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Tour de Suisse 2021 route delivers series of demanding mountain stages

Rohan Dennis leads future Team Ineos teammate Egan Bernal on stage 9 of the 2019 Tour de Suisse, where Dennis would finish second overall
Rohan Dennis leads future Team Ineos teammate and winner Egan Bernal on stage 9 of the 2019 Tour de Suisse, where Dennis finished second overall (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Tour de Suisse will re-establish itself on the calendar in 2021 after last year’s cancellation with a route that’s likely to keep the race open untl the very end, as it finishes with the triple peaks of Furka-Grimsel-Susten.

The course for the 84th edition largely replicates that which was initially planned for 2020 – when organisers didn't run the event because of the COVID-19 pandemic – and delivers 1,013 kilometres of racing with 17,844 metres of climbing. The eight-stage race, including two individual time trials, is set to start on Sunday June 6 and finish the following Sunday in Andermatt with its biggest day of climbing. 

“The Tour de Suisse 2021 promises a fast time trial and spectacular sprint finishes in the first half, followed by a series of the most demanding mountain stages in recent times,” said the organisers. “The route heads counter clockwise to the Lake Zurich region, across the Mittelland into Valais and culminates in the heart of the Alps.”

The race, which starts the same day the French stage race the Critérium du Dauphiné finishes, was won in 2019 by Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) before he went on to win the Tour de France. The last Tour winner to ride in Switzerland as preparation for the Tour had been 2010 winner Andy Schleck, with the Critérium du Dauphiné often favoured as it allows for a longer recovery.

The Tour de Suisse has no truly flat stages except the stage 1 individual time trial in Frauenfeld, but the following three days are options for the sprinters and breakaways before the overall competition likely heats up on Stage 5. 

2021 Tour de Suisse

(Image credit: Tour de Suisse)

The race-starting 11 kilometre time trial is followed by a 183 kilometre stage 2 where the attackers have plenty of launch options. The stage starts at the Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe, goes over the Ghöch and Oberricken mountain passes, past Lake Zurich and onto the finish line in Lachen with a small climb peaking just eight kilometres from the finish.

Stage 3 from Lachen to Pfaffnau, takes a tour of the lakes, with six on the itinerary starting with the Upper Lake Zurich on a hilly route through central Switzerland. Stage 4 starts in front of the 18th century baroque monastery of St Urban and it is the flattest of the mass-start stages but still climbs to the chalet village of Saanenmöser, at 1,284 metres altitude, before descending into the Gstaad finish.

Stage 5 passes the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle and takes a new route with more difficult ascents and serpentine turns to Bratsch and Albinen before the 17 kilometre climb from the Rhone Valley to Leukerbad. It’s a stage which is bound to cause a reshuffle on the overall classification.

Stage 6 on Friday, June 11, intensifies the alpine challenges, with Switzerland’s highest road pass on the menu at just 32 kilometres into the 162 kilometre stage. Then there is the race's first crossing of the Lukmanier Pass, with 21 kilometres at an average gradient of 4.3 percent and finally a more mild uphill run to the finish line at Sedrun.

The second to last stage is another time trial, but on this occasion it is far from flat. The 23-kilometre race against the clock from Disentis goes over the Oberalp Pass, with its 13 kilometres and a gradient of 6.9 per cent, to Andermatt. 

Then on Sunday, June 13, the racing finishes with a Queen stage that has a total ascent of 3,600 metres in altitude over 118 kilometres. The alpine circuit from Andermatt passes over the triple peaks of Furka-Grimsel-Susten, with the final climb to the finish of the 2021 edition heading through Schöllenen Gorge.