Tour de Romandie will show who’s ready for the grand tours

Tim Renowden Columnist

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    Cadel Evans will be hoping to add a pink jersey to his yellow one. (Courtesy BMC - Tim de Waele)

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    With the Spring Classics season drawing to a close, the World Tour now turns to the hills and valleys of Switzerland for the Tour of Romandie. Cadel Evans will have his work cut out to defend the title he won in 2011, with the winners of the last five editions of the race all present.

    The Tour de Romandie provides an important tune up for the Grand Tour specialists, with the Giro d’Italia starting in just a couple of weeks’ time. Some will have their eyes further afield on the Critérium du Dauphiné and, ultimately, the Tour de France.

    Australian riders have won the Tour of Romandie three times: Cadel Evans in 2011 and 2006, and The Roar’s own Phil Anderson in 1989.

    The official site of the race rather poetically claims that the Tour de Romandie will “offer a nice plot of expression for all categories of riders”. Judging from the route map, the parcours should indeed have a little bit of something for everyone, not least fans of the Swiss scenery.

    There will be plenty of intriguing sub-plots afoot as we try to glean more information about who is building good stage race form, and who has his work cut out.

    The race begins on Tuesday with a very fast 3.34km downhill prologue time trial in Lausanne, and concludes with a tougher uphill 16.5km time trial on Sunday. In between are four stages of rolling hills, albeit nothing of the difficulty found in the bigger tours.

    Stage One will most likely suit the sprinters, with only a couple of Category 2 climbs threatening to break up the peloton, including the Haut de la Cote with 25km remaining. We will almost certainly see some attacks, but the long flattish run in to the finish should give the sprinters’ teams time to bring everything back together.

    Stage Two has a similar profile, rolling through two Cat. 2 and one Cat. 3 climb, with a gently climbing final 15km.

    Stage Three, with its finish at the top of a climb into Charmey, is likely to provide the first real opportunity for the GC contenders to attack each other, but with one eye on conserving strength for Saturday’s Stage Four from Bulle to Sion.

    This stage features three Cat. 1 climbs, the first summit coming just 36km into the stage, and the last at 24km from the finish. The longish descent and flat final kilometres will make it difficult to pinch much time, but the three big climbs will flatten the legs of anyone struggling for form.

    The final, uphill, time trial is likely to sort out the podium.

    The depth of top riders here is considerable: former winners include Evans, Simon Spilak (2010, following Valverde’s suspension), Roman Kreuziger (2009), and Andreas Klöden (2008). Other major overall threats will come from Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Denis Menchov (Katusha), Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), and Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar).

    Cadel Evans’ form is something of a mystery. His win in the Critérium International showed his progress, but his more recent withdrawal from the Ardennes classics with an infection may have set him back a few weeks.

    Wiggins was in excellent early-season form, but has not raced much over the past month, so his battle with Evans here will be watched closely.

    Kreuziger (Astana) has yet to score a major win this season, with only a third overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, but he has largely left the classics to his (very successful) team-mates Gasparotto and Iglinskiy. His form should be building towards the Grand Tours, but he may be battling his team-mate Janez Brajkovic for leadership, a tension which will need to be well managed by the team.

    Team Sky comes to Romandie stacked with high quality time triallists. Apart from Wiggins, Sky has Richie Porte, Michael Rogers, and Geraint Thomas provisionally listed to start, along with a certain Mark Cavendish, whose early-season condition was the subject of considerable scrutiny in British cycling circles.

    One real smokey is Europcar’s Pierre Rolland, who was best young rider at the 2011 Tour de France, won the stage up Alpe d’Huez, and rode brilliantly at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He is an exciting rider to watch, and potentially the next big star of French cycling.

    GreenEDGE has selected a team with a mix of sprinters (Allan Davis and Daryl Impey) and a cluster of developing stars. Look out for former trackies Luke Durbridge, Travis Meyer and Leigh Howard in the prologue, particularly. This is an important race for GreenEDGE’s development, as several of the younger riders haven’t experienced much professional stage racing.

    However, the attention of the cycling world will be on the grand tour contenders. It’s not long until the really big races start, after all.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • April 24th 2012 @ 5:52am
      Jon said | April 24th 2012 @ 5:52am | ! Report

      Very nice lead up to the Tour of Romandie. How important do you think it is for Cadel to finish strong in order to be on track for the TdF?

