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Tour de Romandie: Race preview

Swiss stage race sees Geraint Thomas, Thibaut Pinot and a stack of U.S. talent take on a tough six days of mountains and time trials.

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With the spring classics in the rearview mirror for another year, the attention turns toward several key stage races over the course of the next few months.

One of the most important of those is the Tour de Romandie, with the six-day race starting Tuesday with a 5.1km time trial in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The race features a star-studded lineup with Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost), and Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) flying the flag for the U.S.

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There are several heavy hitters for the overall standings too with defending champion Geraint Thomas leading an exciting and youthful-looking Ineos Grenadiers.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) will be hoping to carry his form from the Tour of the Alps across the border from Italy to Switzerland, while Damiano Caruso, Jack Haig, and Sergio Higuita are all set to feature.

The event is now in its 75th edition, and VeloNews will have news, reports, and analysis from our on-the-ground team consisting of Philippa York and Daniel Benson. The VeloNews crew will trace the race from Lausanne on April 26 to its conclusion on May 1 in Villars.

Tour de Romandie race route

Sepp Kuss Tour de Romandie
The opening prologue will set the tone. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

The prologue is flat but relatively technical, and while it’s short at just a shade over 5km it could prove important in the race for the final overall. If it’s raining then time gaps could easily expand if some of the stage hunters are willing to take risks but the key overall contenders should finish within a few seconds of each other.

Stage 1 from La Grande Beroche to Romfort takes the peloton for the first uphill finish of the race. The 178km stage is up and down all day and takes in three categorized climbs before the final slog to the line Romfort. The time gaps here will be significant, and a change in overall leadership could well be on the cards.

The following stage sees the race start and finish in Échallens. The 168.2km stage holds hardly a single meter of flat road but should come down to a bunch sprint. Stage 3 follows a similar pattern with the start and finish located in Valbroye and the race taking on 165km. There are five third-category climbs on the menu but the race should come down to another reduced bunch sprint or a breakaway if major gaps open up during the first three full road stages.

Stage 4 starts in Aigle, the home of the UCI’s headquarters, and ends in Zinal. This is the “queen stage” of the race with a proper summit finish coming after a huge day of climbing. The peloton takes on three first-category climbs to Nax, Le Pontis, and Saint-Luc in the first 103km of the 180km stage before a short descent towards a second-category climb. A long descent follows before Le Pontis is climbed for a second time. There’s no respite though with another first category climb to Grimentz next before the final push towards the summit at Zinal. If the weather is poor this could be the most difficult day of the season so far for a number of riders.

The final stage of the race kicks off in Aigle for the second consecutive day with riders embarking on a 15.8km uphill time trial to Villars to decide the final overall standings.

Tour de Romandie contenders

Thomas is back to defend his title. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers predictably takes a strong team to the race with Geraint Thomas looking to defend his 2021 title and send a message to the team’s management when it comes to his possible credentials at the Tour de France. So far this year Thomas has raced as a superdomestique but he leads a young lineup that includes Ethan Hayter, Luke Plapp, and American ace Magnus Sheffield.

Ag2r-Citroën arrives with Ben O’Connor to lead the line. The Australian has cracked the top-10 in all three of the stage races he’s competed in this season and recently won the Tour du Jura in fine fashion. The 26-year-old finished sixth in the Tour de Romandie last year and will be looking to use the Swiss race to build towards the Tour de France.

Veteran Damiano Caruso leads the charge for Bahrain-Victorious and won the Tour of Sicily a few weeks ago. He will miss the Giro d’Italia in May in order to concentrate on the Tour, and like O’Connor, will use Romandie as an important stepping-stone towards July. Jack Haig also features for Bahrain-Victorious and the Australian looks to be back on track after a blip in Catalunya.

Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) comes into the race with a slight question mark over his form. The Colombian won the Volta a Catalunya in March but failed to finish the Tour of the Basque Country or the GP Miguel Indurain. He makes his Romandie debut and will look to light the race whenever the gradient begins to rise. Bora-Hansgrohe heads to the race with another card for the overall, with Max Schachmann returning to racing after abandoning Paris-Nice due to illness. Little is expected of the German after such a long absence but if fit and healthy, Schachmann is well capable of springing a surprise.

EF Education-EasyPost arrives with both Neilson Powless and Rigoberto Urán, but their condition is unclear at this point after a crash in Liège-Bastogne-Liège that took down nearly the entire squad. Powless has not finished a stage race since the UAE Tour but the course is well suited to the American as he too builds towards the Tour de France in July.

French rider Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is a huge contender for the overall. The all-rounder took an emotionally significant win on the final stage of the Tour of the Alps, ending a drought in victories going back to 2019 when he won on the Tourmalet at the Tour. A morale-boosting win in Italy could provide a catalyst for the Groupama rider as he enters the most important section of his season. Michael Storer is also in the team and could be one to watch in both the top-ten and the breaks.

With Primož Roglič recovering from injury, Jumbo-Visma will rely on Sepp Kuss to maintain a GC challenge. The American has yet to hit his stride this season but Romandie serves up a rare chance for the 27-year-old to race for himself. Robert Gesink and Rohan Dennis should provide ample cover.

Bradon McNulty, despite his crash in Liège, is still expected to lead UAE Team Emirates but another rider to watch will be Juan Ayuso. The 19-year-old has hit the ground running in the men’s WorldTour with fifth in Catalunya and a string of impressive results elsewhere since moving into the top tier of the sport last summer.

Chris Froome, Michael Woods, and Jakob Fuglsang lead Israel-Premier Tech with the Canadian the most likely to make an impact on the GC. Patrick Bevin might make an impression too after his stage win and overall victory in the Tour of Turkey.