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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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03.05.2015 @ 13:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Unlike in the past two years, Simon Spilak and Chris Froome were unable to crush their rivals in the queen stage of the Tour de Romandie and so the fight for the top position in the final time trial is more than a two-rider battle. Despite not being able to make the difference, Froome still finds himself in a great position and he will go all out in an attempt to make it three in a row and repeat last year’s victory in the final race against the clock.

 

The course

In addition to the prologue, the Tour de Romandie has mostly included an individual time trial – with the 2009 edition being the major exception – and over the last few years it has always been held on the final day of the race.  That's again the case in the 2015 edition of the race as the riders will end their race by tackling a 17.3km individual test around the city of Lausanne on the shores of Lac Leman.

 

In the past, the time trials have often been very hilly but in the last few years the organizers have been favouring the specialists. In 2013, the final stage was completely flat and all about power while last year’s stage was an interesting combination of long, flat roads and a pretty tough climb at the midpoint. This year it is again a mostly flat course with a small climb but this year’s ascent is definitely not as tough as the one that featured in last year’s race.

 

The riders will start in the centre of Lausanne on the shores of Lac Leman and head along flat roads in a westerly direction for the first 4.45km. Here they will do a U-turn to head back along the same flat road before they leave the lake to start the climbing part of the race. The ascending starts after 7.48km when the riders go up a 1.4km climb with a gradient of 4.5%. Then there’s a small descent before the riders again start to climb for another 750m at a gradient of 10.8%. The top comes with 6.6km to go and after a small descent, the riders get to the final 450m climb which has an average gradient of 6.2%. After a mostly flat 800m section, the real descending starts and it brings the riders back to the shores of the lake with 2.2km to go. Here they turn right to head along a slightly descending road to the finish. The flat part of the course is non-technical but there are several turns in the climbing part. However, the descent is not very difficult.

 

Lausanne last hosted a stage in 2012 when Geraint Thomas won the opening prologue over a short 3.3km distance. In 2009, Frantisek Rabon also won a prologue in the big city while Markus Zberg won the bunch sprint in the final stage in 2008. From 2002 to 2007, the stage hosted the time trial on the final day, with Alex Zülle winning the first edition before Tyler Hamilton won twice in a row. Santiago Botero was fastest in 2005 before Cadel Evans and Thomas Dekker secured overall wins by winning the final time trial on the shores of Lac Leman.

 

 

The weather

After the brutal Friday, the riders had reasonable conditions for Saturday’s stage. Sunday seems to be one of those unpredictable days which can offer a bit of everything. That is never a good scenario for a time trial as it means that the riders may get different conditions at different times of the day.

 

Rain will have fallen overnight and the riders will wake up to a wet and morning. However, things should improve in time for the start of the time trial and even though there is a risk of a shower, it is expected to be dry for the duration of the stage. There may even be a bit of sunshine towards the end of the stage. Furthermore, it will be the warmest day as the temperature will reach a maximum of 19 degrees.

 

There will be a moderate wind from a southwesterly direction which means that the riders will first have a cross-headwind before they turn into a cross-tailwind for the climbing and descending part of the stage. Finally, there will be a cross-headwind in the final flat section. Luckily the wind will be pretty constant throughout the day.

 

The favourites

In the past two years, the Tour de Romandie has been boiled down to a battle between Chris Froome and Simon Spilak before the final time trial but this year a lot more riders are in contention as we head into the final race against the clock. Despite an unusually hard stage, the favourites turned out to be pretty evenly matched and Ilnur Zakarin, Thibaut Pinot, Chris Froome, Simon Spilak and Rigoberto Uran can all hope for a spot on the final podium in Lausanne after the race against the clock.

 

While the 2013 time trial was completely flat and the 2014 TT had a significant climb at the midpoint, tomorrow’s stage is a much more mixed affair. It has two flat sections for the specialists but also includes 230m of climbing. The middle part is pretty irregular with many turns, short flat sections and three smaller climbs of which one is pretty steep. This will make it hard to find a rhythm and should suit the more explosive riders much more than the riders who love to push a big gear on a long straight road.

