best and he could very well win the race overall.

 

Simon Spilak is also within striking distance of the overall victory. The Slovenian is a perennial contender in the spring races but he has rarely been at his best in the summer. This year he has finally changed the trend, probably because the weather conditions have been pretty bad. Furthermore, his condition seems to be on the rise. Spilak is no TT specialist but on a hilly course he is among the best. He finished third in the Tour de Romandie TT this year and is always one of the strongest on the tough courses in Pais Vasco. He would definitely have preferred a harder course and it will be hard for him to take the overall victory. However, he is always capable of a big surprise.

 

Thomas De Gendt is always a dark horse in these time trials. The Belgian is hugely inconsistent but when he is on a great day, he is very strong in these long TTs, especially on a hilly course like this one. In 2011 and 2013 he was in the third in long Tour de France time trials and tomorrow’s route should suit him well. He seems to be in a decent condition as he has been riding aggressively in this race and as he is usually strong at the end of a long stage race, he will be a contender.

 

We are very curious to see how Matthias Brändle will do in this stage. The Austrian is constantly improving in time trials but until now he has mainly done well on short, flat courses. Tomorrow’s stage is a completely different affair. Furthermore, Brändle hasn’t really been shining on the climbs in this race and it may be both a bit too hard and a bit too long for him. However, he definitely has the potential to become one of the best and tomorrow could be a good day to take another step.

 

Bob Jungels has been climbing better than ever in this race and he is still targeting an overall top 10. He is a very good time triallist but at the pro level he had mainly excelled on shorter courses. However, he seems to have gained endurance and as he is also climbing better, he may be able to improve his level in a TT like the one he will face tomorrow.

 

Michal Kwiatkowski is usually among the best time triallists in the world and he should really find this course to his liking. However, he is clearly not at his best level. He did a very bad prologue which is usually his specialty and he is less suited to tomorrow’s stage. Furthermore, he has been in the break twice in a row and may be a bit tired tomorrow. However, you can never rule Kwiatkowski out in a time trial.

 

Jerome Coppel is just coming back from injury but he is already in pretty good condition. He has been climbing reasonably well and was in the top 10 in the prologue. In this race, his main goals are the two time trials and he will be fully motivated for tomorrow’s stage. He is usually very strong in hilly time trials so we expect him to be among the best tomorrow.

 

We are very curious to see how Steve Morabito will do in tomorrow’s stage. The Swiss has improved massively in time trials and he was a surprise fifth in the prologue. Earlier this year he was 10th in the Tour de Romandie time trial and he is clearly in great condition. We wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be among the best tomorrow.

 

His captain Thibaut Pinot has worked tirelessly to improve in this discipline and his efforts have clearly paid off. Last year he finished in the top 10 in almost all the time trials he did and he likes these hilly course. This year he has not been at the same level though and he doesn’t seem to be at his best at the moment.

 

Martin Elmiger is always among the best in the Tour de Suisse time trials whose hilly courses suit him well. Furthermore, he is just getting stronger and stronger as he finished in the top 10 in both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He has been strong in this race too even though he has been on the decline in the second part of the race. We expect a great ride for the Swiss road race champion.

 

Alexey Lutsenko spent a lot of energy in today’s stage and this may leave him a bit fatigued for tomorrow’ However, he is obviously in excellent condition and he should find the course to his liking. Until now he has mainly done well in shorter time trials but it should just be a matter of time before he also shines in the longer time trials.

 

Like Lutsenko, Cameron Meyer was also in the break in today’s stage. However, he should still give it a go in tomorrow’s stage. Despite his track background, he has never been very strong in the long road TTs and he has mainly done well in prologues. However, he has the versatile skills to do well on this course.

 

Finally, Jeremy Roy, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Silvan Dillier deserve a mention. They are all riding well at the moment and are decent time triallists. Unfortunately, they are a bit inconsistent but if they are on a good day they should be able to do well.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Tom Dumoulin

Other winner candidates: Adriano Malori, Fabian Cancellara

Outsiders: Geraint Thomas, Simon Spilak, Thomas De Gendt, Matthias Brändle, Bob Jungels

Jokers: Michal Kwiatkowski, Jerome Coppel, Steve Morabito, Thibaut Pinot, Martin Elmiger, Alexey Lutsenko, Cameron Meyer, Jeremy Roy, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Silvan Dillier

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