The Tour of where?
Romandy, or Romandie in its native tongue, is the area of Switzerland defined by being officially French speaking. Not so often marked on the map, it’s basically the western end of the country, and specifically the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura, plus parts of Bern, Valais and Fribourg – where the 2018 edition starts.
What does it involve?
Five stages plus a prologue including two time trials and one mountainous stage around spectacular Sion. Little wonder it is often used as a little shaping-up event by Grand Tour contenders.
Put it this way, since 2011 only Richie Porte, Ilur Zakarin and Chris Froome have won the race but not gone on to win a Grand Tour in the same year. Hardly low achievers.
A final warm-up for the Giro then?
No, that was the Tour of the Alps last week. Romandie sits just a little bit too close to the start of the Giro to do anything for a rider’s condition. More usually it’s a building block for riders targeting the Tour de France. Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins and Froome all won here before taking the big one three months later.
Who’s riding this year?
Swiss based BMC, mourning the death of owner Andy Rihs, perhaps bring the strongest team with Richie Porte, Rohan Denis and Teejay Van Garderen all on the start list. Sky are led by Froome’s Tour de France understudy Geraint Thomas while Bahrain-Merida bring the lethal combo of the Izaguirre brothers. Other big names to look out for include UAE’s Dan Martin, a liberated Mikael Nieve for Mitchelton-Scott, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang and Lotto NL-Jumbo’s man of the moment, Primož Roglič. Movistar also have a strong team.
Is there much here for the sprinters?
Quick Step, team of the season so far, bring both Elia Viviani and Fernando Gaviria while Trek have Boy Van Poppel. But even the flatter days throw the odd punchy climb at the race, offering opportunities to the varying talents of riders like Michael Matthews, Steve Cummings, Thomas De Gendt or Michael Albasini.
Where will the race be won?
Most likely on the stage three uphill time-trial between Ollon and Villars that sees the riders gain nearly 800m altitude over its 9.9km length. Whoever takes the lead here will need to defend it during the following day’s queen stage over five categorised climbs including the 1796m high Les Collons ahead of a 30km descent to the finish. The final day’s ride into Geneva should then be a formality.