The 9-day long, 75th edition of the Tour de Suisse starts on Saturday, June 11th, and as usual, it promises to be a real shoot out, with many of the sports elite stars making their annual pilgrimage to the land of private banking, precise time pieces and great chocolate as the traditional tune up for the Tour de France in July. And Team RadioShack will be there with an all-star cast.
No surprise, it’s about the strongest roster we’ve seen unleashed this year from the boys in red, white and black. With the exception of a couple of notables, team manager Johan Bruyneel is putting many of The Shack’s golden eggs in this one basket. And, though perhaps being used as a competitive training experience for the summer’s main event, make no mistake, these Shack thoroughbreds don’t like having a poor showing. Heck, they don’t much like the lower two rungs on most podiums, so their opponents had better be ready for some serious testing of their fitness and form starting this next week. That means only one thing for us fans – great cycling every day, from start to finish.
Here’s the announced list of riders and their bib numbers:
31 KLÖDEN, Andreas (GER)
32 LEIPHEIMER, Levi (USA)
33 DEIGNAN, Philip (IRL)
34 HUNTER, Robbie (RSA)
35 McEWEN, Robbie (AUS)
36 MURAVYEV, Dmitriy (KAZ)
37 RAST, Gregory (SUI)
38 OLIVEIRA, Nelson (POR)
R HORNER, Chris (USA)
R KWIAKOWSKI, Michal (POL)
The riders usually take this race rather seriously. Remember Lance Armstrong won this race in 2001 and finished second here just last year in his final tune up for his last try at his eighth TdF victory – that’s how important he felt this race was. We can expect the team has similar intentions. There’ll be little holding back as the riders test their conditioning and build their confidence coming into the greatest show in cycling…THE Grand Tour.
Saturday, Stage 1: The race kicks off with a 7.3-kilometer prologue in Lugano, Switzerland, with a lot of twists and turns and a big thigh burning bump right in the middle. If dry and clear, this one should be very fast, with Leopard-Trek’s Fabian Cancellara not wanting to disappoint fans in his home country.
Sunday, Stage 2: 149 km – From Airolo to the well-known ski resort of Crans-Montana. An off category climb right off the bat and a cat 1 almost at the finish should immediately shake out the overall contenders from those who can scream on flat land.
Monday, Stage 3: 107.6 km – From Brig-Gils to Grindelwald. Another 2-mountain stage with a really tall cat 1 in the middle and an off category at about the 97 km mark, there’s about 11 kilometers of downhill to the finish.
Tuesday, Stage 4: 198.4 km – Grindelwald to Huttwil. A cat 2 and 2 cat 3’s, on paper it looks like a really long day in the saddle.
Wednesday, Stage 5: 204 km – Huttwil to Tobel-Tägerschen. Another long day, in this second longest stage this year there are 4 categorized climbs that will keep the riders pointed up or down throughout the day. Nothing major (3’s and 4’s), but with the distance thrown in, if the sprinters want to contest this, they’ll have to suffer for it.
Thursday, Stage 6: 157.7 km – Tobel-Tägerschen to Triesenberg (FL). This stage finishes in a small village (pop. 2,564) in Liechtenstein, where the elevation is something like 1,800 meters. The profile of the off-category climb to the finish looks horrible climbing up approximately 1,300 meters in the final 13 kilometers. Goin out on a limb here…I think a good climber might take this stage.
Friday, Stage 7: 222.8 km – Vaduz (FL) to Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis (AUT). Starting in Liechtenstein, the race dips south, crosses borders, and then goes east into ski resort territory in Austria. The organizers who put together this year’s longest stage didn’t give the riders cushy flat terrain to navigate. There’s a 2600-meter monster of an off-cat climb in the middle, a cat 2 at the ¾ mark, then a cat one to the finish. Whoever wins this one will surely deserve it!
Saturday, Stage 8: 167.3 km – Tübach to Schaffhausen. After the horror of stage 7, this one looks like a walk in the park. A cat 3 and a cat 4 climb, but other than that, relatively flat to rolling, unless the contenders are still bunched together and racing, look for a break away to be allowed some leeway.
Sunday, Stage 9: 32.1 km – Schaffhausen to Schaffhausen. This rolling course, with a good hill at the ¾ mark should be a good final test and a fun show for fans on the last day of the race. Will be interesting to see if it plays a roll in shaking up the overall general classification, or just a race for a stage win. Either way, with top racers, in top form, there’ll be some excellent performances to watch.
George Hurst, staff writer