Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tour de Suisse: Stage 7 Preview & Favorites

The GC contenders had an easy day on Stage 6 when the peloton decided to let Kolobnev, Grabsch, Hayman and Rast stay away. What could have been a hectic final turned out to be quiet day at the office but now it’s time to fight for the overall classification.

Stage 7 is 208 km long and includes four categorized climbs. The first 120 are rather flat with just a one category 3 climb to overcome but after 130 km the road really starts to kick up. The 6.2 km towards the top of this category 1 climb have an average gradient of 7 % and we can expect BMC and Saxo-Tinkoff to set a high pace. Mathias Frank looks very strong uphill and so does Roman Kreuziger. Personally, I see Kreuziger as the strongest rider in the race right now. Still it’s worth mentioning that Kreuziger is suffering a bit from his crash on stage 3. He hit his shoulder and knee and especially the shoulder has been bothering a bit. If he’s not feeling good, the other teams may try to distance him already on this climb.

The next climb starts after 155 km. This category 4 climb isn’t very steep and it shouldn’t really bring any of the GC riders in difficulty. However, it is important for the favorites to stay near the front since the final climb of the day starts right after the descent. The first part of the climb has an average gradient of just 4 % but it’s gets steeper after the second intermediate sprint. The final 14.3 km towards the top have an average gradient of 6.6 %. The first 3.5 km are the steepest with an average of 10% and if Tejay van Garderen has a good day, he could really rip the race apart here for Mathias Frank.

There are 9.3 km to go from the top of the last climb but the descent isn't very technical. Only the last part with seven hairpin corners from 3 km to 2 km to go. The final 700 meters are flat but two 90° turns will make the run in very difficult. If a small group arrives together, it’s important to be first or second coming out of the last corner with just 300 meters to go.

Peter Sagan was outstanding on the last mountain stage but I doubt he will repeat that effort. The 3.5 km of 10 % on the final climb will most likely split up the peloton significantly and I wouldn’t be surprised if only 10 riders were left after this steep part. I think Tejay Van Garderen will be leading the group at this point and it will be very difficult to break away. 

One of the few riders who can do it is Michele Scarponi. The Italian veteran crashed out of the general classification on Stage 3 and he is now eager to take a win and forget about all his bad luck. There aren’t any bonus seconds on the line in this year’s Tour de Suisse so the other GC contenders won’t have to worry if Scarponi manages to get away on the final climb. Lampre also have Diego Ulissi who - despite a crash on Stage 6 - is in good shape right now. I think they will try something with him and Scarponi on this stage.

I also expect Andy Schleck to make a move. He’s slowly getting into shape and his confidence is coming back too. During Stage 5, he even thought about doing the final uphill sprint for a moment. He attacked from afar in Criterium International and in Tour of California and I wouldn’t be surprised if he tries to get away already on the category 1 climb starting with 75 km to go. It’s hard to say if Andy Schleck is strong enough to enough to keep a gap on the final climb but since he’s not threat overall, the GC contenders don’t have to chase him down.

As stated, I think this stage is too hard for Peter Sagan to stay in front. Still, if he’s not more than 30-45 seconds after the favorites on the top of the last climb, he could very well catch up on the descent. It all depends on the race situation. If a breakaway seems sure to the take win, Sagan don’t need to waste energy staying up front. However if he’s in play for the stage win, he will probably do whatever he can to win again. Sagan could also be a breakaway candidate…

Bauke Mollema turned out to be the strongest riders uphill on the first mountain stage. It will be interesting to see if he attacks again on this stage in order to gain a little time before the last ITT. On paper, Rui Costa is the best time trialist of the first five in the GC but don’t underestimate Mollema against the clock. Right now Mollema is 1:08 min after Mathias Frank and I think he needs to cut that in half if he wants to win overall. If Mollema is within 40 seconds of the yellow jersey (and that not being Rui Costa) before the final time trial, I think he can go for the win. That means he needs to attack and hopefully we will get another interesting stage finish Friday afternoon.

Before I end this preview, I would like to point out Marcel Wyss. IAM Cycling had to say goodbye to Heinrich Haussler after he crashed on Stage 6 and they are soon running out of stages to win in their home race. Marcel Wyss is 36th overall, almost nine minutes after Mathias Frank. The other day he attacked to take a few KOM points “just in case”, as he said. This stage is very important for the KOM jersey and I expect Wyss to take part in the morning breakaway. It won’t be easy to keep the peloton at bay all day long but the lack of bonus seconds means the favorites don’t need to go for the stage win.

Favorites: Michele Scarponi & Bauke Mollema
Jokers: Andy Schleck & Marcel Wyss 

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Tour de Suisse had a similar stage finish three years ago. Back then Robert Gesink won. In case you forgot, here is the video of stage:


  1. Why are you still going on about Sagan?? Just stop. Its obvious you love him but please trying to push that on to us.

  2. This is a preview of what is most likely going to happen. Sagan won the last mountain stage and he is in great shape. Obviously I have to mention him. As I also write, I doubt he can repeat that performance. Still, it would be a mistake not mentioning him since he won the last one.

  3. Rui Costa is bound to win today.