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Photo: Tinkoff - Saxo

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15.06.2015 @ 16:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The GC riders decided to make use of the tough Michaelskreuz climb to make a first selection and the tough finale turned out to be too hard for the classics riders. The latter will get an immediate chance to make amends in stage 3 where a slightly easier finale should give them room to shine but first they have to survive the massive Gotthardpass which can be used by good climbers to form a very strong break that could make it to the finish in Olivone.

 

The course

The first road stage was definitely too hard for the sprinters and they will have to bide their time for another day before they get a chance to stretch their fast legs. The Tour de Suisse often includes stages with a major mountain at the midpoint before the riders descend to a flat or lumpy finale. This year’s third stage is a prime example of such a stage as it includes the fearsome Gotthardpass in the first half but still won’t be a day for the GC riders. Instead, a difficult finale with two smaller climbs and a slightly rising finale should make it another perfect opportunity for the puncheurs and classics riders.

 

The organizers have been forced to shorten the stage which now brings the riders over just 117.3km from Quinto to Olivone as the riders leave the central part of the country on a long southerly run to the hilly southern part. Right from the beginning they will go up the category HC Gotthardpass (18.8km, 5.8%) summits at 2093m above sea level which makes it the highest point of the stage. It is a typical Swiss climb as it is a long, gradual uphill section that is never very steep.

 

After the summit, the riders will be descending for another 40km before they get back onto flat roads. With 35km to go, they reach the southernmost point and from there they turn around to head in a northerly direction. The roads gradually start to ascend and from there it is uphill all the way until the riders reach the top of the category 2 Zona Cumiasca climb (4.9km, 7.0%) whose summit is located just 14.4km from the finish.

 

From here, there will be no room for recovery. After another short uphill section and a descent, the final 9.4km are all uphill. First the riders tackle the category 3 Via Cantonale climb (3.2km, 6.8%) which summits just 6.4km from the finish. The final part of the stage is slightly ascending and follows a long, straight road that leads to the finish in Olivone after a day with 2134m of climbing. The road bends slightly to the left just 100m from the line

  

Olivone has not hosted a stage finish in recent years.

 

 

 

The weather

The Tour de Suisse has often been marred by bad weather. Unfortunately it seems that the 2015 edition of the race will be another tough one when it comes to the weather conditions. Today the riders were lucky but tomorrow they will probably do the entire stage on wet roads. Luckily it won’t be very cold though as the maximum temperature at the finish will be 21 degrees but it will of course be significantly colder at the top of the Gotthardpass.

 

There will be a light wind from a northerly direction which means that the riders will have a cross-headwind as they go up the Gotthardpass. Then they will turn into a cross-headwind until they turn into a headwind for the final third of the stage.

 

The favourites

The Michaelskreuz always had the potential to be the scene of a big battle between the GC contenders but it was a question whether they would take the opportunity to make the race blow to pieces. They showed a great fighting spirit as they were willing to make the most of the terrain and the stage turned out to be way too hard for most of the fast finishers and even the strongest classics riders. In the end, it came down to a battle between the overall contenders and that opened the door for a surprise outcome. At the same time, the stage created an early selection and already took riders like Sergio Henao and Rafal Majka out of contention while Robert Gesink and Domenico Pozzovivo lost a few seconds.

 

The GC riders will only get one big mountain stage to make a big difference but they will have plenty of lumpy terrain to try to create some small time gaps. Tomorrow’s stage offers them another chance in what is another hugely unpredictable and probably very aggressive affair.

 

A 117.3km stage is always very hard to control and things won’t be made any easier by the fact that the first 18.8km are all uphill. The Gotthardpass definitely comes too early to make a selection between the overall contenders but with such a brutal start there is no race that it will be a war right from the beginning. After the top, there won’t be much time to chase behind the breakaway in such a short stage and as a very strong break is likely to get clear after such a start, the breakaway has a big chance.

 

The many attacks are likely to make the peloton blow to pieces and it would be no surprise to see some of the GC riders jump into a few moves along the way. However, the main contenders will mark each other closely and any group with a potential overall winner won’t have any chance of making it to the finish. However, there is no doubt that a very strong group will have gone clear by the time, the dust finally settles after a fast start.

