We pick out the leading contenders for the 2015 Tour de Suisse (June 13-21)
Last year’s winner Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) is absent, electing instead to take part in the Critérium du Dauphiné in France.
There are no clear front runners this year, so we will likely see a new name added to the list of the race’s winners. Here we pick out some of the likely contenders, and rate their chances.
Simon Spilak, KatushaIn the absence of any of the world’s best stage racers, and with none of last year’s top four present, there is no clear favourite for this year’s Tour de Suisse. But Spilak has as good a chance as any – he’s already performed well on Swiss roads this season by finishing second at the Tour de Romandie, and he should have the edge over the other GC rivals in the final time-trial. The only question is whether he can perform in a longer stage race than he’s used to.
Thibaut Pinot, FDJFrenchman Pinot has been up there in many stage races this season, managing fourth at Tirreno-Adriatico, fourth at the Tour de Romandie and second at Criterium International. He looks like the best climber in the race, but will have to ride aggressively in the mountains to gain enough of a buffer going into the final time-trial.
Rafal Majka, Tinkoff-SaxoFree from domestique duties, Majka has one last chance to ride for himself before being conscripted to ride for Alberto Contador at the Tour next month. If he’s nearing top form, he’ll be one of the best riders in the mountains.
Sergio Henao, SkyThe little Colombian has been one of Sky’s best riders this spring, excelling at the Tour of the Basque Country (where he was second overall) and the Tour of California (where he was third). He has a strong team of domestiques behind him including Geraint Thomas and Lars Peter Nordhaug, suggesting Sky will look to dominate the race.
Tom Dumoulin, Giant-AlpecinAn excellent time-trial and some capable climbing was enough to earn Dumoulin fifth overall in last year’s edition, but the ferocity of the Rettenbachferner finish on stage five is this year likely to offset any advantage he gains in the 40kms against the clock. If he is indeed dropped early, leadership duties could pass to teammate Warren Barguil.
Michal Kwiatkowski, Etixx-QuickStepThe world champion has been a lively presence in stage races this season, making a particular impression on his attacking ride at Paris-Nice, where he ultimately finished second overall. The climbing at the Tour de Suisse is likely to prove too much for him, however, but a stage win on one of the gentler days is possible.
Ones to watch
Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo
The difficulty of the climbs means there won’t be a repeat of Sagan’s shock Tour of California overall victory, but there’s plenty of chances for him to win stages in the hilly and flat terrain – stage eight in particular looks perfect for him.
Mark Cavendish, Etixx-QuickStep
On the stages that will come down to a mass sprint, Cavendish will be the man to beat. He’s been on fire all season, winning across the globe from San Luis (Argentina), California to Dubai and Turkey. In total he’s amassed 13 wins, more than all but one rider.
Alexander Kristoff, Katusha
That one rider to have won more this season than the Manx Missile is Kristoff, who has 16 victories to his name including the Tour of Flanders. The two haven’t gone head to head since Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Cav may have won that race, but Kristoff appears to be getting faster and faster in bunch sprints and will pose a threat to his superiority.
Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing
Doubt currently surround Cancellara’s participation in his home race, as his comeback from injuries sustained in a crash this spring was delayed after he pulled out of the GP Kanton Aargau-Gippingen. Even if he does line-up he faces a race against time to get into form for the Tour – his rides in both the time-trial will be closely scrutinised.