 

This sets the scene for a pretty exciting stage. In 2013, the flat course made it one for the specialists and Tony Martin and Adriano Malori battled it out for the win. Last year Martin was again in contention and if he hadn’t made a stupid mistake on the descent, he would have won again. However, the tough climb made it possible for Froome to get so close that he could benefit from Martin’s mistake to take the win with a margin of less than a second.

 

With the course having less climbing, Martin goes into the 2015 time trial as the obvious favourite. There aren’t many big powerhouses at the start in the mountainous race and so Martin should clearly be the strongest on the flats that bookend the course. However, the middle section suits him pretty badly as it will be hard to find a rhythm on the short steep climbs.

 

Martin is actually an excellent climber and since last year’s Tour de Suisse he has been climbing better than he has done for a couple of years. In fact, he usually prefers time trials with pretty undulating courses as only a select few are able to match his power on climbs that are not too steep.

 

Hence, he would probably have preferred last year’s course. The climb may have been longer and steeper but it was a pretty regular affair. This stage is much more irregular and requires much more explosiveness which is not a perfect scenario for the powerful German.

 

However, Martin is clearly in great condition at the moment. He rode strongly in Pais Vasco and the Ardennes classics and this race he has been with the best on the climbs until he was distanced on the final ascent in the queen stage. The climbing should not be too tough for him and he is technically very good too. As he is also the strongest on the flats, the former world champion must be the favourite to win the stage.

 

His biggest rival could be Rohan Dennis. Last year the BMC rider took a massive step up and emerged as one of the best time triallists in the world. Towards the end of the year, he proved his improvement on the big scene as he would probably have won the final time trial in the Vuelta if he hadn’t been hit by rain. Later he finished fifth at the world championships and this year he confirmed his skills when he was second in the Paris-Nice prologue.

 

After his great start to the year, Dennis has deliberately had a slower start to his European season but he has made the Tour de Romandie a big goal. He was hoping to ride for GC but today’s climbing proved to be a bit too much for him. However, his big time loss is probably a reflection of the fact that he decided to save some energy for tomorrow when he realized that he couldn’t follow the best and there is no doubt that he is riding at a high level. He loves these kind of hilly courses and has the explosiveness and technical skills to tackle the tricky roads in Lausanne.

 

Last year Froome won the time trial but it will be harder for him to repeat that performance. This year’s course doesn’t suit him too much as it contains less climbing. Furthermore, the explosive and technical middle section is not tailor-made for him.

 

On the other hand, Froome is very strong in any kind of time trial and he actually nearly beat Martin in the flat TT at the 2013 Tour de France. The Brit is always a contender in the races against the clock. However, Froome’s performance in today’s stage suggests that he is not riding as strongly as he did in 2014. Furthermore, he hasn’t focused too much on TTs as there is very little time trialling in the Tour de France. This means that the Brit has to come up with a small surprise if he wants to repeat last year’s performance.

 

Stefan Küng has only done one time trial since he turned professional but he immediately proved that it is no coincidence that he has been described as the new Fabian Cancellara. In the De Panne TT, he was only beaten by Bradley Wiggins and there is no doubt that he is destined for a big future in the time trials.

 

His performance in stage 3 suggests that he is in great condition but this course doesn’t suit him too much. He is a solid climber and strong on the flat but the explosive and technical part is not made for him. However, the in-form home rider should definitely be one of the best.

 

One year ago Rigoberto Uran used the Tour de Romandie time trial to suddenly emerge as a time triallist. Before that race, he had always been off the pace in the TTs but on the final day in this race, he was suddenly able to match his teammate Martin in the flat final part of the stage. Since then he has confirmed his progress by winning the long Giro time trial and taking second in the Vuelta TT.

 

Uran has proved that he can do well in any kind of TT and this course actually suits him pretty well. He is both strong on the flats, a great climber, explosive and technically strong. Furthermore, he is climbing much better than he was last year and he has been riding at a higher level all year. This indicates that a good performance may be in store for the Colombian who may even use a good ride to get close to the podium.

