What the Tour de Suisse means for the Tour de France

The Tour de Suisse was the final WorldTour stage race before the 2021 Tour de France. We analyse the potential implications that the race in Switzerland could have on the fight for the maillot jaune.

The final WorldTour level stage race before the Tour de France has come and gone. The Tour de Suisse featured everything from time-trials to cobbled mountains, testing the very vest GC contenders ahead of the world's biggest cycling race.

Ultimately, Richard Carapaz of the Ineos Grenadiers took victory. His triumphant ride means that the last four WorldTour stage races have been won by the Grenadiers — Geraint Thomas won the Tour de Romandie, Egan Bernal the Giro and Richie Porte the Criterium du Dauphine. The team are in dominant form. However, they have not had to face Primoz Roglic or Tadej Pogacar in this time-frame, something that is about to change at the Tour de France.

We take a look at how the Tour de Suisse could impact the quickly approaching Tour de France, which starts on 26th June.

Tour de France 2021 Guide

Is Rigoberto Urán a genuine yellow jersey contender?

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Aside from Carapaz, Rigoberto Urán was the other rider to really impress in Switzerland. The Colombian won the stage 7 time-trial by 40 seconds — a stunning time difference considering the length of the stage which took place on the Oberalppass. The mountain climb is just under 10km in length and averages 6.5%. The second half of the time-trial saw the riders descend into the town of Andermatt, making this a time-trial of almost pure climbing and descending skills, rather than a more typical ‘power time-trial’.

Nonetheless, this makes Uran’s effort all the more impressive. Carapaz, who held a one minute lead to Uran prior to the stage, finished 54 seconds behind. Carapaz had shown fine climbing legs just days before to win stage 5. 

This is by far the best form we’ve seen from Uran all season. In his previous two starts, he was 37th at Etoile de Besseges and 52nd at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. The question arises, could Uran genuinely challenge for yellow at the Tour de France? 

Firstly, Uran has proven countless times before that he is a fine three-week racer. He has finished in the top ten of a Grand Tour on eight occasions, and three of those have been second place, including the Tour de France in 2017. Despite Uran’s notable performance at the Tour de Suisse, which seemingly came out of nowhere, he will still start the Tour as an outsider. With Tadej Pogacar, Primoz Roglic and the Ineos Grenadiers the key favourites, a podium place may be difficult for Uran to achieve. However, a top 10 or even top 5 looks likely.

Is Richard Carapaz the leader of the Ineos Grenadiers?

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The Ineos Grenadiers undoubtedly enter the Tour de France with the strongest team. Three of their riders were on the podium of a Grand Tour last season, whilst Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France in 2018. When you add Michal Kwiatkowski, Rohan Dennis and road captain Luke Rowe into the mix, you have one of the all-time great Grand Tour lineups. 

So, who is their leader? Tao Geoghegan Hart is their most recent Grand Tour winner after he won the Giro just eight months ago, but Richie Porte was on the Tour de France podium last year and won the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month. Surely he deserves a shot? Plus Geraint Thomas is the only member of the lineup to have won the Tour de France before, shouldn't that make him the leader? Well, Richard Carapaz just entered the chat. 

Carapaz became Ecuador's cycling superstar after he won the Giro d’italia in 2019. He hadn’t won a stage race since until the Tour de Suisse. In Switzerland, Carapaz displayed his ability on the time-trial bike as well as in the high mountains where he is one of the world’s best. Carapaz is a three-week racer who always improves as a Grand Tour enters the final week. This can be seen at last year’s Vuelta a España, where he pushed Primoz Roglic all the way by attacking him on the Alto de la Covatilla. This was the final mountain stage and Carapaz closed the gap in the GC to just 24 seconds. It wasn't quite enough to win the red jersey, but is just one example of how Carapaz offensive style and great ability to recover as a race progresses will put him in good stead for the Tour de France.

By winning the Tour de Suisse, Carapaz has placed himself in the perfect position to enter the Tour in a leadership role, even if that is a joint position alongside Thomas, Porte or both.

Israel Start-Up Nation at the Tour de France

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Chris Froome joined Israel Start-Up Nation in one of the most talked about transfers of 2021. However, the Brit has been unable to re-find the legs that have made him a four-time Tour de France winner. With his place on the start line in question, Israel Start-Up must rely on others. That may not be a major issue, though, with Mike Woods coming to the fore in 2021. 

Mike Woods at the Tour de Romandie

After coming to the sport of cycling late in his athletic career, Woods has developed a reputation as one of the strongest punchers in the world. However, Woods is now becoming an even better climber, meaning he's at the front on longer, higher mountains on a much more consistent basis. Woods showed this yet again at the Tour de Suisse. Although he was unable to claim a stage, he was third on stage 5 which concluded in Leukerbad, and then second where he was outsprinted by Gino Mäder on stage 8 which finished in Andermatt. 

Woods is a weak time-trialist — his best result on the TT bike this season is 28th in five attempts. With almost 60km of individual time-trialling at the Tour, winning the yellow jersey in Paris is not a realistic goal for the Canadian. A place in the top ten looks feasible, but Woods may be better off searching for stage wins and the king of the mountains jersey, which Woods won at the Tour de Suisse.

Deceuninck - Quick Step’s Tour Debutant Going under the Radar

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With Sam Bennett struggling to shake off an injury, all the talk around Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Tour de France lineup has been around the inclusion, or not, of Mark Cavendish. No one is paying any attention to Mattia Cattaneo who may be going under the radar. 

Under the radar: Riders to watch at the Tour de France

Although the 30-year-old Italian has started seven Grand Tours in his career, this would be his first appearance at the Tour de France. Cattaneo is exceptionally well-rounded and consistent. Although he isn't a lightweight pure climber, he's more than capable in the high mountains. This was on display at the Tour de Suisse where he was third on the queen stage 8 which featured 3,500 metres of climbing. In addition to that, Cattaneo is an exceptional time-trialist. He was third and sixth in the two time-trials at the Tour de Suisse, continuing his run of finishing in the top 15 in every time-trial he has started this season. 

At the Tour de France, Cattaneo will at the very least help Julian Alaphilippe achieve his goals. But don’t completely rule out Cattaneo from riding to a respectable position in the GC, or even springing a surprise in the two time-trials on stage 5 and stage 20.

Cover image: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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