 

In such a short stage, the chase has to get organized very early but that won’t be easy. The finale suits classics riders but teams like Tinkoff-Saxo and Orica-GreenEDGE who have potential winners, don’t have a lot of climbers in their rosters. This means that their captains won’t have many teammates at their side at the summit and they will have to wait for a regrouping before they can initiate the chase. The same goes for Tom Dumoulin’s Giant-Alpecin team and the Dutchman will be hugely reliant on Warren Barguil, Carter Jones and Georg Preidler who are the only teammates that can handle this kind of terrain.

 

On the other hand, there is a big chance that the group will contain a few riders that are within striking distance of the yellow jersey and this means that the GC teams have to lend a hand to make sure that the situation doesn’t get out of control. This should give a bit more firepower to the chase and make sure that the gap never gets too big.

 

It won’t be easy to catch the break but with more teams interested in a sprint finish, the most probable scenario is that they will get caught. However, it won’t be any easier to control the finale which is very difficult. Zona Cumiasca is not much easier than the Michaelskreuz and it comes almost equally close to the finish and the Via Cantonale is deceptively difficult. Furthermore, there will be no room for recovery as there is no descent and in fact it will be slightly uphill all the way to the line.

 

It will be a surprise if the GC riders don’t try to attack each other in this kind of tough finale and so we expect the stage to be very selective. The climbs are easier than today’s but it should be a day for GC riders and the very best classics riders. As it will be hard to control, it will definitely be possible for a strong rider to escape in the finale but it could also come down to an uphill sprint from a reduced group.

 

We had picked Peter Sagan to win today’s stage and were curious to see how he would handle such a tough climb. He may have come up short but in fact he delivered an excellent performance. The stage was dominated by pure climbers and he wasn’t far off the mark on a climb that was actually too tough for him. He may not have been climbing at the same level as he did when he won a mountain stage in 2013 but he is not far off that mark.

 

Tomorrow’s stage is easier and with less steep gradients it should suit him a bit better. However, he faces an uphill battle as everybody knows that he is the rider to beat. It won’t be easy for him to keep it together for a sprint finish. When he joined Tinkoff-Saxo, he was expected to have a better team at his disposal but that’s definitely not the case in this race. Only Rafal Majka can expected to be there in the finale and it won’t be easy for a climber like him to control the many attacks.

 

Sagan will probably have to react to attacks himself and this has often cost him too much energy which has made him lose sprints that he should actually have won. However, he may benefit from the fact that the GC battle is still rather close and so many riders will be pretty heavily marked. This makes a sprint finish more likely. A lot can happen in this kind of finale but if one has to pick a winner, it has to be an in-form Peter Sagan.

 

Today’s finale turned out to be a bit too hard for Michael Albasini but the local hero proved that he is in very good condition as he limited his losses in on a climb that was always going to be a big challenge for him. Tomorrow’s easier finale should suit him better and he loves this kind of uphill sprint. In fact he won’t necessarily have to wait for the finale and could even find himself in a strong breakaway.

 

In case of a sprint finish, Orica-GreenEDGE also have Michael Matthews but they have played down expectations for their sprinter who didn’t seem to even try to stay with the best today. Albasini is always strong in his home races and in such a tough finale they will probably ride for the fan favourite. Albasini is hard to beat in a sprint after a hard stage and this makes him one to watch.

 

Today Katusha made a big mistake as they didn’t use Simon Spilak’s enormous power to bring Durasek back and set Daniel Moreno up for a sprint win. The Spaniard is clearly in very good condition and he is fast in a sprint. As we expect the finale of tomorrow’s stage to be very selective, it will probably be a very small group that decides the win in a sprint. Moreno is obviously the fastest GC rider and he should find the uphill finale more to his liking. If the likes of Albasini and Sagan are left behind, Moreno will be the man to beat.

 

Julian Arredondo has been far from his best level since he stepped down from the Giro d’Italia podium in 2014 but now he finally seems to be back to his best. He was clearly one of the strongest in today’s stage and he was very close to beating Moreno in the final sprint. The punchy climber is very strong in an uphill sprint and if the classics riders have been dropped, it won’t be impossible for him to edge the Spaniard out.

 

Enrico Gasparotto found himself in the Albasini group in today’s stage and he is clearly in very good condition. Furthermore, he has been sprinting better than usual in the recent Tour of Luxembourg and he seems to have a very good turn of speed at the moment. He should be better suited to the easier finish and the uphill sprint is a perfect match for him.

