With defending champion Geraint Thomas not taking to the start, the 2023 edition of the Tour de Suisse is open to a new victor. The start list in the race this year is of an extremely high quality, with many riders using it as a warm-up race for the Tour de France which starts just a few weeks later. There are time trial specialists such as Stefan Küng and Filippo Ganna taking to the start line to test themselves in the final ITT against the clock, as well as puncheurs and sprinters like Wout van Aert and Biniam Girmay looking for stage victories.
When it comes to the battle for the general classification, the world champion Remco Evenepoel sits at the top of the favourites list, returning to racing following his bout of Covid-19 which forced him to abandon the Giro d’Italia. Rumour has it, though, that maglia rosa winner Primož Roglič also fancies giving it a go at the Tour de Suisse, so Evenepoel could have some tough competition on his hands for the 2023 Tour de Suisse title. Here are the key GC favourites we expect to be mixing it up, as well as our prediction of the winner.
The Tour de Suisse wasn’t supposed to be in Remco Evenepoel’s plan at the start of the season, but after his attempt at the Giro d’Italia was curtailed when he tested positive for Covid-19, the Belgian has picked the race around Switzerland as his comeback event. How much this recent bout of illness has impacted Evenepoel’s form is yet to be seen, though his Strava profile tells us that the Soudal–Quick-Step rider has been able to put in some big training rides already ahead of his return to the peloton. Before he was struck with Covid, Evenepoel looked to be in incredible form at the Giro d’Italia, winning the opening time trial by a significant margin and going on to take victory in the time trial mid-way through the race too, despite already being ill at that point.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
Since the 2023 Tour de Suisse route features plenty of mountains and culminates with a long, flat final time trial, Evenepoel should be in his element. It’s a course design well-suited to the young Belgian talent, who is known to excel against the clock. Last year, Evenepoel took victory in the race’s final ITT, but struggled in some of the tougher mountain stages before that. A few weeks later he won the 2022 edition of the Vuelta a España, though, putting an end to any doubts around how well he could climb. We’re yet to see him be fully tested in the high mountains so far in 2023 after his Giro abandon, so the Tour de Suisse will be an opportunity for Evenepoel to go head-to-head with Primož Roglič, if the 23-year-old is back to his best post-illness.
Beating the likes of Roglič and Evenepoel is a tall order for the Ineos Grenadiers’ 21-year-old British talent Ben Tulett, but his recent form is a good indicator that he could be in with a chance at the 2023 Tour de Suisse. Tulett has already competed in five one-week stage races so far this season, with his best results coming most recently in the Tour de Hongrie, where he finished second, and then the Tour of Norway where he took the first GC victory of his career. Tulett can climb extremely well, but also performs impressively against the clock, making him a contender for victory the final time trial in the Tour de Suisse too.
Compared to some of his competitors, Tulett is relatively inexperienced at taking on the role of a general classification leader and the Tour de Suisse will form an important part of his development as a rider. It will take some pressure off Tulett’s shoulders that Ineos do have a range of options for this race, with Tom Pidcock and Magnus Sheffield both also taking to the start. It may be that the focus for the British team is mostly on stage wins, which will allow Tulett to make his assault on the overall without the stress of having the team’s expectations riding on his performance. Whether he is at the level to compete with the world champion and recent Giro d’Italia winner will be revealed during the race, but if things go right for Tulett, he could definitely be a key protagonist in the 2023 Tour de Suisse.
It’s been a turbulent couple of months for UAE Team Emirates’ Juan Ayuso, suffering from an ongoing injury to his heel which has prevented him from racing as much as he or his team would have hoped. Ayuso stormed to fame when he finished third in the 2022 edition of the Vuelta a España, a race in which he proved he is capable of climbing and competing with the very best when he is on form. This season, however, the Spanish rider has only raced once at the Tour de Romandie in April where he performed well, winning the time trial and finishing second on stage two in a reduced bunch sprint. As the peloton headed up the mountains towards Thyon 2000, though, Ayuso looked to struggle. He still finished a respectable 17th place on the general classification.
It’s now just over a month since the race in Romandie and Ayuso hasn’t raced in the gap between then and the Tour de Suisse. This means his form is a bit of a mystery, but he will undoubtedly be in contention for stage wins and he could, depending on his climbing legs, also fight for a general classification position. UAE Team Emirates do come to the Tour de Suisse with a plethora of options, including Jay Vine, who will want to perform well after suffering from some bad luck due to crashes in the Giro d’Italia, and home favourite Marc Hirschi, who's form has been steadily building so far this season. The team in white will be a force to be reckoned with at the Tour de Suisse, but the road will decide which of them will be the leader for UAE Team Emirates.
