After the cancellation of the Women’s Tour for 2023, it has been a little under a month since the last WorldTour race for the women’s peloton. Many riders have been making the most of this gap in the calendar to head to altitude and prepare for big goals ahead, notably the Tour de France Femmes. Before we head to France in July, though, the women’s edition of the Tour de Suisse is a key warm-up race which will give us an indicator of which riders are ready to fight for yellow in a month’s time. Taking place from June 17 to 20, defending champion Lucinda Brand is back to try and win again in 2023, but she’ll have an extremely strong SD Worx team to try and beat.
Whether the Tour de Suisse can really give an indication of who will be contesting victories in the high mountains of the Tour de France Femmes is yet to be determined – the route of the Tour de Suisse is flatter and less challenging, only including two road stages with the opening two days being a city circuit race then an individual time trial. However, year on year the Tour de Suisse provides us with some tight, nail-biting finishes and we can expect more of that in 2023.
Here's all you need to know about the route, favourites and our prediction of the winner.
Stage one - Weinfelden-Weinfelden (56km)
Image: Tour de Suisse
Like last year, the women’s edition of the 2023 Tour de Suisse will open with a short and punchy circuit race. The stage consists of three 20km laps, all of which include a 2.6km climb (Burgstrasse) at an average of 4.9% gradient. While this climb doesn’t compare to some of the ascents that come later in the race, it will certainly begin to sting as the rider's legs become fatigued as the stage goes on. The Burgstrasse will also provide the perfect stage for attacks and could be a key obstacle that the sprinters need to navigate if they want a chance at racing for victory today.
Stage two - St. Gallen - Abtwil (25.7km)
The second stage of the 2023 women’s Tour de Suisse is a time trial on the same course used by the men’s peloton on the opening day of the Tour de Suisse. On that day, Stefan Küng took the victory in a time just shy of 14 minutes. Such a flat route is the perfect opportunity for the lesser climbers who want to target the general classification to take time on their rivals – the long, largely straight-forward course will rely on the winner having exemplary strength and power, rather than being a lightweight climber or especially strong technically.
Stage three - St. Gallen - Ebnat-Kappel (120.8km)
The penultimate stage of the women’s Tour de Suisse is the first proper road stage that the peloton will face over the four days. Starting in St. Gallen, the route is rolling throughout the day, but one of the main obstacles comes after 70km of racing in the form of the Sitzberg climb – 4.2km long at an average gradient of 5.7%. The riders won’t have much respite after they crest the Sitzberg as they reach a sprint point just under 20km later. The final climb of the day is the Ricken which is 6km long at 4.3% average gradient before the riders climb once again to the finish in Ebnat-Kappel. The winner of this stage will need to be a strong climber, though it is worth noting that none of the ascents are supremely challenging in length or gradient, which could mean a good time trialist is able to hold on for victory.
Stage four - Ebnat-Kappel- Ebnat-Kappel (100.8km)
The 2023 Tour de Suisse concludes with another hilly stage that could decide the final general classification of the race. After 43km of racing, the peloton will hit the first climb of the day which is also the longest (6.2km at 3.7% average gradient) and the ascents come thick and fast after that. Three climbs of the Schorutistrasse – 1.3km at 7.6% – will really test who has the best legs on this final stage which includes almost 2000m of elevation gain.
It’s no surprise that Demi Vollering sits at the top of the list of favourites for the 2023 edition of the women’s Tour de Suisse. The SD Worx rider has had a breathtaking season so far with 11 wins already to her name, including victories in all three Ardennes Classics and Strade Bianche. The terrain in the Tour de Suisse will undoubtedly suit Vollering well (though, admittedly, it is hard to think of terrain that she can’t perform on), with the punchy circuit race on the opening stage and the longer climbs both playing into the Dutchwoman's strengths. Vollering hasn’t raced since mid-May, when she took victory in the Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, but her Strava and Instagram has shown her repeatedly training hard at altitude in preparation for the Tour de France Femmes. The Tour de Suisse will be a key part of her warm-up as the season creeps closer to her attempt at winning the yellow jersey and it will be important that she performs well here.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
Vollering’s only obstacle could be that the parcours in the Tour de Suisse aren’t hard enough for her to split the peloton. If some fast finishers remain in the peloton when Vollering reaches the finish line and she hasn’t been able to break away, it may be that the Dutch rider is outsprinted. She will also be heavily marked by other riders given her incredible season so far – the likes of Trek-Segafredo will not want her to get a gap. SD Worx do have multiple options however, including Gent-Wevelgem and Itzulia Women winner Marlen Reusser. The Swiss rider could arguably be more suited to the Tour de Suisse route than Vollering – she is the Olympic time trial silver medalist and will know her home roads well. SD Worx also will bring promising young riders Niamh Fisher-Black and Blanka Vas, both of whom are ones to watch for stage wins and breakaways in the Tour de Suisse.
