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Will Marcel Kittel take his second win on the final day of the Tour de Romandie?

Photo: Etixx - Quick-Step / Tim de Waele

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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NEWS
30.04.2016 @ 19:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nairo Quintana was in complete control and was never under any real pressure in the queen stage, meaning that only accident can prevent him from winning the Tour de Romandie overall in what has been a great spring season for the Colombian. However, he still needs to get safely through the final stage which looks like a rare chance for even the pure sprinters in one of the most mountainous races on the calendar.

 

The course

Usually, nothing is decided until the very end as the Tour de Romandie has mostly had a mountain stage or a time trial on the final day. This year things will be different as the grand finale will be an unusually flat stage compared to usual Romandie standards. Of course there’s some solid climbing along the way on a day that has 1808m of total climbing but none of the climbs are hard and they all come very far from the finish, meaning that there may for once be a stage for the pure sprinters in the Swiss race.

 

The 177.4km stage brings the riders from Ollon to the major city of Geneve. The start and finishing cities are located in opposite ends of the Lac Leman and the stage consists of a mix of lakeside roads and a brief trip into the hilly hinterlands. The first 20km are made up of flat roads along the lakeside before the riders head into the hills to go up the category 3 climb to Chatel-St-Denis (7.2km, 2.8%, max. 11%) whose summit is located at the 30.5km mark. From here the terrain is lumpy as the riders head to the west before a long descent leads to the first intermediate sprint at the 85.2km mark.

 

Shortly after the sprint, the riders will hit the bottom of the category 3 climb to Mont-la-Ville (6.2km, 4.2% max. 8%) whose summit comes with 77km to go. From there they will head down the descent back towards the lake which they will reach in the city of Mont-sur Rolle with 46.3km. Then they will briefly head back into the hills for another lumpy section before they descend back to the lake. They will be back at the lakeside with 18.5km to go and then they will follow the flat road to Geneve while contesting the final intermediate sprint with 12.8km to go. The final part of the stage is completely flat and the final turn comes with 1.1km to go in what will be a technically uncomplicated finale.

 

Geneve last hosted a stage in 2013 when Tony Martin won a flat time trial. In 2011, Ben Swift won a reduced bunch sprint on the final day while Oscar Freire was the fastest on the final stage in 2009. In 2008, Mark Cavendish won the prologue, a feat that Bradley McGee had achieved in 2004 and Fabian Cancellara in 2003. Rik Verbrugghe won the prologue in 2002 while Mario Cipollini won sprints on the final stage three years in a row from 1999 to 2001.

 

 

 

The weather

The Tour de Romandie will end in the way it started: with lots of rain. A total of 9mm are forecasted in Geneva and there will be a 50% chance of rain. Luckily it wom’t be as cold as it was earlier in the week as there will be a maximum temperature of 9 degrees.

 

There will be a moderate wind from a northerly direction. This means that the riders will first have a headwind and then a crosswind until they get to the feed zone. From there it will be a tailwind.

 

The favourites

As he had already said yesterday, Nairo Quintana opted for safety in today’s queen stage and never made a real bid for the stage win. While Ilnur Zakarin was unable to show the same kind of impressive form that he did on Thursday, the Colombian was his usual strong self and easily responded to the attacks from the relentless Thibaut Pinot.

 

In fact, it looked like Movistar went into the stage with more focused on getting Ion Izagirre on the podium than winning the stage. That prompted them to ride more defensively and they did it excellently as Izagirre proved his versatility by sprinting to second and so picking the bonus seconds needed to pass Zakarin in the overall standings. The Basque confirms that he is one of the most talented riders for one-week stage race and if he gets safely through the final stage, he has been on the podium in Pais Vasco, Romandie and the Tour de Pologne which he has even won.

 

For Chris Froome, it was a show of force in what was his final test before the Dauphiné. He may have lost a lot of time in the finale where he opted for safety on the slick roads but he managed to keep a 45-second advantage for the entire climb even though he had been forced to work hard in the valley where Movistar were chasing. This proves that there is no reason to be concerned for the Tour de France and he can travel back to Tenerife with a confident mindset.

 

Before all the Tour contenders start a well-earned break from racing, they need to get through tomorrow’s wet final stage. While it is just something to get over for the GC riders, it is a big goal for a big portion of the field who have had no chance in the mountains or in the time trials. This has been what they have been looking forward to for most of the week and many will be raring to go when they head out for the start.

 

However, the stage is unusually easy compared to the traditional Romandie standards. The two climbs are both relatively easy and for once, the organizers have not included a finishing circuit with some kind of climb. In fact, the second half is mainly downhill or flat and so the stage is a very rare chance for pure sprinters in the Swiss race.

 

This means that Etixx-QuickStep will go all in as they want to set Marcel Kittel up for another victory and even though they don’t have their strongest team here, they have considerable firepower. It won’t be easy to control things but they will definitely do their utmost to set up a sprint.

 

Like today, the start is likely to be very fast as this is the final chance for numerous teams. The lumpy first part is a perfect opportunity to go on the attack and it will probably take a long time for the break to be established. In this kind of terrain, it is very likely that the group will be pretty strong.

 

When the group has taken off, it will be left to Etixx-QuickStep to control things. There are no guarantees that they will be able to bring the break back but the odds are on a bunch sprint. Some of the teams with sprinters are very likely to have missed out on the break and as no one has anything to lose on the final day of a race where most are still empty-handed, there should be plenty of assistance for Etixx-QuickStep. We won’t rule a breakaway completely out but this should be a day for the sprinters.