 

Jonathan Castroviejo has always been a great time triallist but last year he suddenly seemed to have lost the edge. He rediscovered his best legs towards the end of the year and this year he has also been time trialling at a high level. Furthermore, he has improved his climbing a lot and this should benefit him on this course. Today he proved that he in great condition and with his combination of power and climbing skills, he should do well.

 

Ilnur Zakarin has always been a great talent but few would have predicted his exceptional start to his Katusha career. He rode strongly in Pais Vasco but the fact that he can start the final time trial in Romandie in the leader’s jersey marks his big breakthrough. The Russian is clearly in very good condition and he is a great time triallist. He is a former Russian champion and has always been among the best in this discipline. However, he did a poor time trial in Pais Vasco which suggests that he may have paid a small price for his improved climbing. It will be hard for him to keep Froome at bay but he should definitely be able to deliver a top performance.

 

His teammate Simon Spilak is always strong in this race and this year he is again riding at a very high level. He was unable to make the difference in the queen stage but he is still very much in podium contention. He is no time trial specialist though and he is usually not strong enough to compete with the best on flat courses. This stage may have be a little bit too easy for him to really shine but this year he has been time trialling so well that a good result should be in store.

 

Kristof Vandewalle is one of the best time triallists in the world. He achieved his biggest result in last year’s Tour de Pologne where he beat Adriano Malori to take a great WorldTour win. This year he has had a slow start to the season but he seems to have found his best legs for this race and the Giro. He has been climbing better than usual which will benefit him on this course. He will be one of the strongest on the flats and if he can limit his losses in the middle section, he will be a contender.

 

Ramunas Navardauskas has always been a solid time triallist but he seems to have improved his level in 2015. Furthermore, he is in great condition as he has proved in this race where he has finished with the best in the very hilly first road stages. He is both a solid climber and strong on the flats and as a sprinter he has the explosiveness that is required for this course.

 

Matthias Brändle is mostly known for his Hour Record but he is also a great time triallist on the road. Last year he was a perennial top 10 contender in the TTs and this year he has done well too. However, he has had a small break since the classics and doesn’t seem to be in his best condition. Furthermore, he crashed yesterday and this makes it a bit uncertain how he will do tomorrow.

 

Thibaut Pinot has improved his time trialling a lot. For several years, he struggled in this discipline and always had to limit his losses but now it almost seems to be an asset for him. He was fourth in the Criterium International TT and today’s ride proves that he is in great condition. He would obviously have preferred a hillier course but he now has the power on the flats to also do well in this kind of TT. Of course he won’t win the stage but don’t be surprised if he finishes in the top 10.

 

Anton Vorobyev has always been very powerful in the TTs but he has had a very hard time in the road races. However, he has improved his level a lot and is now climbing at a reasonable level. In this race, he has been riding very strongly and there is no doubt that he will be one of the strongest on the flats. He will not win on this kind of course but it may be time for him to prove his progress on the climbs.

 

U23 world champion Campbell Flakemore goes into his first WorldTour time trial. After he broke his collarbone in the Tour Down Under he has had a slow start to the year but in this race he has been climbing pretty well. This indicates that he is getting back into condition and this course should suit him pretty well. He is strong on the flats and last year he made the difference at the Worlds on the climb which indicates that he can handle this kind of course.

 

Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali has never been a time triallist but he has improved a lot. Even though he has not been at his best in 2015, he has actually been time trialling really well and was doing surprisingly well on the flat courses in Tirreno-Adriatico. This technical course should actually suit him pretty well and so he may deliver a good performance despite not being in his best condition.

 

CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Tony Martin

Other winner candidates: Rohan Dennis, Chris Froome

Outsiders: Rigoberto Uran, Stefan Küng, Jonathan Castroviejo, Ilnur Zakarin, Simon Spilak, Kristof Vandewalle

Jokers: Ramunas Navardauskas, Campbell Flakemore, Thibaut Pinot, Anton Vorobyev, Vincenzo Nibali, Riccardo Zoidl

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