Tour de Romandie: race overview

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With the spring classics in the rearview mirror for another year, attention turns to several key stage races over the next few months.

One of the biggest of these is the Tour de Romandie, with the six-day race starting on Tuesday with a 5.1km time trial in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The race features a star-studded line-up with Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) and Magnus Sheffield (Ineos Grenadiers) flying the United States flag.

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There are also several big hitters for the general classification with defending champion Geraint Thomas leading an exciting and young Ineos Grenadiers.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) is hoping to carry his Tour of the Alps form across the border from Italy to Switzerland, while Damiano Caruso, Jack Haig and Sergio Higuita are all set to feature.

The event is now in its 75th edition, and BikeNews will have news, reports and analysis from our on-the-ground team of Philippa York and Daniel Benson. the BikeNews the crew will retrace the race from Lausanne on April 26 to its conclusion on May 1 in Villars.

Tour de Romandie: the race route

The opening prologue will set the tone. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

The prologue is flat but relatively technical, and even if it is barely 5 km short, it could prove important in the race for the final general classification. If it rains, the time gaps could easily widen if some of the stage chasers are willing to take risks, but the main overall contenders are expected to finish within seconds of each other.

Stage 1 from La Grande Beroche to Romfort takes the peloton for the first uphill finish of the race. The 178km stage is uphill and downhill all day and includes three graded climbs before the final slog to the Romfort line. The time gaps here will be significant and a global leadership shift may well be on the cards.

The next stage sees the start and finish of the race in Échallens. The 168.2 km stage barely takes up a single meter of flat road but should be reduced to a bunch sprint. Stage 3 follows a similar pattern with a start and finish located in Valbroye and a 165 km race. There are five third category climbs on the menu but the race should come down to another reduced bunch sprint or a breakaway if significant gaps are created in the first three full road stages.

Stage 4 starts in Aigle, home of the UCI headquarters, and ends in Zinal. This is the “queen stage” of the race with a real summit finish after a long day of climbing. The peloton tackles three category one climbs to Nax, Le Pontis and Saint-Luc in the first 103 kilometers of the 180km stage before a short descent to a category two climb. A long descent ensues before Le Pontis is climbed a second time. There is no respite though with another class one climb at Grimentz next before the final push to the summit at Zinal. If the weather is bad, it could be the toughest day of the season so far for a number of riders.

The final stage of the race kicks off in Aigle for the second consecutive day with the riders embarking on a 15.8km uphill time trial to Villars to decide the final general classification.

Tour de Romandie: the contenders

Thomas is back to defend his title. (Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images)

Ineos Grenadiers are predictably leading a strong squad into the race, with Geraint Thomas looking to defend his 2021 title and send a message to the team’s management regarding his possible Tour de France credentials. So far this year, Thomas has raced as a superman, but he leads a young lineup that includes Ethan Hayter, Luke Plapp and American ace Magnus Sheffield.

Ag2r-Citroën arrives with Ben O’Connor in the lead. The Australian has finished in the top 10 in all three stage races he has entered this season and recently won the Tour du Jura in fine fashion. The 26-year-old finished sixth in the Tour de Romandie last year and will look to use the Swiss race to prepare for the Tour de France.

Veteran Damiano Caruso leads the charge for Bahrain-Victorious and won the Tour of Sicily a few weeks ago. He will miss the Giro d’Italia in May in order to concentrate on the Tour, and like O’Connor, will use Romandie as an important springboard towards July. Jack Haig also plays for Bahrain-Victorious and the Australian appears to be back on track after a blip in Catalunya.

Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) enters the race with a slight question mark over his form. The Colombian won the Volta a Catalunya in March but failed to finish the Tour of the Basque Country and the GP Miguel Indurain. It is making its debut in Romandie and will be looking to light up the race whenever the incline starts to climb. Bora heads into the race with another overall card, with Max Schachmann returning to the race after dropping out of Paris-Nice due to illness. Little is expected of the German after such a long absence, but if he is fit and healthy, Schachmann is fully capable of creating an upset.

EF Education-EasyPost arrive with Neilson Powless and Rigoberto Urán but their condition is unclear at this stage after an accident in Liège-Bastogne-Liège which brought down almost the entire team. Powless hasn’t completed a stage race since the UAE Tour but the course is well suited to the American as he too is preparing for the Tour de France in July.

French rider Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is a huge overall contender. The all-rounder picked up an emotionally significant victory on the final stage of the Tour des Alpes, ending a drought of victories dating back to 2019 when he won the Tourmalet at the Tour. A comeback victory in Italy could be a catalyst for the Groupama rider as he tackles the most important part of his season. Michael Storer is also part of the team and could be one to watch both in the top ten and in the breaks.

As Primož Roglič recovers from injury, Jumbo-Visma will rely on Sepp Kuss to maintain a GC challenge. The American is yet to hit his stride this season but Romandie offers a rare chance for the 27-year-old to race for his own chances. Robert Gesink and Rohan Dennis should provide ample coverage.

Bradon McNulty, despite his crash in Liège, should still lead UAE Team Emirates but another rider to watch will be Juan Ayuso. The 19-year-old has taken the lead in the men’s WorldTour with a fifth-place finish in Catalonia and a string of impressive results elsewhere since breaking into the sport’s top tier last summer.

Chris Froome, Michael Woods and Jakob Fuglsang lead Israel-Premier Tech, with the Canadian most likely to impact the GC. Patrick Bevin could also make an impression after his stage victory and his overall victory in the Tour of Turkey.