Friday, June 7, 2013

Tour de Suisse 2013 - Preview & Favorites

Tour de Suisse 2013 / 8-16 June.
While Critérium du Dauphiné still is in its final face in France, the second Tour de France warm-up race, Tour de Suisse, is just about to start. 

The big favorites for the Tour are riding in Dauphine this year but that doesn’t mean we won’t get a great race to see in Switzerland. With three mountain stages, two individual time trials and four undulating sprint stages; every day will be important for the overall classification.

Unfortunately, there are already bad news. Stage 2 has been modified because of bad weather in the mountains and even though the final climb still stands, the hard start of the stage has been changed.
Looking at the start list I see at least five riders with a chance of winning Tour de Suisse overall. Tejay van Garderen, Rui Costa, Bauke Mollema, Ryder Hesjedal and Thibaut Pinot are all suited for the nine stages in this year’s edition. Especially TJ and Rui Costa will have an advantage with the two time trials.

Rui Costa won the race overall last year after winning the first stage uphill to Verbier. The strong Portuguese rider was under attack from every side in the final stages but thanks to teammate Alejandro Valverde, he managed to pull off the biggest win of his career. This year Rui Costa is back to defend his title and prove last year wasn’t one-time-thing. He won’t have Valverde to help him but riders like Amador, Karpets and Visconti (winner of two stages in the Giro d’Italia) should be enough. Rui Costa finished 3rd overall in Tour de Romandie and I think he will make podium again in Switzerland this time. He’s strong uphill and downhill and will beat most of the other GC contenders in the final time trial.

The biggest threat to Rui Costa is Tejay van Garderen. The young American just won Tour of California last month and is obviously in great shape. Cadel Evans wants to lead BMC in the Tour this year but after a tough Giro d’Italia, I have my doubts if he will be strong enough. TJ turned out to be the strongest of the two riders last year and if he puts in another strong performance here, the BMC team will have to think hard about their pick for designated Tour captain. TJ isn’t the best climber in the race but he is strong enough to resist and stay close to the leader before the final time trial. It’s not a flat time trial this year though. The last 10 km are uphill with an average gradient of 9% but I don’t think any of the other GC contenders can beat TJ against the clock. There are no bonus seconds in this year’s Tour de Suisse and that means that if TJ can stay close to the favorites in the mountains, he can take back the lost time in the final time trial.

Team Blanco have already landed a new sponsor for the next two and half years (Belkin, starting from the Tour) so the pressure to perform is not as big as earlier. Still, they send a very strong team to Switzerland this year. The team have always done well here and with riders like Mollema, Sanchez, Nordhaug, Kruijswijk & Kelderman, I’m sure they will do something great. Mollema is the man for the general classification and being strong uphill, fast on the line and solid against the clock, I think he will be among the best uphill. Mollema is coming straight from a training camp in Sierra Nevada and even though that some times can result in mixed performances, I think he will be up there.

It’s difficult to rate Ryder Hesjedal. He came to the Giro in the something near the shape of his life but got sick. His legs were great in the beginning of the race but it’s never easy to say how they will respond after three weeks out of competition. Naturally, he is one of the big favorites if he’s ready again but with a mountain stage already on the second day, he can’t afford to start out too far of the pace.

I personally look forward to seeing what Thibaut Pinot has to offer in this race. The French climber showed a bit of his huge potential in last year’s Tour de France and this year he’s back to show more. Pinot is excellent on the hills and despite a somehow disappointing first half of the season, I think he will be gunning for the overall podium in Tour de Suisse. Pinot had high hopes for Tour de Romandie this year but only ended 12th overall after the race organizers had to modify the big mountain stage. The Frenchman is still without a win this year and I think he will be eager to end that streak on the uphill finish on Stage 2. It’s a hard race and that suits Pinot just fine. His chances are never improved by two time trials but with the final one ending uphill, I think he will have good chances of making podium.

There are a long list of strong riders taking part in this year’s Tour de Suisse and as always in these Tour de France warm-up races we should see a couple of surprises. I think the final Top10 will be something like this:

1. Tejay van Garderen
2. Rui Costa
3. Bauke Mollema
4. Thibaut Pinot
5. Ryder Hesjedal
6. Peter Velits
7. Damiano Caruso
8. Janez Brajkovic
9. Simon Spilak
10. Diego Ulissi

Knocking on the door to Top10 I see riders like Kangert, Scarponi, Kreuziger, Dan Martin, Peraud, Dombrowski, Antón, De Greef, Monfort, Klöden & Roche. Also, notice that Andy Schleck is on the start list. He has already said he’s not going to win the Tour de France this year but he normally has a good day or two in Tour de Suisse. He may not be able to follow the best on the hills but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him attack from a far a couple of times.

As always, I have a joker for you. This time it’s Andrey Amador. He broke his collarbone - yes, again, third year in a row - when he crashed in Liege-Bastogne-Liege but he’s now ready to take on the second part of the season. It’s difficult to say how he will do without racing for almost two months but I have a feeling he will be up for it. The Costa Rican showed his great climbing legs in last year’s Giro d’Itlaia and did very well in Tirreno-Adriatico this year. He finished 8th overall in the Italian stage race thanks to a surprisingly good time trial on the final day. Amador will start out this race as helper for Rui Costa but if he’s feeling good, I don’t see why Movistar shouldn’t end up with two riders in Top10 overall. Andrey Amador is also set to ride the Tour in support of Alejandro Valverde and he needs to show the team that he is up for the task.

Another good joker is Cameron Meyer. He's been doing better and better overall in the stage races the last years and the two time trials definitely favors the Australian. GreenEdge don't really have a team to support him in the mountains and that can be a problem. Still, I think he will be able to put in a great performance and end near Top10.

Contrary to Dauphiné, the stages in Tour de Suisse start rather late every day. That means the first rider won’t cross the finishing line until 18:30-19:00 CET. The two time trials end earlier though. Stage 1 around 16:45 and Stage 9 around 17:45.

For live coverage during the race check out


  1. Thanks as always for your previews.
    Sidenote: Blanco still need a co sponsor because Belkin doesnt't bring the same amount as Rabo did before. Curious to see what the Giro suprises Caruso and Kangert will do here.

  2. top five:

    1. Tejay van Garderen
    2. Rui Costa
    3. Simon Spilak
    4. Ryder Hesjedal
    5. Janez Brajkovic