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The spring classics are now in the rearview mirror, and the peloton switches gears into stage-racing mode.
The weeklong Tour de Romandie highlights a busy week that also sees stage races in Spain, with Nairo Quintana headlining the Vuelta a Asturias, and with the women’s peloton at Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs.
75th Tour de Romandie — grand tour stars converge
Switzerland, April 27 to May 2
Broadcast: The race is broadcast in the United States and Canada by GCN+
The Tour de Romandie is the traditional transition race that bridges the race calendar from the spring classics to the grand tours.
And this year’s edition sees an all-star cast, with a mix of Giro-bound hitters and Tour-focused stars all firing at full-cylinders.
Sagan and Kuss headline an all-star cast for the mountainous, six-day stage race across the mountains of Switzerland.
Sagan, who last raced at Tour of Flanders, returns to Romandie for the first time since 2010. Sagan won a stage there in his rookie season, and added the race to his calendar to gain more fitness ahead of a return to the Giro that starts May 8 in Torino.
Sagan continues his return from a bout of COVID-19 this winter, and will be hunting for stages.
Kuss, meanwhile, makes his Romandie debut to headline Jumbo-Visma.
The Colorado climber last raced at the Volta a Catalunya, where he was 12th overall. Romandie will be a chance for Kuss to test his GC leadership skills with co-captain Steve Kruijswijk, as well as put in another hard effort ahead of a return to the Tour later this summer. Two-time defending champion Primož Roglič is skipping Romandie this spring.
Ineos Grenadiers also brings a deep squad, with Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas. The pair were part of the team’s podium sweep at the Volta a Catalunya in March, though Adam Yates will not be racing this week.
“The goal for us here is a stage win and if we can get a good spot in the GC as well, it would be perfect,” said Israel Start-Up sport director Rik Verbruggen. “We have some strong time trialists lining up so we aim for a good result in the prologue already. Woods has shown that he’s in really good shape at the moment and he will be our man for the general classification.”
The race opens with a short, 4km prologue Tuesday in Oron. Stage 2 features a sharp, first-category climb with 18km to go that will provide the first GC selection. Stage four sees the HC summit at Thyon 2000 that favors the pure climbers. The closing stage 15km individual time trial will crown the winner.
The balanced six-day route, featuring two time trials and plenty of climbing, is a good barometer of grand-tour form. Former winners include Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans, who all went on to win the Tour after winning at Romandie.
Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs — stage race back
The Netherlands, April 30 to May 2
Following a busy spring calendar packed with one-day races, the women’s peloton sees only its second European stage race in 2021. Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo), Coryn Rivera (Team DSM), and Leah Thomas (Movistar) lead a solid start-list of 18 teams.
Former winners include Marianne Vos and Kasia Niewiadoma, but neither are starting this year. The race is back after skipping last year’s edition due to COVID-19.
The race opens with a short prologue Friday, followed by two lumpy circuit races over the weekend that should see a tug-of-war between breakaway efforts and the sprinter teams.
Vuelta a Asturias — Nairo Quintana hunting first win
Spain, April 30 to May 2
Colombian superstar Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) headlines the field in the three-day romp across the sharp mountains of Spain’s Asturias region.
Quintana will be looking for his first win in 2021, and will square off against former team Movistar and a mix of second-tier teams. Recent former winners include Richard Carapaz and Hugh Carthy.
The three-day course opens Friday with a lumpy stage around Oviedo, and tackles the Cat. 1 Alto de Acebo in stage 2. The summit finish at Cat. 1 Alto de Naranco on Sunday should decide the winner.