The course on which Chris Froome (Team Sky) could attempt to defend his Tour de Romandie crown, as he fine-tunes preparations for the 101st Tour de France, has been revealed.
As with the Criterium du Dauphine, the race is fast earning a reputation as a ‘must-do’ for Tour contenders and next year’s race is likely to feature another stellar line-up with a balanced parcours unveiled by organisers.
The 68th edition of the Swiss race will kick-off with a straightforward, flat 5.57km prologue into Ascona on Tuesday April 29 to determine who will wear the first yellow jersey.
Froome was victorious in last year’s prologue, retaining the leader’s jersey throughout, but the winner of the prologue is not guaranteed an easy passage.
The following day’s stage, a 203km route from Ascona to Sion, takes in part of northern Italy and takes in the category one Simplon Pass and category two climb to Lens, which organisers believe could suit a long breakaway should wind conditions prove favourable.
Stage two, from Sion to Montreux on May Day, however will belong entirely to the sprinters, with only two category three climbs to negotiate on the 166.5km route.
It is the following day which is likely to see the GC contenders go head-to-head, on the queen stage through the Swiss Alps from Le Bouveret to Eagle.
The route includes four category one climbs – the Pass Boardwalk at 55km, the Champex at 78.6km, the Giettes at 133.7km and the Villars less than 15km from the finish.
The 180km stage will feature 3,512m of climbing in total.
A circuit of Freiburg follows on Saturday May 3, with the peloton tackling six laps of the 29km course which features a solitary third category climb, and with intermediate sprints only featuring after 113km and 142km a late break could be on the cards if the green jersey is still to be wrapped up.
As is traditional, the Tour will then conclude with a 18.5km time trial, starting and ending at the Stade de la Maladiere, which features a slight incline just before the mid-point.
World time trial champion Tony Martin won the equivalent stage last year, with Froome third on his way as he sealed the overall title.
With Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador believed to be targeting the Tour de France too, it remains to be seen whether either will feature.
World champion Rui Costa, who has completed a switch to Lampre-Merida and will lead the Italian team’s Tour de France bid, has finished third in Romandie in the last two editions and is likely to be among the leading contenders this year too.