Attackers may feature as Tour de Romandie opens Tuesday

With a week of intermediate mountain stages, the aggressive riders should be on display in Switzerland

The Tour de Romandie, an important building block ahead of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, opens Tuesday, with all eyes on the weekend’s mountains and time-trial showdowns.

Over six days, early Tour de France favorite Chris Froome and Sky teammate Richie Porte are set to face off with are set to face off with 2012 runner-up Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and his Giro d’Italia champion teammate Ryder Hesjedal, Giro hopeful Robert Gesink (Blanco), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), and Pierre Rolland (Europcar), among others. Despite the all-star roll of starters, it may be the attackers who find the spotlight in Switzerland this week.

With a week of intermediate mountain stages, the attackers should be on display. Riders like Ardennes classics protagonist Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale), Flèche Wallonne winner Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Amstel Gold Race winner Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff), and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) are on the startlist.

Orica-GreenEdge will take a split approach to the race, backing Swiss Michael Albasini for the overall and hunting for stage wins with Matthew Goss. Goss will face off against former world champion Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), and Ben Swift (Sky), but the sprinters may not find a hospitable parcours in Switzerland, with the only likely bunch finish coming in Wednesday’s 190km second stage, from Prilly to Granges.

“We are bringing a split team,” Orica director Matt Wilson said in a press release. “We have several riders here who will be preparing for the Giro. They are our core sprint team. We’re bringing them to Romandie to fine-tune the leadout train and get Gossy a win before the Giro. The other guys will be looking for personal opportunities on the medium mountain stages.”

Cavendish will be hunting his first victory since his March stage win at the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, but more than that, is hunting racing kilometers for the Giro after a post-classics break.

“We have riders for each race situation,” Omega Pharma director Brian Holm said in a press release. “There is a prologue and a final TT for Tony Martin, and then some mixed stages for the other guys — for example, a stage hunter like Gianni Meersman. It’s also a good preparation for the Giro d’Italia. If there is a sprint, we have Cavendish who is tuning up his condition for the Giro. We have a balanced team, so I think we can be and be a protagonist throughout the race. That is our objective, but we will see each day.”

Martin will face world championship runner-up Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) in the race’s book-end time trials.

The Swiss tour’s final podium has produced the last two Tour de France champions, in Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky), and is a potential last-minute shot for riders rising for the Giro. Wiggins’ teammate Froome will hope to see the same boost to his Tour hopes after a long early season that has included overall victories at the Tour of Oman and Critérium International, as well as second overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Coming off a rough ride through Italy’s Giro del Trentino last week, Ivan Basso (Cannondale) will start Romandie with an eye on the Giro, which opens May 4 in Naples.

“The result at Giro of Trentino was expected,” said Basso. “Since January I worked on resistance and less on the quality of the performance. I don’t have many race days in my legs, which is a handicap for following the accelerations of those already in race form. In Romandie I’ll work hard to take another step. Results won’t be so important; I’m confident to take them at the Giro d’Italia.”

After an uphill prologue, the race’s most decisive stages will come in its final two days. Saturday’s 188km fourth stage features four Cat. 1 climbs, including the Col de la Croix, the summit of which lies just 8.5 mostly downhill kilometers from the finish in Les Diablerets.

The 18km final-stage time trial on Sunday is nearly pancake-flat, with two mild rises along the shore of Lake Geneva presenting the only topography on the course.

67th Tour de Romandie

Prologue, Tuesday April 23: Le Châble — Bruson (7.4km)
Stage 1, Wednesday April 24: Saint-Maurice — Renens (176km)
Stage 2, Thursday April 25: Prilly — Granges (190km)
Stage 3, Friday April 26: Payerne — Payerne (181km)
Stage 4, Saturday April 27: Marly — Les Diablerets (188km)
Stage 5, Sunday April 28: Geneva (18.7km)