Last year’s race was won by a flying Richie Porte and he returns in 2018 to defend his crown. It will be tough from him though as he is just back to racing after a period out of competition due to illness so BMC leadership might pass to Tejay van Garderen in what is the Swiss outfit’s local race. Nonetheless, if Porte is back to his best then it will be tough to beat him, especially with the uphill TT on stage 3.
However, we could see a challenge from Roglic who himself was going incredibly well in Itzulia until a crash on the final day hampered his dominance ever so slightly. He did still take the overall though but it is yet to be seen if he has recovered from that crash: on his blog post he says that the wounds are still healing. Could it all be a ruse and we’ll see the former ski-jumper make it two WT stage race wins back to back at the end of the week?
Thomas is the only other rider who should be near the head of affairs on GC come the end of the race. He started the year with a strong showing in Algarve before a very untimely mechanical in Tirreno scuppered any chances of taking the overall. He finished Liege on Sunday which might see him a bit tired from the travel on the opening day but once the mountains start I expect a good race.
Hmmm, Roglic could well go back to back but because we’re in Switzerland I’ll go for a BMC win and a surprise result with Tejay Van Garderen after they play the numbers game very well in the mountains. Time to finally get that “European GC win” monkey off your back Tejay!
One extra thing to consider is that potential poor weather later in the week might see some of the stages altered.
Before anyone can think about the mountains though the riders will have to navigate a very tricky opening prologue. Let’s take a look at what is in store for them tomorrow.
This looks like a fun watch!
As per usual for a TT/prologue, I’ve made a Strava (Veloviewer) profile of the route that you can view here.
Once down the start ramp, the road continues to head downhill for the riders before they cross a bridge and take a left at a roundabout. Carrying a lot of speed through the corner is important as it will continue your momentum onto the slight 450m drag (5.1% average) which follows.
After that they will take a sweeping hairpin turn and plunge back down towards the river for a kilometre, no doubt travelling at ridiculous speeds for the town roads.
Interestingly, some cobbled roads are thrown into the mix on both times the riders cross the river as it meanders through the valley. I wonder if the Swiss Roubaix hero will have a smile on his face?
The road continues to roll for around a kilometre or so before the riders will face the final test: the climb to the finish.
With an 8.3% average gradient for 850m and a peak kick of almost 16%, it is no easy finish to the day but it is short enough that some of the puncheurs will hope to contend with the proper climbers and GC riders we have at this race.
Oh, one other thing, did I mention the opening 400m or so are cobbled?
The Romandie organisers do know how to design a good opening prologue that has a bit of everything!
Thankfully it appears that riders will get similar conditions throughout the day with no rain forecast to fall. However, it is meant to rain heavily in Fribourg this evening so the roads might still be wet and slippy for the early starters in the afternoon but the likelihood is that it will have dried up by then.
This really is a mixed bag of a prologue with a few fast descents, some technical corners, cobbles and a punchy climb to finish. Given the short distance, it opens up the stage for some who may not be the best at pacing themselves over the longer efforts. However, given the rise at the end, whoever wins has to be half-decent at climbing. Sorry Alex Dowsett, that means you’re out unfortunately.
Three Clear Favourites?
The best TT rider in the World over a 12-15km distance (in my opinion), he often misses the mark when it is a really short effort against the clock. He has never won a prologue out of the seven that he has competed in as a professional, something that came as quite a surprise to me. To be fair to him, the last effort he had a chance of winning, I’m excluding the uphill prologue in the 2016 Dauphiné, was the opening day of the Baloise Belgium Tour in 2015 and he has improved a lot in the discipline since then. This is his last preparation race before the Giro so he should be in good form but he won’t be at tip-top shape just yet. Does that make him vulnerable for another second place?
The guy is a machine and he will love every aspect of tomorrow’s course. He has no fear on the descents so will no doubt fly down the road and we saw in Itzulia just how well he was climbing on the short, steep ramps. Question marks will remain over his head about how well he has recovered from the crash on the final stage of Itzulia, but I think he’ll be over the knock and fully focussed on this race. Unlike Dennis, Roglic has a prologue win to his name at the Ster ZLM Tour so he has shown to be explosive enough over the distance.
A 4km effort against the clock with some cobbles and an uphill finish: doesn’t that sound great for a former team pursuit come one-day rider come GC contender? As I’ve mentioned above he’s been on good form so far this year and if it wasn’t for great team tactics or a terribly timed mechanical, he would probably have two GC titles under his belt. He’s a bit hit or miss in efforts against the clock but when he’s on, he’s normally really on!
The “they might cause a surprise but will ultimately fall short” riders
Matthews – He would have made the list above a quartet if it was not for his poor performance in Liege. With the travelling to be done as well and after a tough race, I can’t see him bouncing back.
Any BMC rider apart from RD – It’s their home race and they’ve really upped their TT game in general over the past few years. This season they (and Sky) have dominated top 10s, it is just a case of who will go close for them. Also, they’ve been in the wind tunnel testing a new skinsuit; will it make a big difference?
Izagirre Bros – See Matthews.
Boom – Too early in his comeback from surgery but I’d love to be proved wrong. He can pull a result out the bag.
Campenaerts – Not long enough.
Amador – He could be the surprise package here.
The Super Duper Longshot
Mr Romandie himself, Simon Spilak.
No real results to shout home about this year and no signs of great form: a 9th at GP Indurain is his best finish so far. Yet, Spilak always seems to go well at this race and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him near the pointy end of affairs come the end of the week. Can he be there tomorrow? Maybe. He is a very hot or cold rider (mainly freezing) but when he sets his sight on a race he can match the best. If he is in the right frame of mind a good TT effort could start his week off on the right foot. I imagine he would probably prefer some rain though!
A Dennis v Roglic v Thomas battle for the stage with the in-form Slovenian taking the honours.
I tweeted out the Roglic pick before when odds were released.
He has shortened drastically but I would still take
3pts WIN @ 9/2 with Bet365 (I would have him priced up at 3/1).
Also for a bit of fun, let’s go double Slovenian…
0.25pt EW Spilak @ 400/1 (Would take 200/1 lowest).
As for GC: 1pt EW Van Garderen @ 33/1.
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think is going to win tomorrow? Could we see a surprise result? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.