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Suisse Roundtable: Did Porte prove himself as Tour favorite?

Richie Porte won yellow at Tour de Suisse, one of the toughest pre-Tour stage races. What does that mean for his chances in July?

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The soggy, wet Tour de Suisse ended on Sunday, with Australian Richie Porte taking the overall win ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). With the Tour de France having been delayed by one week due to soccer’s World Cup, the Tour de Suisse became the marquee warmup race for the Tour. So what did we learn from Suisse? Let’s roundtable.

What’s your analysis of Porte’s victory? What were the keys to his win?

Dane Cash @danecashPorte thrived in a race tailored to his strengths. He’s a well-rounded GC contender best suited for races that balance time trials and climbs, and that’s exactly what the Tour de Suisse was this year. Considering his resumé in one-week races, Porte was always going to be one of the top favorites for the race, and he delivered the goods.

Fred Dreier @freddreierThis Tour de Suisse lacked the long, soul-crushing climb to really show us who is fit for the Tour. That said, Porte was obviously the strongest, and had the strongest team that was entirely committed to his victory. BMC stormed to the TTT win on stage 1. Porte showed he was the strongest on stage 6 when he rode everyone off of his wheel on the summit finish to Gommiswald. It wasn’t a sneak attack — everyone knew he was going to go, and nobody could follow his move. Porte was then strong enough to keep Nairo Quintana on a short leash the next day.

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegsThis was a cagey, conservative way to win a stage race. His BMC Racing team was one of the biggest keys to success, setting him up with a lead after the team time trial. After that, his attack in stage 6 showed a flash of brilliance, but this wasn’t a dominant performance. He did just enough, knowing none of the other GC guys would threaten him in the final time trial.

Which TDF contender underperformed at Suisse. Is it time to hit the panic button?

Dane: While Nairo Quintana established himself as Movistar’s leader for the Tour de Suisse, Mikel Landa was in line for a respectable top 10 behind him until the final time trial. He’s no specialist against the clock, but losing over three and a half minutes is not great. I’m not panicked though — Landa’s weakness in the TTs is a known commodity and this Tour is not heavy on TTs.

Fred: Bauke Mollema … where the heck was that guy? Considering he is the grand tour hope for one of the peloton’s largest and most high-profile teams, it was a bit strange to see him dropped on the mountainous stage 7. I don’t know about panicking at this point, as Mollema is a seasoned veteran. Mollema is going to need to summon his past form — 2013 was a good vintage for him — if he wants to contend for the top-five at the Tour.

Spencer: Mikel Landa definitely wasn’t riding like a Tour contender — he was riding like a superdomestique at best. But who knows, maybe that’s just his lot in life.

How does Porte’s victory influence your opinion of his chances at the TDF?

Dane: For me, it’s mostly a confirmation: Porte deserves his status among the top contenders for yellow — but he won’t be the odds-on favorite for any grand tour crown until he proves he can handle three weeks of racing. The Tour de Suisse proved he’s in great form. Winning a prestigious one-week stage race is nothing new for Richie Porte, however, who has for years been one of cycling’s top stage racers outside of the grand tours.

Fred: He has as good a chance as anyone to beat Chris Froome at the Tour. He can out-climb Quintana, and is a better time trialist. His team can keep him within decent range of Sky in the team time trial. If Porte can simply put it all together, he has a shot. I know, I know, every year we say this about Porte. He’s probably the strongest, and his team is decent. Will that prevent him from having a flat tire or a crash? Nobody can say for sure.

Spencer: It has zero influence whatsoever. Porte has already maxed out his opinion-influencing one-week stage race victories for me. The only way he can prove to me that he’s a legit contender in any grand tour — let alone the Tour — is to get a result at one. His fifth place at the 2016 Tour was impressive, but it was marred by mistakes in the first half of the race. The jury is still out for me.

Which non-TDF contender came out of the Tour de Suisse as a rider to watch for the TDF? Why?

Dane: Sonny Colbrelli has been a well-hyped rider for a few seasons now, but stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse was only his second career WorldTour win. He crossed the line ahead of some big names, including Peter Sagan and Fernando Gaviria. He’ll be one to watch on the lumpier sprint stages of the Tour de France.

Fred: Soren Kragh Andersen won an uphill finish and finished second in the individual time trial. That’s pretty impressive for a guy who was best suited for the heavy cobblestones. Anderson will likely be on team duty for Tom Dumoulin. If he’s given a chance to fly, he could come away with a stage win.

Spencer:  I liked that Arnaud Demare won a sprint finish — ahead of Gaviria and Sagan no less. It would be pretty fun to see a French sprinter in the mix.

An American in France

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