A host of Grand Tour contenders line up for the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland on Tuesday, April 28, for six days of racing that serve as the first serious form-testing event for the Tour de France in July.
British rider Chris Froome (Sky) goes into the race as defending champion, having won it for two consecutive years. He will meet Tour de France hopefuls Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), among others.
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We rate how the pre-race contenders may fare.
Chris Froome, SkyAs winner of both the 2013 and 2014 editions, Froome goes into the race as favourite in spite of his lack of results in recent months. The Briton has a knack for reaching top racing form very quickly, so we may well see the kind of performances he put in at the Ruta del Sol earlier in the season. Even if he doesn’t reach top form, the final day time-trial still helps swings the race in his favour
Nairo Quintana, MovistarThe Colombian was in imperious form winning the Tirreno-Adriatico in March, and will be hoping to reinforce his status as a Tour de France favourite. This will be the first time Quintana has competed against Froome in a stage race this season, and the two could be in for a close contest – but Quintana will rue the time-trial orientated course.
Rui Costa, Lampre-MeridaNo list of favourites for a big race in Switzerland would be complete without Rui Costa,who tends to produce his best rides in this country; he’s now won three consecutive editions of the Tour de Suisse, and finished third in the past three Tour de Romandies. On the back of his best Ardennes Classics campaign to date, he could even better these performances.
A full look ahead to the 2015 Tour de Romandie (April 28-May 3): stages, teams, past winners and more
Vincenzo Nibali, AstanaLiege-Bastogne-Liege might have been Nibali’s highest finish this season, but the fact that his rank there was only 13th demonstrates just how slow a start to the season the Italian has had. Like last year he’s building his form gradually in order to arrive at the Tour de France in perfect shape – as such, in Romandie he’ll probably be around the level he was this time last year, when he finished fifth overall.
Simon Spilak, KatushaFor whatever reason, despite never featuring in any grand tour overall classification battles, Spilak has for the past two seasons competed with the very best in the peloton at the Tour de Romandie. On each occasion he finished second to Froome, only missing out by 28 seconds last year, and as such can’t be written off from beating his more glamorous rivals.
Rigoberto Uran, Etixx-QuickStepAs one of the few favourites aiming for the Giro d’Italia rather than the Tour, it is more imperative for Uran that he is already on good form. Third at Tirreno-Adriatico and fifth at the Volta a Catalunya suggests he does, and he’ll be expected to make the top five once again. Victory may be beyond the Colombian though, considering he has yet to win a stage race in his career.
Jean Christophe Peraud, Ag2rThe revelation of last year’s Tour de France can no longer enter races with as low a profile as he once did, but victory overall at the Criterium International earlier this season suggests that his ability to post big results remains unaffected. That said, his form hasn’t been great since that win, with 16th overall at the Tour of the Basque Country and 45th at Giro del Trentino. Teammate Romain Bardet could therefore by the one to watch from Ag2r.
Ones to watch
Bryan Coquard, Europcar
Following near misses at Paris-Nice and Volta a Catalunya, Coquard has a great chance to win his first WorldTour race of the season in the mid-stages of the Tour de Romandie. With the biggest name sprinters absent, his main rivals look likely to be Sky’s Elia Viviani, Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing).
Julian Alaphilippe, Etixx-QuickStep
Following his breakout rides in the Ardennes Classics (second at both Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege), all eyes will be on the 22-year old Frenchman to see if he can repeat such outstanding performances. Stages two, three and four could provide opportunities for him to win sprints in pelotons depleted from the earlier hills.
Michael Albasini, Orica-GreenEdge
Having won an exceptional three stages in last year’s edition, Albasini will be a marked man this year, although his combination of quick sprinting and strong climbing will again be well serviced by this year’s route. British teammate Simon Yates will also be hoping to bounce back from an ultimately disappointing Ardennes Classics campaign, and recapture the form that brought him fifth overall at the Tour of the Basque Country.