 

Jose Joaquin Rojas is known as a sprinter but he is actually an excellent climber who has often finished in the top 30 in big mountain stages in grand tours. Today he found himself in the Albasini-Gasparotto group and so it won’t be impossible for him to survive tomorrow’s climbs. Even though he is a good uphill sprinter, he would probably have preferred a flat sprint as he is likely to be up against some classics riders and unfortunately he rarely wins these kinds of sprints.

 

BMC came up short in today’s stage as both Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert were distanced. While the latter was far off the pace, the former rode strongly to finish in the third big group. He recently won the Tour of Belgium and is clearly in good condition. Tomorrow’s stage suits him better. Like Gasparotto and Albasini, he could even be part of a strong break.

 

The same goes for Alexey Lutsenko who is already in very good condition after he missed most of the spring due to injury. Today he actually beat the likes of Albasini, Rojas, Gasparotto and Van Avermaet in the sprint for 19th and it is no secret that he is very fast at the end of a hard race. He has proved that he is very hard to catch if he joins the right break and he can play his card both from an escape and in a sprint.

 

Gianluca Brambilla missed the Giro as he crashed out of Liege-Bastogne-Liege and is now making his comeback. Apparently he is already in good condition and he has all the characteristics to shine in this stage. He is a great climber, is very explosive and has a good sprint. He can play his card both in a breakaway and in a sprint.

 

The same goes for Sergio Henao who looked strong in the early part of today’s final climb but lost ground in the finale. He now has a bit more freedom which could open the door for him to go on the attack. He won’t be easy to hold back on the Gotthardpass and he loves this kind of uphill sprints.

 

Philippe Gilbert delivered a disappointing performance in today’s stage which was a bad signal after he had criticized his team for not believing in him. He will now be keen to make amends and tomorrow could be a good day. In the finale the team will probably play the Van Avermaet card but as he is far behind in the overall standings, he may have the freedom to attack.

 

Jan Bakelants is known as an excellent attacker and there is no doubt that he will be part of the early action. There is a big chance that he will find himself in the early break and he is strong enough to shine in this kind of tough finale. He has a reasonable sprint but he also knows how to time a late attack to perfection.

 

Frank Schleck, Sylwester Szmyd, Andre Cardoso, Maxime Monfort, Eros Capecchi, Ion Izagirre and Igor Anton lost time in today’s stage and they now have freedom to attack. The start suits their skills as pure climbers and they could very well find themselves in the right breakaway. Of course they won’t win a sprint but they have the finale is hard enough for them to escape on their own.

 

Davide Rebellin is still going strong and he is already back in good condition after he crashed out of the Tour of Turkey. He will be keen to try his hand in this stage which suits him well. The Gotthardpass is a bit too long for him but if he can make it into the right break he has the skills to finish it off in this kind of finale.

 

In the opposite site of the age spectrum, we find climbers Manuel Senni and Valerio Conti. Both are big climbing talents that should find the Gotthardpass to their liking. It will be hard for Senni to finish it off but Conti has the sprinting skills that make him suited to the finale.

 

Finally, Michael Matthews deserves a mention. As said we expect Orica-GreenEDGE to ride in support of Albasini but it is not impossible that the Australian wants to test his legs before the Tour de France. The finale may be a bit too hard for him but it won’t be impossible for him to come out on top.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Peter Sagan (sprint)

Other winner candidates: Michael Albasini (sprint or breakaway), Daniel Moreno (sprint)

Outsiders: Julian Arredondo (sprint), Enrico Gasparotto (sprint or breakaway), Jose Joaquin Rojas (sprint or breakaway), Greg Van Avermaet (sprint or breakaway), Alexey Lutsenko (sprint or breakaway)

Jokers: Gianluca Brambilla (sprint or breakaway), Sergio Henao (breakaway), Philippe Gilbert Sergio Henao (breakaway), Jan Bakelants, Frank Schleck, Sylwester Szmyd, Andre Cardoso, Maxime Monfort, Eros Capecchi, Ion Izagirre, Igor Anton, Davide Rebellin, Manuel Senni, Valerio Conti (all from a breakaway), Michael Matthews (sprint)

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