 

If that’s the case, Marcel Kittel will be the overwhelming favourite. In this race, his form has been absolutely excellent. He survived the tough climbs in stage 1, climbed very well in both time trials and was even on the attack in today’s queen stage. That just comes as confirmation of the good form he showed in De Panne and Dubai earlier this year where he also climbed well. The climbing in this stage is much easier than what he faced in stage 1 so there is little doubt that he will survive. The main challenge will be to get a bunch sprint.

 

Kittel doesn’t have his usual train here but in this race there aren’t any real trains. In fact, only Orica-GreenEDGE have the power to match Etixx-QuickStep that can rely onstrong guys like Bob Jungels, Davide Martinelli and Lukasz Wisniowski in the finale. They completely dominated stage 1 and in this stage, Kittel is even likely to have Fabio Sabatini who is one of the best lead-out men in the business, at his side. He is very likely to again be delivered in the perfect position and then no one will be able to beat him in a tailwind power sprint that suits him down to the ground. Kittel is the overwhelming favourite for this stage.

 

Niccolo Bonifazio almost managed to pass Kittel in stage 1 and will be motivated to try again here. He is not a pure sprinter and usually needs a harder race to excel but in this race he is one of the fastest. In fact, he has been sprinting better than ever in 2016 and has been up there in rather easy races as well. His main problem is that he barely has any teammates left and those who are here, are climbers. Hence, he will have to do all the positioning alone and this will make things much more difficult.

 

Moreno Hofland is building conditions for the Giro where he is targeting a maiden grand tour stage win. He showed good form by surviving the climbs in stage 1 but made the wrong decisions in the finale and had to settle for 12th. He was very frustrated but should have a much better chance on stage 5 where he can expect to have more teammates at his side. Dennis Van Winden is a great lead-out man and with Martijn Keizer, Steven Lammertink and Jos van Emden all there, LottoNL-Jumbo should be one of the strongest teams in the finale. Hofland is one of the fastest here and is one of the favourites.

 

Everybody was very surprised to see Ben Swift getting dropped in stage 1. The Brit is usually the best climber among the sprinters and had shown great form in Liege where he was with the best until Saint-Nicolas! He doesn’t seem to be ill so it is hard to say what has been wrong but he should definitely be there at the end of tomorrow’s easier stage. At the start of the race, he didn’t expect to get much support in the sprints but as Sky are out of the GC battle, he will have Salvatore Puccio and Geraint Thomas at his disposal. That’s a powerful team and as Swift has been sprinting well all year, he will be one of the favourites.

 

After his dominance in the last few years, Michael Albasini is still without a stage win in 2016 despite being in the form of his life. He knows that it will be very hard to beat Kittel in a sprint so we expect him to go on the attack. The lumpy start suits him extremely well and he is a master in winning stages from breakaways as he has taken wins in most one-week races on the WorldTour in this way. His great form means that he is very likely to make it into a group and then he will be hard to beat if they can make it to the finish. If not, he will try his hand in a sprint finish and here he won’t be completely without chances as he has Daryl Impey and Jens Michael Hepburn for the lead-out.

 

Tosh van der Sande improved his sprinting a lot in 2015 and after a slow start to the year he has finally found some form. In fact, he seems to be better than ever. He was strong in the Ardennes and was sprinting really well in stage 4. He won’t have much support in the finale but he is definitely capable of a achieving another good result.

 

Ramunas Navardauskas has won a sprint in this race in the past. He hasn’t been sprinting that well in the last few months but he actually did a very solid sprint on stage 1. Tomorrow he will try again and this one suits him really well. He is poor at positioning himself in technical finales but this power sprint is much better for him.

 

For more sprinters, keep an eye on Danilo Wyss, Jose Joaquin Rojas, Daryl Impy, William Bonnet, Vicente Reynes, Samuel Dumoulin, Kristian Sbaragli, Dylan Page, Andrea Pasqualon, Marco Marcato and Enrico Gasparotto.

 

If a breakaway makes it, Jan Bakelants is a good pick. The Belgian loves hilly terrain and rainy weather and he is arriving at this race after a very solid Ardennes campaign where he was strong especially in the Amstel Gold Race. He is definitely targeting this stage after he was beaten by Albasini from a breakaway two years ago and he has the strength and sprint to win this kind of stage.

 

The same goes for Enrico Gasparotto who is in the form of his life. He was impressive in all the Ardennes classics and in this race he has been up there in the mountain stages too. He will of course try in a sprint finish but he won’t have much of a chance there. His best chance is to go on the attack and if his group makes it to the finish, he is likely to be the fastest.

 

Daryl Impey is another obvious candidate for Orica-GreenEDGE. The South African had a bad day in stage 1 but he has been riding very well in this race. He did two very good time trials and impressed with his breakaway performance in the first mountain stage. He is strong in this terrain and has the sprint to finish it off.

 

Finally, Moreno Moser looms as an outsider. The Italian is back in form after his many travails and has been very good in this race. Cannondale will definitely try to ride aggressively and if Moser can join the ride move, he has the skills and the speed to win the stage.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Marcel Kittel

Other winner candidates: Niccolo Bonifazio, Moreno Hofland

Outsiders: Ben Swift, Michael Albasini (sprint or breakaway), Tosh van der Sande, Ramunas Navardauskas (sprint or breakaway),

Jokers: Enrico Gasparotto (breakaway), Jan Bakelants (breakaway), Daryl Impey (sprint or breakaway), Moreno Moser (breakaway)

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