The Tour de Suisse: Mountains and Molehills
Bring me those hills
The Tour de Suisse, now in its 81st year, as well as being one of the best spectator events in the racing calendar,has a little bit of everything for the riders too. Along with France’s Critérium du Dauphine earlier in the month, it’s seen as ideal preparation for the Tour de France and the final test of form. This 9-stage race starts in the city of Cham and takes a winding, anti-clockwise route around the country, ending in Schaffhausen with a spectacular weekend of stages.The route includes four mountain and three hilly stages, so most of the time the riders’ anaerobic stamina is being tested at elevations well above sea level. By the end the finishers will have clocked up 1,154km and ascended a nosebleed-inducing 17,000-plus meters – just as gruelling as the Tour de France and the perfect preparation.
Pulse-racing, uphill, and fast
Day 1 and Stage 1 is a time trial in Cham. Stage 2 –also in Cham – is expected to finish in a sprint, before moving onto stage 3 from Menziken to Bern which will also probably be decided in a bunch sprint.Stage 4 will be welcomed by the climbers with the riders starting in Bern and finishing 143km later at Villars-sur-Ollon. A hilly Stage 5 follows with a start in the town of Bex, a finish in Cevio after a brief foray into Northern Italy along its 222km route and a flat finish to give the sprinters something to do.
All nine stages have their challenges but the next two consecutive mountain stages are the toughest. Stage 6 will see the riders climbing the San Bernardino and Albula Passes with a tricky and technical final descent into La Punt; then Stage 7 (the “Queens Stage”) takes in the famous Rettenbach Glacier before heading to a finish in Sölden. It’s here punters believe we will see the eventual winner. The final weekend in Schaffhausen covers Stages 8 and 9 and will bring the race to a close.
No reference to the Tour de Suisse would be complete without mentioning its greatest champion: Peter “Tourminator” Sagan. This 27-year old Slovak has won a record-breaking thirteen stages of this monstrous mountain race. Described as a classic all-rounder, equally comfortable on climbs and flats with a perfect balance of abilities, even his fellow pros are in awe. Mark Cavendish described him as “… a once-in-a-generation rider. He is super, super good. He is making us all look like juniors”. Matt White agrees:
“Peter Sagan affects the way everyone races. He is the best bike rider in the world.”
Fancy having a go?
But the Tour de Suisse is also one for the fans. On both weekends amateurs can compete against each other on the original course as individuals or in teams, while families can enjoy Bike Expo and Kids’ World. During the week there’s a varied programme of entertainment to take in. There’s also the unmissable and hugely popular promotional convoy, which covers the race route around an hour before the race starts, handing out fantastic giveaways for spectators.