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Tour de Romandie Féminin preview: Stars gather for the inaugural edition

Three hilly days in Switzerland will close out the 2022 Women's WorldTour calendar.

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Following a year of firsts for the women’s peloton, the 2022 Women’s WorldTour calendar will close out with another first, the inaugural edition of the Tour de Romandie Féminin.

The three-day race, which takes place from October 7 to 9, will be the last big hurrah of this season for most riders and teams with the Chrono des Nations the only other race remaining on the pro calendar.

It is the first Swiss race to make it onto the Women’s WorldTour calendar with the recently created Tour de Suisse ranked a 2.Pro.

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With plenty of climbing and a tough summit finish of over 2,000 meters, it should close the season with a bang.

The tricky parcours has attracted some biggest names in cycling with Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar), Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM), Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo), Marta Cavalli and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope), and Demi Vollering (SD Worx) all set to ride.

GCN has confirmed that it will be available to watch in all of its territories, though it’s not yet known how much will be shown live.

The route

There is very little flat terrain across the three days of the Tour de Romandie with the parcours very much for the climbers. However, there should be some opportunities for those riders with a fast finish that can cope with a little bit of rolling roads.

Stage 1 takes the riders out and back from Lausanne along the shores of Lake Geneva before heading it into the hills on the outskirts of the city. The only way out of Lausanne — except for along the edge of the lake — is to go up and the first climbs — all of them third category — come early on after just eight kilometers and 16. Three more are littered along the route, as well as two intermediate sprints.

Once the race returns to the shores of Lake Geneva, the road will flatten out for the final 15 kilometers.

Day two is the toughest of the three with a testing summit finish to contend with, though it is also the shortest at 104.5km. Starting in Sion, the riders will head southwest toward the French border before turning back to Thyon 2000. The name is pretty self-explanatory and it will take the peloton over 2,000 meters, a rare occurrence in women’s racing at this time.

Stage 2 of the 2022 Tour de Romandie Féminin
Stage 2 of the 2022 Tour de Romandie Féminin

The first half of the stage is fairly flat with just one-third category ascent early on. Before the riders hit the summit finish, they will tackle the first category climb of Suen. Following a short descent and a quick trip across the valley, the riders will start climbing to the finish line.

Thyon 2000 is a reasonably steady climb with gradients hovering between six and nine percent, with a maximum of up to 12 on a couple of occasions. This will be the defining moment of the race and whoever triumphs here is likely to take the overall title.

Stage 3 takes the rides back toward Lake Geneva, but further along its shores to Geneva itself. Starting in Friborg, it wends its way west for the longest day of the race at 147.6km.

It undulates all the way and takes in two categorized climbs along the way. First up is the second category Villars-Le-Comte, just 30km into the stage, and then there is the third-category Trélex just over 30km from the finish.

Once again, it should be a day for those with a fast finish with a reasonable-sized group likely to make it to the line.

The contenders

Elisa Longo Borghini wins Tre Valli Varesine
Elisa Longo Borghini wins Tre Valli Varesine (Photo: Pedale Rosa – Pool/Getty Images)

Some riders have already signed off on the 2022 season, but the Tour de Romandie parcours has ensured that most of the top riders in the bunch have held on until October before taking their winter break.

Van Vleuten is the name that stands out on the start list after the phenomenal season she’s had in 2022. The Dutchwoman won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Giro d’Italia Donne, the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, and the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. Her most recent feat was to take her second road race world title in Australia while nursing a broken elbow.

She is likely still to be feeling some of the effects of the broken elbow, but as her performance in Australia shows, that doesn’t eliminate her from the contenders.

There is a long list of big challengers ready to take her on, not least the rider that finished second to her at the Tour de France Femmes, Vollering. The SD Worx rider has had a rocky second half of the season with a concussion at the Tour of Scandinavia forcing her to miss a few races.

She bounced back to finish third overall at the Vuelta but had to pull out of the worlds road race after testing positive for COVID-19. This will be her first race back and it remains to be seen how her bout with the virus has impacted her form.

Longo Borghini is one of the few pre-race favorites that has been racing in between the worlds and Romandie. The Italian has collected two victories in the last week at the Giro dell’Emilia and Tre Valli Varesine and comes into Romandie on hot form.

With a very strong Trek team behind her, Longo Borghini could be the big favorite to win the Swiss race.

For FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope, Cavalli continues her comeback trail following her brutal crash at the Tour in July. She appears to be building up form, but the team is likely to look to Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig for the big result this weekend.

Niewiadoma and Pauliena Rooijakkers will make a formidable lineup for Canyon-SRAM with rising star Neve Bradbury.

Other riders to watch out for will be Amanda Spratt (BikeExchange-Jayco), Veronica Ewers (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB), and Juliette Labous (Team DSM).