PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race

The Tour de Suisse stands out as a cornerstone event in the cycling calendar, serving as the ultimate prelude to the Tour de France. Over eight days, from June 9th to 16th, this prestigious stage race in Switzerland attracts several Tour contenders who vie for top honors. The challenging course includes mountainous stages, time trials, and stages tailored for classics specialists, offering a comprehensive test of cycling prowess. As anticipation builds, let's preview the race ahead.

There are eight days of racing and the truth is this year's edition is, without a doubt, one of the hardest ever and can certainly be the toughest non-Grand Tour race of the year. Eight stages include an opening prologue and final mountainous time-trial. There are two hilly days early in the week, before four consecutive mountain stages all featuring tough summit finishes - five if you include the time-trial.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Prologue: Vaduz - Vaduz, 4.8 kilometers

The race starts off in Liechenstein, with a small prologue in the capital of Vaduz which will attribute a first leader and some small gaps.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Stage 1: Vaduz - Regensdorf, 178.1 kilometers

Stage 1, officially, is the first day of the race where meaningful gaps can be created. It is perhaps the easiest day out of all non-time-trials during the week, however with a 7.7% ascent topping out close to the finish, we can expect classics riders, climbers and the few sprinters to try and fight for a result.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Stage 2: Steinmaur - Rüschlikon, 162.8 kilometers

Stage 2 is an ideal day for the puncheurs. Flat in it's majority, but the final 40 kilometers are quite difficult. The ascents won't be too difficult, but it's a constant up and down. The finale in Rüschlikon is on a small hilltop which should see a very exciting sprint or late attack succeed.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Stage 3: Rüschlikon - San Gottardo, 170.6 kilometers

The first of five consecutive mountain stages and summit finishes. Stage 3 finishes atop the Passo San Gottardo. It isn't it's most difficult or iconic side, but the ascent is in total almost 35 kilometers in length and we can expect differences by the summit finish at 2100 meters of altitude.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Stage 4: Ambri - Carì, 146.1 kilometers

Stagr 4 in Carì is only 146 kilometers in length but it is very difficult. The first kilometers of the day will be very hard and can see strong groups or even GC attacks. However, most likely, the big bullets will be saved for the final incredibly hard ascent which is 11.5 kilometers at 8%.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Stage 5: Locarno - Blatten, 152.1 kilometers

Stage 5 from Locarno to Blatten is another very hard day. From 200 to 2400 meters of altitude into the Nufenenpass, but the summit finish to Blatten is also very difficult with 7 kilometers at 9% making it another important ascent for the overall classification.

profile tourdesuisse2024stage6
Stage 6: Villars-sur-Ollon - Villars-sur-Ollon, 118.8 kilometers

Stage 6 could perhaps be called the queen stage, although it's difficult to say so in such a difficult race. 118 kilometers in distance but starting off right away with a difficult climb and long descent. The Col de la Croix, 17 kilometers at 7% will be an excruciating challenge for many, but the peloton will still have to tackle the ascent to Villars-sur-Ollon - 8.6Km; 8% - where serious differences can be made.

PREVIEW | Tour de Suisse 2024 - UAE, Bernal and Skjelmose fight for title; Mark Cavendish faces pure mountain race
Stage 7 (ITT): Aigle - Villars-sur-Ollon, 15.6 kilometers

The final time-trial is virtually a repeat of the previous day. Starting in the headquarters of the UCI in Aigle, and the riders will go up Villars-Sur-Ollon once again to finish off the race in the mountains.

The Favourites

UAE - An almost unfairly strong team for this race. Whilst UAE is taking most of it's Tour de France block to the Criterium du Dauphiné, it's almost arguable that this lineup in Swisse is stronger. Adam Yates will surely be the main favourite to win the overall classification in a race where the climbers will be fully favoured. He and João Almeida use this race to prepare for the Tour de France and try to improve their status, and they are joined by Isaac del Toro who himself is a strong contender for a top result in the GC. UAE have a very strong team backing them up full of classics riders as well.

INEOS - An interesting team, but they will not have the depth to match UAE. Egan Bernal chose this race over the Dauphiné ahead of the Tour de France and it was a good choice. He loves the altitude and long mountain stages, and after finishing on some podiums this year he can realistically aim for the same and even a comeback stage win. INEOS also have Tom Pidcock, which I don't know what to expect... A good climber but only in his prime, this will definitely be a test to his consistency and high-altitude climbs.

Mattias Skjelmose - The defending champion comes in leading a very well led Lidl-Trek. Last year he proved himself as a very complete and strong stage-racer and I don't doubt he will have a similar level this time around. However it'll be hard to deal with the new rivals, but I do think that after showing a strong level in the spring, we'll see the best of the Dane once again.

Lenny Martínez - In Romandie, also Swiss roads, he struggled with the weather... That may be an issue for him. Too many difficult mountain stages can prove a challenge for the Groupama-FDJ rider however I certainly believe he stands a chance for the podium. Martínez is a brilliant climber and can certainly take the leap to match these riders in such an event.

Enric Mas - The Movistar rider has had a very conservative calendar this year, and is here avoiding the big Tour figures. But he's playing the long game, the Spaniard at his best level is definitely capable of fighting for the victory. Confidence-wise, a good decision I reckon, and Movistar has both Nairo Quintana and Einer Rubio present after their strong Giro d'Italia - strong support ahead of an important Tour de France.

Felix Gall - Last year's breakthrough. Gall has turned out to be one of the best climbers in the peloton and it was in this race last year that he proved himself. The time-trial will get him on the backfoot right away, but he can then improve. This season he's only shown a Top10 at Paris-Nice however, so he definitely needs to show better legs. He is also supported by the team's other breakthrough pure climber Valentin Paret-Peintre.

There will be many other contenders for the overall classification however, many of them actually coming in with strong blocks. Team Visma | Lease a Bike have Cian Uijtdebroeks, Wilco Kelderman and Attila Valter all as options; Bahrain - Victorious have Damiano Caruso and Wout Poels; Richard Carapaz and Georg Steinhauser are the options for EF Education-EasyPost; BORA - hansgrohe have Emanuel Buchmann and Sergio Higuita; whilst Israel - Premier Tech have George Bennett and Matthew Riccitello.

Alexey Lutsenko, Ion Izagirre, Yannis Voisard and Frank van den Broek are all also outsiders for the overall classification, as sole leaders of their teams respectively.

Other big riders

Despite the race's incredible difficulty, more sprinters have made the trip over to Swiss than the Dauphiné. Not a single opportunity for a bunch sprint, yet we have riders such as Mark Cavendish, Arnaud Démare, Jordi Meeus and Pascal Ackermann at the start line, all of them certainly looking to prepare the Tour de France. We also have Bryan Coquard, Arnaud de Lie, Ethan Hayter and Michael Matthews, but they do have chances as they are strong climbers.

We've got quality time-trialists in Stefan Küng and Stefan Bissegger who will specially be eyeing the first day of the race and leader's jersey... Whilst in the classics riders' side we've got Thibau Nys, Marc Hirschi, Stephen Williams and Maxim van Gils present - all big favourites for the hilly days of racing.

Prediction Tour de Suisse 2024 overall classification:

*** Adam Yates
** João Almeida, Lenny Martínez, Egan Bernal, Mattias Skjelmose
* Tom Pidcock, Isaac Del Toro, Enric Mas, Felix Gall, Valentin Paret-Peintre, Alexey Lutsenko, Einer Rubio, Cian Uijtdebroeks, Wilco Kelderman, Alexey Lutsenko, Richard Carapaz

Pick: Adam Yates

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