Decision time in the 2022 Tour de Suisse. Today’s stage will make some differences but, starting tomorrow, the race will be completely different. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday’s stages will put a lot of time between the general classification (GC) contenders and, despite this clearly being a warmup race for the Tour, the Tour de Suisse is a prestigious race that everybody would love to win.
Both upcoming mountain stages have really hard summit finishes. Much harder than last year’s. The time trial is also flat (unlike last year’s) and 25km long which favors pure time trialists instead of climbers.
At the end of stage 4 of the 2021 Tour de Suisse a mere 38 seconds separated 1st and 10th. At the end of the race this number ballooned to 5m33s. Something similar will surely happen in this year’s edition, which is why the final three stages (starting tomorrow, ending on Sunday) are absolutely must-watch. I’m not a fan of time trials on weekends because TV audiences aren’t excited by them so that’s the only gripe I have with the scheduling. Other than that, they will be 3 awesome days of racing.
Stephen Williams (Bahrain Victorious)
Current leader and stage 1 winner, Stephen Williams is certainly the man of the first half of the race. The Welsh rider won the first stage in a sprint within a small group and hasn’t surrendered the leader’s jersey since. He is a fairly unknown rider who catapulted himself to the sphere of knowledge of the hardcore cycling fan with his victory in the 2021 Cro Race. He is a fascinating case of a rider who just shows up: he did it in Croatia last year and now in Switzerland. In between? Absolutely no relevant results. Before that? Likewise. Since turning pro at the end of 2018 he has absolutely no noteworthy results besides those two. His most famous performances came as an under-23 rider, finishing the 2018 Baby Giro in 5th place and winning the Ronde l’Isard that same year.
That’s certainly not the case anymore, and all eyes will be on the 26 year old Welsh rider to repeat this performance in the future.
Daryl Impey (Israel – Premier Tech)
Fitting, in my mind, that it’s a 37 year old rider that went through a lot these past 3 years that gives a fairly clueless team their only second World Tour (WT) victory of the season. After years marred by injuries, the former Tour de France yellow jersey seems back to his best level. A stage win yesterday is an excellent prize for all he went through in recent years.
Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora Hansgrohe) – 9th, 10s behind the leader
Bora’s likely leader for the Tour is an excellent position to add the 2022 Tour de Suisse to his palmares before heading to France. The competition, as far as I see it, will come from Ineos Grenadiers and their Tour lineup. Vlasov won the Tour of Romandie with authority and I will take him over Adam Yates in the second Swiss WT stage race of the year. Sergio Higuita gives the German a secondary option in case the Russian fails to deliver. The Colombian champion is no stranger to coming out of nowhere to win a WT stage race in 2022.
Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) – 10th, 10s behind the leader
I’m a big fan of Dani Martinez and thought this profile fit him better than Yates. However, the 51 seconds lost on the opening stage tilt Ineos’ scale to the British rider, in my opinion. Geraint Thomas is now in 3rd overall but it’d take a miracle for him to win this race given the form we’ve seen from him in the latter half of 2021 and in 2022 so far.
Remco Evenepoel (Quick Step Alphavinyl) – 12th, 10s behind the leader
Well, the Belgian team keeps trying to make Remco win high mountain stages against the best riders in the world. It worked last month in Norway but the competition wasn’t really WT level. I don’t mean this as a slight to one of the best riders in the world. I mean, if he was a top level climber and 3-week racer at 22 years of age he’d probably already be the best rider of all time. It’s a process with Evenepoel and getting better at those two disciplines will likely come at the cost of victories such as the spectacular Liége-Bastogne-Liége this year.
I don’t think he matches up with the myriad of other climbers in this race and don’t think he’ll keep them close enough to defeat them in the time trial.
Jakob Fuglsang (Israel Premier Tech) – 8th, 10s behind the leader
Despite his age he consistently shows that he can still produce. I don’t think anybody would pick him over the other names on this list but the Dane is still in contention and as more and more riders are eliminated the more likely he is to hang on to a podium finish.
Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) – 4th, 7s behind the leader
I don’t really think he’s a candidate to win the race but, much like Fuglsang, he already eliminated plenty of rivals for a top-10 spot. He’s a decent time trialist and already finished this year’s Paris Nice just outside of the top-10, in 11th place. With his stage 2 victory in the Tour of Suisse he accumulated a cushion over his rivals for that objective so don’t be surprised if you see him hang on to the group of favorites in the climbs.
The Dutch team was forced to abandon the race due to a covid positive case. They had Sepp Kuss well positioned, in 7th place, and ready to do battle in the mountains. Hopefully nothing major comes out of this unfortunate situation.