2018 Tour de Suisse - Preview

Sagan, Porte, Quintana and Landa headline

BMC Racing's Richie Porte will head to this year's Tour de France knowing that, at the ripe old age of 33, he's not going to have too many more attempts to try to win, having spectacularly, and horrifically, crashed out of last year's race, so he'll be using the Tour de Suisse as a barometer of his form.

And so it is for many at the Tour de Suisse, who use the race to hone – or sometimes even attempt to find – their form ahead of the Tour de France. And as it has always been, in tandem with those riders who choose the concurrent Critérium du Dauphiné to ready themselves for July.

Movistar pairing Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa get to test out how harmonious their race-winning potential is with their double-pronged attack in Switzerland, and get ready to add third-prong Alejandro Valverde in July at the Tour.

Katusha-Alpecin come here with the defending Tour de Suisse champion who was the 2015 winner, too, in Simon Spilak. UAE Team Emirates, meanwhile, boast three-time Tour de Suisse winner – from 2012-2014 – Rui Costa in their ranks. It remains to be seen whether the Portuguese rider still has what it takes to win a fourth title, but he'll be on all the contenders' watch lists.

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is still hoping to improve upon his best Tour de France result of sixth in 2013, having finished a disappointing 17th last year. The 31-year-old Dutchman rode neither Suisse nor the Dauphiné last season, instead choosing to recover from the effort of finishing seventh at last year's Giro. That didn't work, so Mollema skipped the Giro this time, and is using Switzerland to get himself ready.

Astana's Jakob Fuglsang won the Dauphiné overall last year, but he's decided to switch to the Tour de Suisse this year in an all-out attempt to be in contention with the biggest names at the Tour de France. Last July, the Dane had to quit the Tour mid-way through having tried to ride on for two days with a fractured arm sustained in a crash on stage 11.

His thinking, perhaps, despite his Dauphiné victory, is that it's time for a change, and that he could maybe benefit from the shorter window between the end of the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France – 20 days – versus the 27 days between the end of the Dauphiné and the Tour.

That's generally been the thinking among the GC contenders for years: if your Tour de France goes well off the back of whichever one of the Dauphiné or Suisse you chose, then stick with it for the following year, whereas if things could have gone better in July, then why not switch things around a bit and take a different route to the Tour?

The big-name sprinters have decided to stay away from the Dauphiné, which means that on display in Switzerland will be a long list of the fastest fast-men, including world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Sunweb's Michael Matthews, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Quick-Step's Fernando Gaviria and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).

All would legitimately be able to stake a claim on winning the Tour's green jersey in July, and while Sagan's run of five green jerseys in a row was halted when he was disqualified for supposedly causing Cavendish to crash on stage 4 last year, on paper, at least, judging by his bossing of his rivals at the Tour of California, Quick-Step's Gaviria looks the most likely to hoover up a few stage wins in Switzerland before trying to do the same in France – and with it the green jersey?

The route

As for the route, the sprinters should enjoy at least a couple of stages to test out their technique. But, this being Switzerland, the sprinters face plenty of 'up', too.

The nine-stage race starts on June 9 with an 18.3km team time trial in Frauenfeld, which is always a good way to see how well riders are gelling with teammates in the lead-up to the Tour.

Stages 2 and 8 have 'sprint' written all over them, while there are two summit finishes – on stage 5 up to Leukerbad, which was last used by the race in 2006, when Phonak's Steve Morabito won the stage, and on stage 7 to Arosa.

Thrown in to the mix, too, is what the organisers are calling a 'Classics' stage, on stage 3, which could see the likes of BMC's Greg Van Avermaet come to the fore.

After the circuit race on stage 8, the race stays in the town of Bellinzona, close to the Italian border, for the ninth and final stage: a 34km individual time trial to bring the race to a close on June 17.

That time trial is as good a reason as any to choose the Tour de Suisse over the Dauphiné. The latter has only 6.6km of 'individual time trial' for the prologue (although there is a team time trial on stage 3), while riders at the Tour in July face 31 individual-time-trial kilometres on the penultimate stage of the Tour.

Will those who chose Suisse be at an advantage? Porte for the 2018 Tour title, anyone? 

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