Tour de Romandie 2013 - preview

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Tour de Romandie 2013 – preview

The last two editions of the Tour de Romandie have produced the winners of the subsequent Tour de France. 

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) won the 2011 edition, while Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) took another significant step towards his greatest triumph with victory in Switzerland last year.

This year’s race, which starts today in La Chable, will see Chris Froome (Team Sky), Robert Gesink (Blanco Pro Cycling), and  Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) seek to add lustre to their palmares as the countdown to Le Tour gathers pace.

Bradley Wiggins victory in the 2012 Tour of Romandie foreshadowed his Tour de France triumph. Will the 2013 edition do the same for Chris Froome?

More intriguingly, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) will compete in his final race before beginning the defence of his Giro d’Italia title on Saturday May 4, and Richie Porte could strengthen his claim to being Sky’s latest team leader in waiting.

Here’s a look at the course and the contenders in the first post-Classics race of the season.

The riders

Chris Froome (Team Sky) has made an impressive start to a campaign in which he is expected to lead Team Sky at the Tour de France. The Kenyan-born Brit has won the Tour of Oman and Criterium International and finished second at Tirreno-Adriatico. He’ll seek to banish the slight disappointment of an anonymous Liege-Bastogne-Liegeby returning to the upper echelon of the classifications, stage and general, in a race won last year by the man he hopes to supplant as team leader at Sky, Bradley Wiggins.

Richie Porte (Team Sky) has been a revelation this season, displaying his undoubted talent to formidable effect. His career best victory at Paris-Nice could be significant. The Australian sealed his triumph with victory in the race-closing Col d’Eze time trial. The Tour de Romandie is similarly book-ended by a prologue and individual time trial. Having finished second at the Criterium International and the Tour of the Basque Country, the Australian is ably-equipped to return to the top step of the podium should Froome falter.

Robert Gesink (Blanco Pro Cycling) will need to show significant improvement to challenge the likes of Froome, Porte, and Hesjedal for overall victory, but has the climbing prowess to steal a stage win when the going gets mountainous, perhaps on Saturday’s Queen stage, when four first category climbs will reveal who has packed their climbing legs.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) a top five finisher for the second time at last year’s Tour de France, is, like Gesink, a man with climbing ability in abundance, but so far lacking a career-defining victory. With numerous altitude sessions and a recce to Corsica under his belt already this season, not to mention an aggressive performance on stage four of the Volta a Catalunya, the Belgian is well-placed to deliver a result here.

Ryder Hesjedal showed good form last Sunday at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Will he complete his Giro preparations with a strong performance at Romandie?

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) will repeat his preparation for the Giro d’Italia having ridden the first four stages of Romandie last year. He is unlikely to ride to the finish this year either, given the proximity of his season’s major target. Strong performances in Ardennes Week, particularly at Liege Bastogne Liege, revealed that his preparations are following a pleasing trajectory for the Canadian. If he stays for the Queen stage, we’ll learn much about his Giro form.

The route

Prologue: La Chable to Bruson (7.45km) – Tuesday April 23

The Tour of Romandie starts in 2013 with its traditional prologue time trial. This year the course is a scant 7.45km, playing to the strengths of those with a turn of speed as well as formidable technique in the race of truth. Twists, turns, and a sudden rise, courtesy of the third category, Mayens de Bruson, should suit those who have arrived in Switzerland with overall victory in mind: Froome, Porte, and Hesjedal among them.

Stage one: Saint-Maurice to Renens/Ouest Lausannois (176.4km) – Wednesday April 24

Three climbs on the opening road stage sets the tone for a hilly race ahead. The peloton will roll out of the ski resort of Saint-Maurice with the climbs of Chatel-St-Denis, Martherenges, and more significantly, the Col du Mollendruz, one that reaches nearly 1,175 metres, ahead of them. A sharp descent into Lausanne, capital of the Vaud canton, will bring matters to a close, for stage one at least.

Stage two: Prilly/Ouest Lausannois to Granges (190.3km) – Thursday April 25

The riders will start stage two where they left off at the end of stage one and take in the sights of the Lac de Neuchatel on flat 60km opening to the stage. The second category climb of Chaumont should wake them from their slumbers and a closing circuit around Granges could deliver splits in the bunch whose ramifications will be visible on the general classification. The Plagne climb could prove decisive, but those seeking to close gaps opened on it slopes will have 20km until the finish to do so.

Stage three: Payerne to Payerne (181km) – Friday April 26

The race organisers’ love of circuits is writ large in the parcours for stage three, which offers three loops in a single stage, all of which begin and end in Payerne. Like other stages, it contains its fair share of climbs: one pair each of category two and third category climbs. The decisive climb is likely to feature 20km from the finish for the second consecutive stage. This time the riders will conclude the days climbing with an ascent of Chables. Those who cross the summit together are likely to contest the finish.

Stage four: Marly to Les Diablerets (188.5km) – Saturday April 27

Four first category climbs mark the fourth stage as the Queen stage, and are likely to force those contending for overall victory to show their hands. A dual ascent of the Col de la Croix is likely to separate the GC contenders from their domestiques (Team Sky, where the domestiques are capable of contending for Grand Tour victories, could be the exception).

Stage five: Geneva (18.6km) – Saturday April 28

The penchant of the Tour de Romandie’s organisers to book end their race with time trials is revealed again in the 2013 parcours. The traditional test against the clock will take place this year on the shores of Lake Geneva, which should provide a suitably picturesque backdrop to proceedings. Last year’s closing time trial provided the most exciting day of the race, with Wiggins showing a patience that eluded him in last week’s Giro del Trentino to recover from a mechanical and win the race with victory against the clock.

Television

Tuesday April 23, 2013

LIVE – Sky Sports 2, 15.00 to 16.30

Highlights – Sky Sports 4, 21.00

Wednesday April 24, 2013

LIVE – Sky Sports 2, 15.00 to 16.30

Highlights – Sky Sports 4, 21.00

Thursday April 25, 2013

LIVE – Sky Sports 2, 15.00 to 16.30

Highlights – Sky Sports 4, 22.00

Friday April 26, 2013

LIVE – Sky Sports 2, 15.00 to 16.30

Highlights – Sky Sports 3, 23.45

Saturday April 27, 2013

LIVE – Sky Sports 2, 15.00 to 16.30

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