Tour de Suisse Women preview - A showdown between Tour de France Femmes contenders

The likes of Elisa Longo-Borghini, Demi Vollering and Kasia Niewiadoma will go head-to-head in this crucial Tour warm-up race

With the Paris 2024 Olympics taking place this year, the women’s WorldTour calendar has been forced to undergo a number of changes, the main one being that the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift now falls in mid-August, rather than directly following on from the men’s event at the end of July. The Giro d’Italia Women takes place in July during the men’s Tour, but plenty of the Tour de France Femmes contenders are opting to skip the Italian stage race in order to keep themselves fresh ahead of the fight for yellow. This means that the four-day Tour de Suisse is the final opportunity that all of the key contenders for la grande boucle will go head to head in the mountains.

SD Worx-Protime managed a one-two on the general classification in last year’s Tour de Suisse, with Marlen Reusser finishing ahead of Demi Vollering on a rolling and punchy route. Elisa Longo-Borghini rounded out the podium for Lidl-Trek, while Kasia Niewiadoma finished in fourth place. Reusser isn’t due to be back racing at the Tour de Suisse this year, so she won’t be defending her title, but the rest of the podium will be, and the route for the 2024 edition is tougher than ever. Can anyone get the better of Vollering on her favoured terrain? Or will this be another chance for the Dutch rider to assert her dominance ahead of the Tour?

The route

Stage one

Image: Tour de Suisse

The Tour de Suisse Women starts with a bang – there are almost 1,500 metres of elevation gain in the first stage, which means we will see a fight for the general classification right from the beginning. The route is only 58-kilometres long, but with plenty of climbing packed in. It starts with an ascent of the Col de la Croix, a three-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 8.9%, before a long downhill section to the final climb of Villars-Sur-Ollon. At 7.3km in length and with an 8.2% average, the ultimate ascent will show us who is in contention for the overall win at Tour de Suisse Women.

Stage two

Image: Tour de Suisse

Stage two is a race against the clock. With almost 900 metres of altitude gain in this time trial, the specialists may have an advantage on the opening flat section, but the final climb will allow the strong climbers to fight for the stage win. It’s another important day for the general classification contenders.

Stage three

Image: Tour de Suisse

With four categorised climbs and a punchy finishing circuit, stage three sees an Ardennes-style stage finishing in the town of Champagne. The final lap includes a short and steep four-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 6.7%. It’s going to be a challenge for the sprinters to keep up and get their chance of a stage victory on this ascent, and their ability to make it to the finish will largely depend on if the GC riders decide to launch any attacks on this stage.

Stage four

Image: Tour de Suisse

The final stage of the Tour de Suisse Women is another challenging one. It includes 2,100m of elevation gain, though the majority of climbing is weighted to the first half of the stage, which does give the sprinters a slither of hope that they could regain contact with the peloton before the finish. This stage is also the final opportunity for GC contenders to try opportunistic attacks and gain some time on their rivals, so we may see fireworks from the start.

Contenders

Demi Vollering of SD Worx-Protime is the big favourite to take the overall win in this year’s Tour de Suisse Women. The Dutch rider has had an impressive season so far, winning the Vuelta España Femenina a few months ago in dominating fashion. Vollering performs well against the clock so she will be suited to the time trial in this race, and she has repeatedly proven herself as the strongest climber in the peloton over and over again. With a strong team around her including the likes of Niamh Fisher-Black (who won a stage of the Tour de Suisse last year), the big question is: does anyone have a chance of beating Vollering?

Demi Vollering at the Vuelta a España Femenina (Photo: ASO/Unipublic/Jennifer Lindini)

Lidl-Trek are a team that won’t want to accept defeat before the race has begun, and they come to the Tour de Suisse with a formidable line-up. Elisa Longo-Borghini and Gaia Realini are known to work well together in the hills, though Realini could suffer on the time trial stage. Amanda Spratt will be a key domestique for both riders, meaning Lidl-Trek have a team who could seriously challenge SD Worx in the final dress rehearsal before the Tour.

Another team who have exhibited the potential to challenge SD Worx in the past is Canyon//SRAM. They will be led by Kasia Niewiadoma in this year’s Tour de Suisse, who starts the race fresh from some time training at altitude. Niewiadoma finished third in last year’s Tour de France Femmes and has a win in La Flèche Wallonne Féminine to her name already this season, so she knows she has the ability to challenge Vollering on her day. Riders like Neve Bradbury, Elise Chabbey and Antonia Niedermaier are also strong climbers for Canyon//SRAM – they have opportunities to go for stage wins in this race as well as protect Niewiadoma in the fight for the overall victory.

Kasia Niewiadoma at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2023 (Image: Zac Williams/SWpix)

Outside of the pure climbers, Marianne Vos is another big name on the start list of Tour de Suisse for Visma-Lease a Bike. The Dutchwoman recently won the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Femenina overall and is suited to punchy terrain. The climbs in the Tour de Suisse may be too long for Vos to challenge for the general classification, but stage wins are a serious possibility for the 37-year-old. The same can be said for Pfeiffer Georgi of Team dsm-firmenich-PostNL – the British rider is always active in breakaways and will see this race as a chance to get her first win of the season. EF Education-Cannondale can also be relied on to animate the race with riders like Kristen Faulkner and Veronica Ewers.

Outside of some of the bigger WorldTeams, Yara Kastelijn should be kept in mind for Fenix-Deceuninck. The 26-year-old rider finished inside the top-10 at the Vuelta and is known for her strong performances in the mountains. The same can be said for Ingvild Gåskjenn of Liv AlUla Jayco who finished in the top-10 of four stages in the Vuelta.

Prediction

It’s hard to look past Demi Vollering when it comes to the likely overall winner of the Tour de Suisse. The Dutch rider has shown no signs of fatigue this season and only seems to be getting stronger as stage racing continues. SD Worx bring a strong line-up to Suisse in what looks to be a dress rehearsal for their potential Tour de France squad, so Vollering will be well-supported. This doesn’t mean we’re in for a boring race, though. The Tour de Suisse route designers have created profiles that invite aggressive racing and we can rely on the likes of Lidl-Trek, Canyon//SRAM and EF Education-Cannondale to light things up and put a challenge to SD Worx.

Cover image: ASO/Unipublic/Alex Berasategi

Shop now