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Your new favorite race: Tour de Suisse

Tour de Suisse used to be a key Tour de France prep race. So what can we expect this year? Dumoulin might keep on winning.

Welcome to the VeloNews 2017 WorldTour fan guide. Great news: There are tons of cycling races all season! Less-great news: Like trying to pick an ice cream flavor at Ben & Jerry’s, tons of choices can be overwhelming. So, we’ll try to help out by giving you quick, fun overviews of major races. Stay tuned for more previews.

Need to pick Your New Favorite Team? Here are 11 teams you should follow in the 2017 season >>

Your new favorite race: Tour de Suisse, June 10-18.

Why should you care about this race? Allow me to answer this question in a roundabout way. You shouldn’t care about Tour de Suisse as a showcase of top Tour de France GC riders. It also doesn’t deliver as a place for the best pure sprinters to test their legs. Starting on the heels of the Dauphiné, Suisse was once a popular Tour prep race. Nowadays, it’s more like a bonus-round for opportunists and B-grade GC riders. (One notable exception: Giro champ Tom Dumoulin is starting this year.) You should care about Suisse if you like unpredictable (often rainy and cold) racing. If you want to scout some undervalued stars of the peloton, it’s a good place to start as well.

Most dramatic edition in recent memory? Remember Lance Armstrong’s “suspicious” lab tests in 2001? Yeah, that is some drama! In all seriousness, the last three Suisse tours have had close GC results at the end of nine days. In 2015, it was decided by a final time trial, which isn’t exactly the most dramatic way to end a race. So, I’ve got to hand it to 2014, when Rui Costa won with an attack on the final mountaintop finish. Tony Martin had held the overall lead since the stage 1 time trial. (Sidebar: Tour de Suisse really likes time trials. Maybe this is going to change with Fabian Cancellara retired?) Then Costa, wearing the world champion’s jersey, blasted up the hors categorie climb to Saas-Fee. He won the day, and he won his third consecutive title in the race.

Your race’s defining feature: Tour de Suisse often is plagued by cold, rainy conditions. Even though we are in mid-June by the end of the tough week of racing, Swiss weather can still turn nasty. Apart from that, the race serves up ample climbing. Although those big summits are usually less familiar than the marquee mountains of the Alps or Pyrenees.

But the thing is … As I hinted at earlier, this race doesn’t attract top GC hitters these days. The last man to ride a Tour de Suisse victory to a Tour podium was Alexander Vinokourov back in 2003. Ah, the good ol’ days.

Ladies first? Nope. The Women’s WorldTour will be gearing up for the Giro Rosa at the end of June.

Who are you betting your beer money on this year? As crazy as it sounds, Tom Dumoulin could win this. By all accounts, the Netherlands’s first Giro champion should just be sipping Heineken on a beach in Knokke-Heist. Instead, he’s lining up for a race that suits him. It starts with a prologue and ends with a 28.6km time trial. The climbing is hard, but Swiss roads are often more engineered, gradual enough to favor his steading pacing tactics.

Need a side bet? It would be wise to pick Peter Sagan or Greg Van Avermaet to win at least one stage.