The 75th Tour de Romandie takes place from Tuesday April 26th to Sunday May 1st. Staged in the French-speaking Romandy region of Switzerland, the race has been held annually since its inception in 1947, with the exception of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The final multi-stage race before the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de Romandie is often used as preparation for the teams and riders that will head to Italy to fight it out for the maglia rosa. In the past it has been be seen as a key indicator of success in the Tour de France – most recently Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome won both races in the same year, in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively, although it has been nine years since this double has been repeated.
The race consists of six stages and offers tests of all varieties, including opportunities for sprinters, punchers and climbers. It’s topped and tailed by rides against the clock – beginning with a short prologue and finishing with an individual time-trial. Whilst renowned for its stunning mountain stages, the race is usually won by a strong time-triallist.
Prologue: Lausanne – Lausanne (5.1km ITT)
The traditional prologue takes place on the streets of the cycling-loving town of Lausanne. Often the site of the closing time trial, the city’s stadium hosts the finish of the 5.1km prologue, and a solid time trialist is likely to be the first wearer of the green leader’s jersey going into the first full stage.
STAGE 1 – LA GRANDE BÉROCHE – ROMONT (178km)
Beginning on the banks of Lake Neuchâtel, the first full road stage of the race is largely flat for just under 40km, before it heads away from the water and kicks the peloton up the first test of the day, the category 3 climb to Suchy. From here the riders can kiss goodbye to flat ground for the rest of the stage as they begin a day of ups and downs, including three more category three climbs and plenty of uncategorised ascents to boot.
The stage finishes with two local loops of the Romont area, each just under 40km and taking in a double ascent of the Massonens climb. It’s a stage suited to a spritely breakaway, and with a summit finish into the town of Romont it might be a day for a puncheur to take victory.
STAGE 2 – ECHALLENS – ECHALLENS (168.2km)
Stage 2 begins and ends in the same place. The picturesque town of Echallens is the capital of the Gros-de-Vaud region, and plays host to a stage which will suit the fast men, as it contains just a single categorised climb.
The day begins uphill, and is another day of ups and downs, but with the third category La Praz ascent almost perfectly bisecting the route profile, there is plenty of time for the sprinters’ teams to chase down any hopeful baroudeurs and allow the opportunity for a bunch sprint finish.
STAGE 3 – VALBROYE – VALBROYE (165.1km)
A trickier proposition on paper with five categorised climbs on the menu, stage 3 begins and ends in the village of Valbroye, where a festival has been planned to run alongside the bike race. This should see a host of fans out to support the riders as they weave around the Granges-Manard region.
The stage travels around the local hills with barely a suggestion of flat all day. It will appeal to punchy riders and breakaway artists, but with just one mountainous stage left before the final time trial, expect some movement among the GC riders too.
STAGE 4 – AIGLE – ZINAL (180.1km)
The Queen stage of the Tour de Romandie begins in the town of Aigle, where the riders will have little time to enjoy the scenery as they prepare for a gruelling day in the saddle.
With over 3000m of ascent on the cards, the first 55km or so of flat riding would be welcomed, however the breakaway will fight hard to establish themselves with one final chance for the climbers to shine, and the lion’s share of points in the KOM competition up for grabs.
Then the climbing begins in earnest. Five category one climbs and one category two will test the riders and separate the GC contenders from the bunch as they aim to gain as much time as possible going into the final time-trial. The race ascends into the region’s stunning ski resorts and with an uphill finish into Zinal, it’s a true beast of a day befitting the Tour de Romandie.
STAGE 5 – AIGLE – VILLARS (15.8km)
While it is on the short side in terms of distance, with the climbing of stage 4 in their legs, the steadily rising gradient of the final time-trial from Aigle to Villlars will challenge the riders right to the finish line. Departing from the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, the riders can pace themselves over the flat first third of the race, but the true challenge begins in the final 10km. Each rider must dig deep and claw his way to the finish as they ascend almost 900m towards the final destination of Villars.
The final outcome of the GC race will not be decided until after the time-trial has concluded – expect a reshuffling of top positions and possibly even a new leader rounding out the week in the green leader’s jersey.
While Ineos Grenadiers have been dominating the headlines following their fantastic Spring Classics performances, they have been quietly amassing strong performances in stage races too. Dani Martínez won at Itzulia Basque Country and Eddie Dunbar at Coppi e Bartali, and they’ve had a range of stage wins along the way from the likes of Magnus Sheffield, Carlos Rodríguez and Ethan Hayter. They bring a young, exciting team to Romandy in support of defending champion Geraint Thomas, including Sheffield and Hayter, along with German sprinter Kim Heiduk, Eddie Dunbar and Lucas Plapp. Whether they opt to work for the veteran or hedge their bets and give one of the young guns a run at the GC, there’s no doubt they will animate the race along the way.
Primož Roglič is a two-time previous winner of the race but he doesn’t attend this year; he has been struggling with a knee injury and in his stead, Jumbo Visma send most of his Tour de France team along to get some racing in their legs. With time-trialling playing an integral part in the GC competition, Rohan Dennis may well be leader for the team, with an in-form Steven Kruijswijk providing another option and Sepp Kuss as mountain super-domestique.
UAE Team Emirates seem to suffer from a lack of leadership without Tadej Pogačar present, as was seen at Volta a Catalunya, and once again they will arrive in Romandy with a number of leadership options. With the likes of Juan Ayuso, Marc Hirschi and Brandon McNulty (above) all showing good form so far this season, it remains to be seen whether this young team can unite behind one leader, or whether they will once again throw everything at the metaphorical wall and see what sticks.
A number of riders who have fared well in other mountainous stage races will offer a stiff challenge to the front runners. Ion Izagirre came second in the GC at Itzulia and is one of a number of riders reanimating Cofidis in the 2022 season. Damiano Caruso won the Tour of Sicily riding for a select Italian squad; at Romandie he is supported by a strong team including super-domestique Gino Mäder. Bora-hansgrohe’s Sergio Higuita won the Volta a Catalunya although he retired from Itzulia so his condition remains to be seen.
EF Education-EasyPost bring a team packed with climbing talent. They are likely to go for GC with Rigoberto Urán but with Neilson Powless, Mark Padun and Odd Christian Eiking among their number, they have chances for stage wins too.
Other contenders include Groupama-FDJ who bring a strong climbing contingent including Thibaut Pinot and Michael Storer, both of whom have ridden well this week at the Tour of the Alps. Quick-Step-Alpha Vinyl will hunt stages with the likes of Mattia Cattaneo and Remy Cavagna for the time-trials and Mikkel Honoré and Mauro Schmid for longer climbing stages. Israel Premier-Tech have a stage winner from last year, Michael Woods, among their ranks, along with Jakob Fuglsang and Chris Froome.
It’s a tough one to call but with the right combination of climbing ability and tim- trialling chops, if his team are able to get their act together and work as a unit, we think UAE Team Emirates’ Brandon McNulty could edge out strong opposition from Jumbo Visma, Ineos and Bora to take the overall victory at Romandie.