Defending champion Lucinda Brand returns to the Tour de Suisse this year to try and guard her title with a strong Trek-Segafredo team behind her. Brand is yet to perform as well on the road this year as she has in seasons gone by, but she is clearly well-suited to the Swiss terrain, able to climb well and perform on the flatter, rolling sections. Brand narrowly won against Kristen Faulkner in 2022 with a memorable skillful descent on the final stage – the Dutch rider’s bike handling skills are exemplary, perhaps due to her experience on the cyclo-cross field. While Brand’s 2023 form is a slight mystery at the moment, she will be motivated by the fact she is returning with last year’s win already under her belt.
If Brand isn’t up to the challenge, Trek-Segafredo comes with a range of other options including Lizzie Deignan. The British rider has had a strong return to racing after giving birth to her second child and will enjoy the rolling terrain of the road stages in the Tour de Suisse, though time trialling is not her speciality. Gaia Realini and Amanda Spratt also make a formidable climbing duo for the American team – they have the strength in numbers to really put a challenge to SD Worx and stop the dominance that they have had over the women’s peloton this season.
One of Elise Chabbey’s breakthrough results came at the Tour de Suisse in 2021 when the Swiss rider finished second overall and won a stage, surprising many by beating Lizzie Deignan in a two-up sprint to the finish line. Since then, Chabbey has become a key rider for Canyon//SRAM, gaining some great results including top-10 finishes in Brabantse Pijl, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège this season so far. Chabbey looks to be climbing better than ever in 2023 which will be an advantage during the final stage of the Tour de Suisse, but she can also ride well in a technical circuit race that the riders will face on the opening stage.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
Whether Chabbey is awarded the leadership role by Canyon//SRAM remains to be seen, however. The German team also will have the experienced puncheur Kasia Niewiadoma in their roster who could be an important protagonist in this race, as well as Pauliena Rooijakkers, Soraya Paladin and Ricarda Bauernfeind, all of whom could have a shot at victory on a good day. Hopefully it isn’t a case of too many cooks for Canyon//SRAM and they can use their numbers wisely to challenge the likes of SD Worx and Trek-Segafredo for victory.
Another rider coming fresh from a camp at altitude is Movistar’s Liane Lippert. New to the team for this year, the German rider appears to be thriving in the Spanish set-up, with three podium finishes so far this season in women’s WorldTour races. Lippert performed especially well in the Ardennes races and the punchy climbs in those events are similar to those in the Tour de Suisse, so we can expect similar results from Lippert here. The German rider also has an extremely attacking riding style which could work well in the Tour de Suisse if the majority of the peloton is focusing on beating the likes of SD Worx. There are multiple springboards where a rider like Lippert could launch a move and get a gap.
One area in which Lippert has not historically performed well in, however, is the time trial. It isn’t a speciality of the Movistar rider and it may be that she loses some time on stage two of the Tour de Suisse against some of the powerhouses of the peloton. However, speaking to Rouleur at the start of the season, Lippert did confirm she had been working on her race against the clock since joining Movistar, so we could see some big improvements here. Movistar also has a good option for the overall GC with Katrine Aalerud, though Lippert is likely to be their plan A. It will be important that the Spanish team rides well collectively in order to put a challenge to teams such as Trek-Segafredo and SD Worx.
Team DSM’s Juliette Labous is one of the most consistent riders in the peloton, regularly securing top-10 finishes in some of the biggest races. It’s for this reason that she can perform well in stage races, able to resist fatigue when other riders begin to suffer. Labous was fourth in the inaugural Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift last season, proof that she can compete with the very best when her form is there. It’s likely that Labous will have been training in order to peak for this point in the season with the Tour not far away, so the Tour de Suisse will be a crucial part of her preparation phase. The French rider finished in the top-10 in the individual time trial at the World Championships last year so won’t be afraid of the 25km challenge that stage two of the Tour de Suisse poses.
Image: Zac Williams/SWpix
Labous does have a relatively young and inexperienced team around her at the Tour de Suisse, however, which may mean she struggles if she becomes isolated towards the end of the stages when the other teams have strength in numbers. The 24-year-old rider will need to play her cards right to make the best out of this situation if it arises and hope that the likes of Becky Storrie and Francesca Barale are on top form to help her if she needs it.
At the recent Internationale Lotto Thüringen Ladies Tour, Jayco-Alula’s Ruby Roseman-Gannon proved to be the best of the rest behind the three SD Worx riders who dominated the peloton. It was a great result for the Australian rider who also finished in fifth place at Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier this season. Roseman-Gannon falls into the category of riders who will enjoy the terrain of the Tour de Suisse because it is neither extremely hilly or extremely flat, instead falling somewhere in between. Roseman-Gannon has the ability to win bunch sprints and from a reduced group – it will just be a case of her hanging on to the best climbers on that final stage.
The 24-year-old hasn’t done many time trials, but did finish fourth in the Australian National Time Trial Championships at the start of this season, proving she has improved against the clock. While not one of the biggest teams in the Tour de Suisse peloton, Jayco-Alula do still boast a strong line-up with Alexandra Manly and Teniel Campbell also on their roster for this event.
We’re struggling to see anyone beating Team SD Worx in this race and think that Demi Vollering will take yet another victory this season at the Tour de Suisse. Even if something goes wrong for Vollering, the team still have Marlen Reusser as a fantastic back-up option, making them a force to be reckoned with in this event.
Cover image: Tour de Suisse