With the Spring Classics now out of the way, the Grand Tours come into focus and WorldTour stage racing resumes on Tuesday in Switzerland at the Tour de Romandie. Once the favoured last stop before the Giro d'Italia, this year's start list boasts just a few bona fide contenders for the maglia rosa but, in a curious blend, pits them against a few of the favourites for July's Tour de France. Here are Cyclingnews' five riders to keep an eye on over the coming week.
Chris Froome (Team Sky)
On paper, Froome is the clear favourite for the overall win. He has won the race twice, has recently spent another spell at altitude, and the two time trials suit his skillset.
The rest of the route, however, could throw up a number of curve balls, with the race organisers plumbing for a parcours that invites attacking racing. Froome's capitulation in Cataluyna, where he and his Sky teammates missed the decisive move and almost missed the time cut, will still rankle, and Romandie provides the chance to put several simmering questions of Sky's tactics to bed. In Froome's favour is the fact that the likes of Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde are not present and BMC Racing, despite their squad depth, are not the sort of team to rip up the rule book and go for an all-out assault.
Pete Kennaugh, Ian Boswell and David Lopez offer support for the mountains but this is not Team Sky's A-team. Given that, and the fact that Froome has not won yet this season, he remains a man to watch.
Simon Yates (Orica-Scott)
A week ago, Simon Yates was preparing for the Giro d'Italia and a double assault on the race with his brother. One knee injury – courtesy of Esteban Chaves – and a press release later and Yates has seen his Grand Tour path significantly altered, with the Giro swapped out for the Tour de France.
The first step along the new road came on Sunday with a lowly placing in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but much more will be expected this week from the 24-year-old, who was sixth in Romandie two years ago. The opening prologue should be navigated without too much concern and from there Yates has several opportunities to go on the offensive before the final test against the clock in Lausanne.
In principle, Yates should be in relatively decent form and, although he has been inconsistent across stage races this season, Romandie offers the perfect chance for him to lay down an important marker before the Critérium du Dauphin´and, ultimately, the Tour de France.
Roman Kreuziger co-leads the team, according to Neil Stephens – but all eyes will be on Yates.
Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing)
Giro d'Italia GC contenders are thin on the ground at the Tour de Romandie – a race once billed as the perfect chance to add the finishing touches to a rider's form before the corsa rosa. However, van Garderen bucks that trend, and heads into a race in which he enjoyed a respectable top ten in 2016.
The result in Romandie this time around is almost inconsequential, however, with the dynamic between the American and Richie Porte one of the most captivating sub plots in the race. There's no indication that the pair can't work together – indeed they dovetailed well during the early season races in 2016 – but BMC Racing have already nominated Porte as their leader for this encounter.
Quite where that leaves van Garderen less than a fortnight out from the Giro remains to be seen but it should be fascinating viewing over the next six days.
Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
The 2015 Tour de Romandie winner has quietly gone about his business this season, building on a solid start with second in the Abu Dhabi Tour and sixth in a super-hard Paris-Nice.
Catalunya may have been a minor blip but the 27-year-old Russian comes into the Tour of Romandie as a viable threat for the GC. This time last year he finished fourth before going on to crash out of the Giro d'Italia just when he looked liked a genuine podium contender.
Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors)
We thought long and hard between Jarlinson Pantano and Bob Jungels but, in the end, we went for the Quick-Step rider based on his recent form and the final time trial, in which he should compete with the best.
The 24-year-old has worked in the service of others for the majority of this campaign and, just like Pantano, that's where he has excelled. Yet the next few months will see Jungles enter a critical period in his career. From Romandie he heads to the Giro, where he will be looking to prove that last year's sixth place was no fluke.
From there he is scheduled to ride the Tour de France and like everyone on QuickStep there's the small matter of a contract to sign. The Giro is of course the main focus but Jungels can look to Romandie as a chance to build momentum.
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