The 2016 Tour de Suisse will take place between 11-19 June and will feature a parcours back-loaded with mountains. In its annual tussle with the Critérium du Dauphiné to position itself as the best preparation race for the Tour de France, the organisers hope the route and its three summit finishes will attract the big names ahead of what is set to be a climber's Tour de France.
Simon Spilak (Katusha) was a surprise winner in 2015, snatching victory in the final time trial stage from Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) after the riders fought for every second on the tough mountain finish above Sölden.
Though more precise details about the nature of the nine stages will follow early next year, the 80th edition of the race, which bills itself as the biggest outside of the three Grand Tours, was officially presented at the Zug ice hockey stadium on Wednesday. As was the case this year, Zug will be the base for the start of the race, which will feature two stages starting and finishing in the municipality of Baar, the first being a prologue and the second being a circuit-based race.
The third stage, which is definitely one for the sprinters, starts in Grosswangen near Lucerne and snakes its way through the Central Plateau for a fast finish in Rheinfelden in the Fricktal valley. The fourth stage rolls out from Rheinfelden and is set to venture into French-speaking Swiss territory in the west, though the organisers are still looking for a finish location. The sprinters will have to hope that the it ends up being kind to them because the latter half of the race is dominated by mountains.
Stage 5 is set to be particularly brutal, with the race promising legendary Alpine passes en route to a summit finish in Carì. Stage 6 also features a hill-top finish 5 kilometres above the town of Amden, while stage 7 borrows from this year's queen stage in finishing up at the Rettenbach glacier above Sölden, where Thibaut Pinot took a memorable solo victory.
The race then heads back into Switzerland for two days in Davos Klosters, which is described as the 'finish hub'. There'll be one road stage followed by a concluding time trial, though neither is set to be straight forward given the mountainous surroundings.
Last year's finish hub was based in Bern, which would have been an apt location for 2016 given that the Tour de France has decided to host a stage start and finish there. However, Bern wasn't able to commit to financing the Tour de Suisse visit next year, and three holiday resorts in the mountainous Graubünden region have struck a solid alliance in its place. Davos Klosters, Engadin St. Moritz, and Arosa will each get to sponsor the king of the mountains jersey and play host to a stage or two over the next three years, with the former kicking things off in 2016.
That partnership should bode well for the future of the race, as does the fact that it retained its WorldTour status last month after the UCI approved its reforms for the future.
"For us, the UCI Reform is a success as we were able to preserve the status of the Tour de Suisse," said race Director Olivier Senn. "Now we can tackle the sustainable development of professional cycling alongside the teams and the UCI."