      • Columnist

        April 24th 2012 @ 7:43am
        Tim Renowden said | April 24th 2012 @ 7:43am | ! Report


        With two months still to go before the Tour, I think a good Romandie is an important but not critical component of Evans’ lead-up. The Dauphine will be a much better guide. That said, Evans won Romandie in 2011, so it will be a good way of comparing where his form his relative to his excellent year last year.

        • April 24th 2012 @ 9:39am
          liquorbox_ said | April 24th 2012 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          if he fails though it might make him question his ability to replicate last year. There is still plenty of time to get into top shape for the TDF no matter the result.

          Sky will be trying to ensure that Wiggins destroys Cadel to prove a point and to get at him mentally. I think Wiggins will win, he was exceptional in an uphill time trial earlier this season to win a race

        • April 24th 2012 @ 11:13pm
          Carn Soaks said | April 24th 2012 @ 11:13pm | ! Report

          Evans will have a preparation regimen and that will be dictated by results, both on and off the road. Nutshell’ly his Romandie result will confirm his recorded & quantified “condition” and provide a comparison against his competitors and those aims the BMC & Cadel will have set for the week. Dependent upon the “results” Deli Van & “Bobby Marley & the Cyclists” will firstly focus particular training to contend with perceived weaknesses and secondly adjust the plan to position his fitness & form where it needs to be come the first ITT at LTDF.

          Typically an illness will have a huge impact on a riders immediate results but less of an impact on long term fitness. Once a viral or bacterial illness runs its course and the symptoms and effects dissipate, the rider will return to a form comparable to where they should have been (of course long term impacts on training etc can make a lair of me).

          Personally I believe Cadel is aiming for a top three ride without winning and focusing more on developing the team cohesiveness required for a team intent on winning a Yellow Jersey

          Regards Carn

    • April 24th 2012 @ 9:55am
      MattyB said | April 24th 2012 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Good preview. No kiss of death though…

    • April 24th 2012 @ 10:37am
      Justin Curran said | April 24th 2012 @ 10:37am | ! Report

      Cadel versus Wiggins will be interesting to watch, but Cadel could be excused if he is not in top form given his recent sinus infection. I wonder if Wiggins can carry that early season form all the way through to the tour?

      • April 24th 2012 @ 11:35am
        liquorbox_ said | April 24th 2012 @ 11:35am | ! Report

        no and yes

        Cadel should not ride if not fully fit, and Wiggins will win the TDF this year

    • Columnist

      April 26th 2012 @ 11:59am
      Tim Renowden said | April 26th 2012 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      Looks like Wiggins has answered the questions about his form – super ride overnight!

    • April 27th 2012 @ 4:12pm
      Chris McKay said | April 27th 2012 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

      How Sky actually handle the TDF will be very interesting given Cavendish will want the Green Jersey and Wiggins will be looking for the Yellow. The last time this was done was back in 1997 by Telekom.

      The reality is that you have 9 guys in a team to help get you the Jersey you want. Cadel will have 8 guys working for him. Their sole focus will be on Yellow.

      Cavendish will have all of his efforts focused on getting stage wins and taking Green so immediately Wiggins team is down a man to a certain extent. The race for Green and Yellow are very different. Cav will not be sent up the road to chase a break. He will also not spend time on the front pulling for Wiggins.

      On the flip side Wiggins and [Sky climber] Chris Froome can’t be riding in the sprint lead-out or chase down groups, so your nine man team is now seven for Green.

      Cavendish is an amazing sprinter but he has been supported by having an epic lead out team with the likes of Renshaw and Goss there to ‘drop him off’. I am unsure how he will go without that lead out train. I don’t think he can do what Robbie McEwen was able to do and that was gap wheels and use other teams and pop up like a jack in the box.

      Time will tell and there is plenty to go before the TDF starts.

      • April 28th 2012 @ 11:51pm
        Greg said | April 28th 2012 @ 11:51pm | ! Report

        Good point Chris, though BMC’s Philippe Gilbert & Thor Hushovd will certainly want to win stages and will probably not be helping Cadel all that much.

    • Columnist

      April 30th 2012 @ 9:43pm
      Tim Renowden said | April 30th 2012 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

      I agree, Chris. Managing that split leadership will be a real challenge for Sky, especially if they end up with the yellow jersey early in the race.

      I’ve just submitted a column on Wiggins as favourite for the TDF – should be published tomorrow morning – raising this issue, and I’d like to continue the discussion when it pops up.

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