Fresh from his general classification win at the Giro d’Italia, Primož Roglič could return to racing at the Tour de Suisse. Roglič wasn’t initially supposed to be competing here, but it’s unsurprising that Jumbo-Visma want to capitalise on the Slovenian rider’s current run of form. Roglič once again proved his talent as a stage racer at the Giro, timing his form to perfection to snatch the maglia rosa on the penultimate stage with a dominating mountain time trial. It seemed like Roglič was able to build his form through the Giro steadily, reaching his peak when it mattered. This is a good sign for the Tour de Suisse, as it’s likely that he will carry through the form he built over three weeks of hard stage racing into the event, making him a danger to of his competitors.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
Generally after Grand Tours, a rider’s physical state can go two ways, they can either soak up the extensive miles and find themselves stronger than ever, or they can feel fatigued and struggle to recover. It will be interesting to see which of these camps Roglič falls into after the Giro and whether he has stayed focused and trained hard after his victory. The Slovenian rider has a strong team around him to support him should he have the legs to go for the win, including Wout van Aert, a rider who is known to be a super-domestique, able to do a job both on the flat and in the high mountains for his teammates. Van Aert will also want his own chances for stage victories though, so Jumbo-Visma will need to manage all their rider’s ambitions carefully.
He might not have shown his best form so far in the 2022 season, but Jakob Fuglsang’s history at the Tour de Suisse makes him an important contender for this race. The Dane has finished on the podium three times in this race, including finishing second in both the 2021 and 2022 editions. The route of the Tour du Suisse, which generally is a mix of flat stages, time trials and only a couple of very high days in the mountains, means an all-rounder like Fuglsang can often find themselves in contention for victory. Fuglsang has struggled with injury so far this season and last raced a stage race at the Tour de Hongrie where he secured 11th place overall. This is a respectable comeback for only his second race of the season, and the 38-year-old rider has been spending time at altitude ahead of the Tour de Suisse, which should only bolster his form further.
It’s fair to say that the likes of Roglič and Evenepoel have a better chance of winning than Fuglsang in this race, but his experience and racing knowledge should definitely give the Danish rider an advantage in some situations. He also has a formidable team around him for support, including the likes of Nick Schultz and Dylan Teuns, both of whom might be able to fight for a high GC position themselves, or go for stage wins.
Team DSM’s Romain Bardet hasn’t raced since the Tour de Romandie in April, giving himself a long training block ahead of the Tour de Suisse. The Frenchman has been vocal about the Tour de France being one of his key aims for the season, and the Tour de Suisse forms a crucial part of his lead up to that. Speaking to Rouleur earlier this year, Bardet noted that while his form is improving, he doesn’t seem to be achieving the same results, largely because of the rising level in the modern peloton. He explained that everything would need to go perfectly on race day for him to be in contention for victory against the best, but didn’t rule out standing on the top step of the podium again.
Image: James Startt
It could be that the break Bardet has had from racing in the lead up to the Tour de Suisse will work well for the Frenchman and his seventh place finish at the Tour de Romandie – the last race he competed in – is a sign that Bardet isn’t far from the top level. He was also placing highly on multiple stages in Romandie, getting involved in reduced bunch finishes, which shows the 32-year-old still possesses the hunger to race. Team DSM will come to the Tour de Suisse with some strong climbers to support Bardet, including Marius Mayrhofer who recently had a strong showing in the Giro d’Italia. The team’s attacking style is something they could use to their advantage if some of the bigger favourites are preoccupied with watching each other when the mountains are looming.
With last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas, not taking to the start of the 2023 edition of the Tour de Suisse, Sergio Higuita (who finished in second place) is the best placed rider from last year’s edition also racing in the 2023 Tour de Suisse. Higuita showed in the 2022 edition that he is a supremely talented climber, putting time into the likes of Thomas in the penultimate stage when the climbs hit the steepest and toughest gradients. Higuita lost out in the time trial on the final stage of the race when he finished over one minute down on Evenepoel and Thomas – the race against the clock is not a discipline that suits the small Colombian climber particularly well.
This could also be his downfall in the 2023 edition of the Tour de Suisse, and Higuita will need to make up some time in the mountains ahead of the time trial in order to have a buffer on his rivals going into the final stage. Bora-Hansgrohe’s 20-year-old climber Cian Uijtdebroeks will also be a good support rider for Higuita. Despite his young age, Uijtdebroeks is known to be one of the biggest talents in the peloton, winning the prestigious under-23 race, the Tour de l’Avenir, last year.
We’re betting on Remco Evenepoel to take the victory in the 2023 edition of the Tour de Suisse. His training files on Strava tell us that Covid-19 hasn’t impacted him too heavily so far and he looked unstoppable at the Giro d’Italia before he left the race. The Soudal–Quick-Step rider will be motivated to make the most of the hard work he put in ahead of the Giro d’Italia that he couldn’t put to use and the Tour de Suisse is the perfect race to do this in.
Cover image: Tour de Suisse