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Chris Froome also races for the first time in Europe this season and Juan Ayuso makes his injury-delayed season debut in what’s sure to see plenty of plot lines and twists in the six-day race across Switzerland’s French-speaking regions.
Many of those top names will be searching for confirmation during the challenging mix of terrain across western Switzerland.
Cavendish wants to carry momentum into the Giro next month, while Bernal is hoping to get through the week to prove he’s back on the right track from his devastating crash to open 2022.
Froome and Ayuso both race in Europe for the first time this season, both with eyes on goals later this season.
Michael Woods, who is searching for his first win in 2023, sums up many lining up Tuesday in the opening prologue.
“I want to be competing for the podium, or if not a top 5. I won on the stage which finishes in Thyon in 2021 which is essentially the same this year, so I’d like to repeat that performance,” said Woods, who was fifth in 2021. “Romandie is always a tricky race, after Liège-Bastogne-Liège, mentally it’s quite challenging, as you’ve done one of the hardest monuments on the calendar, then you have to turn round and race two days later, so it’s hard.
“Normally I’m quite binary at this race, I feel I’m either the best guy in the peloton or the worst, so obviously I’m hoping to be on the better end of the spectrum.”
A busy spring classics campaign is now firmly in the rearview mirror, stage-hunters, and GC contenders take over as the men’s WorldTour pedals into the grand tour season.
Time trials, mountains, snow and rain, and a very tight race — that’s what’s on tap this week for the 76th edition of the Romandie tour.
Several of the top GC favorites for the upcoming Giro d’Italia won’t be there, but there are enough quality riders angling for the win to make it a good race.
Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Woods, Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis), Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), and Romain Bardet (Team DSM) are among the leading contenders.
— Movistar Team (@Movistar_Team) April 22, 2023
Almost no one peaks for Romandie, but the demands of the race provide a very accurate telling of where everyone stands.
That doesn’t mean riders are racing to win.
The race presents a prestigious title that bodes well for the future for rising stars and serves as confirmation of form and intention going into the grand tours.
Last year, Alexsandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) took the big win, with other recent former winners including Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, Primož Roglič, and Chris Froome.
The route: Something for everyone
The six-stage Romandie tour features a bit of everything. This year, there are 26km of time trials contested across the 6.8km opening prologue Tuesday and then an 18.8km individual time trial in stage 3 on Friday.
The mountaintop finale in stage 5 up the Thyon 2000 summit (20.7km at 7.7 percent) will be the race-breakers.
It’s hard to say how many bunch sprints will be contested. Nearly every stage features an endless string of lesser-rated climbs that will put pressure on the likes of Cavendish and the other sprinters to arrive at the line.
The time trials favor the all-rounder, but one name missing is Rohan Dennis, who is out with an illness in what was going to be his last shot at the race.
What is Romandie?
Romandie refers to the French-speaking part of Switzerland and accounts for roughly the western quarter of the nation.
French is one of four official languages in Switzerland, and about 2 million people live in Romandie, with Geneva as its largest city.
The race dates back to 1947 and marks a transition from the spring classics into the grand tours on the elite men’s racing calendar.
Many riders use the week-long Romandie tour to springboard into the Giro d’Italia or ramp up for the Tour de France.
Four riders have won Romandie and the Tour in the same season, including Stephen Roche in 1987, Cadel Evans in 2011, Bradley Wiggins in 2012, and Chris Froome in 2013.
North Americans in Romandie
Four U.S. riders are expected to start, including Matteo Jorgenson and Will Barta at Movistar. Lawson Craddock Jayco-AlUla, and Joe Dombrowski (Astana Qazaqstan).
Woods starts for Israel Premier Tech in what’s been a solid spring campaign so far for the Canadian, with sixth at Volta a Catalunya, fourth at Flèche Wallonne, and 12th at Liège.
Since its debut, only two Americans appear as winners. Andy Hampsten won in 1992 ahead of Miguel Indurain, and he later finished third on two other occasions. Michael Carter was third in 1991 with Motorola.
Tyler Hamilton won in 2003 and 2004, and Andrew Talansky hit the podium with second in 2012 behind Bradley Wiggins.
76th Tour de Romandie
Opening prologue, April 25: Le Bouveret-Le Bouveret, 6.8km
Stage 1, April 26: Crissier to Vallée de Joux, 170.9km
Stage 2, April 27: Morteau to La Chaux-de-Fonds, 162.7km
Stage 3, April 28: Châtel-Saint-Denis-Châtel-Saint-Denis, 18.8km (ITT)
Stage 4, April 29: Sion to Thyon 2000, 161.6km
Stage 5, April 30: Vufflens-la-Ville to Genève, 170.8km