The final WorldTour stage race before the Tour de France, the Tour de Suisse (June 12-19) is set to play its usual role this year of being a key dress rehearsal for July. Only this June, maybe even more so than usual.
The absence of two top Tour de France favourites Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) shouldn't devalue the fact that one of their key rivals last July, podium finisher Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), won the Tour de Suisse outright last year. And after a Critérium du Dauphiné featuring a less star-studded lineup than usual, the Tour de Suisse certainly seems destined to take on even greater relevance when it comes to reading the omens for the Tour de France.
It's not just about the GC, either. Riders like Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) and Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) will likely battle for the Tour de France sprints and while Suisse is very hilly this year, it should provide some form pointers.
Seeing how Tour-targeting riders (subject to final selection decisions) shape up against pros eking out their Giro d'Italia form like Domenico Pozzovivo (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux) or perhaps looking towards building for the Vuelta a España and the autumn Classics like Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) or Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) is also a perennial point of interest of Suisse. Every year, in fact, the Tour de Suisse offers the watershed moment in stage racing between one half of the season and the second, and 2022 is no exception.
Read on for our 9 riders to watch, presented in no particular order, in the 2022 Tour de Suisse.
Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)
Such is their collective strength that the absence of teammate and defending champion Richard Carapaz at the Tour of Suisse could see any number of Ineos Grenadiers riders move into the limelight. But while of those present Adam Yates is set for a top GC bid in the Tour de France, Tom Pidcock is also strongly rumoured to be making his Tour debut and Daní Martínez could be set for a protected role, the biggest questionmark at the Tour de Suisse of the top Ineos names could well concern Geraint Thomas.
This time at Suisse, Thomas is back in the race action following from his six week-long training block following the Tour de Romandie. Suisse may be more hilly and slightly less mountainous than other years, but the final long weekend's summit finishes and time trial in Liechtenstein, as well as the depth of the competition, are certainly hard enough to show what his prospects are for July.
Thomas' past track record at Suisse is mixed, and it's certainly been a long time since he finished second overall behind Simon Spilak way back in 2015. But third in his pre-Tour warm up race at the Critérium du Dauphiné back in 2021 augered well for July and how he gets on in Suisse, his equivalent event, this week will be a key indicator once again
Remco Evenepoel (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl)
He's not doing the Tour de France, but to judge by the amount of media publicity Remco Evenepoel's debut in the Tour de Suisse will surely generate in Belgium, it's almost as if he were. Victories in his previous two, radically different races, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Norway, only partly explain the colossal interest in the 22-year-old, it's more that expectations back home are invariably high. No matter the outcome and the headlines Remco generates this time round, it's also true that with his next Grand Tour set for August in the Vuelta a España, seeing how the Belgian phenomenon rates against those polishing their form for the Tour de France will be a fascinating contrast.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe)
After a breakthrough triumph for Bora-Hansgrohe in the Giro d'Italia, interest in their rider Aleksandr Vlasov in the Tour de Suisse is now not only because the Russian has been notably consistent so far in 2022, nor yet that he's already the winner of Switzerland's other WorldTour stage race, the Tour de Romandie, this year.
On top of that Bora-Hansgrohe's stunning and unprecedented (in any Grand Tour) Giro d'Italia success, means whether the German squad can follow that up in the Tour de France is the next big question for all their rivals. Hence we can expect their Tour leader Vlasov to go under the microscope from Suisse onwards.
What Vlasov will be lacking are his own reference points in Suisse, given that the 26-year-old has never done it before. Equally, with fourth in the 2021 Giro d'Italia as his best Grand Tour GC result out of four participations, the Tour de France will also be something of an unknown. But even voyages in the dark have to have a point where the ship sets sail and Vlasov's performance in the Tour will have its first 'live' test from the moment he starts racing next Sunday in Switzerland.
Gino Mäder (Bahrain-Victorious)
Yet another high-profile Tour de France debutant this summer and racing on home soil in Switzerland, Mäder's remarkable progress in Grand Tours last season makes how he will perform come July even more keenly anticipated by his fans. Suisse is already something of a happy hunting ground for Mäder after he outpowered Mike Woods (Israel-Premier Tech) last year for a stage win. This time round, he'll be part of a young Bahrain-Victorious team, mainly made up of breakaway specialists. But given his track record and with the Tour de France just around the corner, Mäder will be the one under most pressure to deliver.
Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma)
Of all the top names said to be set for the Tour de France at Jumbo-Visma, as former Tour de France stage winners and/or race leaders Sepp Kuss and Rohan Dennis are certainly the two highest profile names in the Dutch squad's line-up at the Tour de Suisse.
While a large proportion of those Jumbo-Visma riders tipped for Tour were on the Critérium du Dauphiné with Roglic, Kuss has always planned to be at the Tour de Suisse, telling Cyclingnews as far back as January "I didn't feel close to being my best [in the 2021 Tour de France]. So this year I'm doing things a bit different."
"It had been just training camps and races and training camps and sometimes you do too much."
The American's 2021 Tour de France was hardly what you'd call a failure of course, with that stage win in Andorra part of the massively impressive fightback by Jumbo-Visma following Primoz Roglic's abandon. Yet it is not totally clear if Kuss will be one of the Jumbo-Visma riders in the Tour, given the depth of the team, and his performance in Suisse could be a gamechanger.
Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies)
The Tour de Suisse has always been something of a talismanic event for Peter Sagan, the winner of 17 stages in the Swiss race. It's a notable total even for as a rider as prolifically successful as the 32-year-old Slovakian. It's not an overnight achievement, either: his first win in Suisse, too, dates way back in 2011 to when he was just starting to impact on racing.
However, equally tellingly, Sagan's last victory from Suisse dates from 2019, when he last took part in the race. And with his last road race now April and his last win in September 2021, there's no lack of rumours that his career seems to be in danger of drifting towards an endgame.
However, we've been here before, up to a point, as in Sagan has had other lengthy fallow periods with zero wins, only to come back at the top of his game. Should that happen again in Suisse, in terms of his own career achievements to date, nobody should be surprised. If there's one race which Sagan has the measure of, it's clearly Suisse.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)
The Tour de Suisse has not been on Thibaut Pinot's schedule now for a full seven years. But back in 2015, when he placed fourth and took a stage win, opting for Suisse rather than the more predictable route for French climbers of the Critérium du Dauphiné certainly didn't go off too badly for the Groupama-FDJ racer.
The circumstances are rather different, with 2015's performance coming just after he'd placed third in the Tour de France the year before. An exceptional result for French cycling at the time, particularly when combined with Jean-Christophe Peraud's second place, and this meant expectations of how Pinot could do that July were, to say the least, high. This time round, Suisse is once again Pinot's final milestone before he heads to France, but his relationship with the Tour, a race he last took part in in 2020, badly injuring his back, has been far from straightforward since 2015. Either way, his performance in Suisse won't go unnoticed.
Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers)
Yet another Tour de France contender who seems to have taken a big step forward this season, Martínez triumph in the Itzulia this spring has seen him step to the fore in Ineos Grenadiers for the first time in a major Tour role. And the Tour de Suisse, where he's making his debut, is the last test run, but also the point where his fast rising star needs to impact in order to confirm the legitimacy of his protected rider status for July.
Martínez track record in the Criterium du Dauphiné, of course, where he took an exceptionally fraught version of the race back in 2020, make his performance in the equivalent Swiss event even more interesting. That was followed up by a finely calculated Tour de France stage win, too, when he was able to defeat two Bora-Hansgrohe heavyweights of the calibre of Max Schachmann and Lennard Kamna. But this time round, Martínez has even more at stake, both in Switzerland and at the Tour.
Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers)
Any chance for a duel between two precociously successful riders is always a draw and the Tour de Suisse offers one of the most interesting of the whole season, as Evenepoel takes on up-and-coming British racer Tom Pidcock.
Pidcock's form is something of an unknown, particularly as the 22-year-old's last race was in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. But on paper he is heading towards a Tour de France debut, so Switzerland's lengthy run of hilly stages, terrain on which he shines, could well be just the opportunity he's looking for to make his mark and boost his morale prior to the summer.
One of the biggest flies in the ointment is, of course, Evenepoel, a rider with remarkably similar characteristics and who will be equally determined to see off one of his peers. Even if the GC contenders opt to stay out of sight and off the radar until next Friday's first major summit finish, then, the fireworks provided by these two alone could prove exceptional
Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets
After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1