As the Classics season comes to an end, it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming Grand Tours. We haven’t seen much from this year’s General Classification (GC) contenders, so the Tour of Romandie (April 25 – 30) should give us a better idea of what to expect.
The six-stage race kicked off with a short 4.8 km (3 mi) time-trial prologue today, which was won by Fabio Felline of Trek-Segafredo. Tomorrow, we’re headed straight for the hills of Switzerland for one hill stage, two mountain stages, one flat stage, and another individual time trial.
Unlike many other tours, Tour de Romandie doesn’t have too many peloton-splitting climbs. So even in the mountain stages, it’s not uncommon to see a bunch finish with very few time gaps. That often leaves the race to be decided in the final stage, a 18.3 km (11.4 mi) individual time trial.
The heavy favorite for the GC is none other than Chris Froome. We haven’t seen much from the two-time race winner (and three-time Tour de France winner) this season and Romandie will be our first glimpse into his current form. Froome didn’t fare all that well in the prologue, finishing 78th overall, 29 seconds back, but the short route didn’t play to his strengths. The mountainous stages and the longer time-trial finale certainly will. Plus, he didn’t really lose time to any GC rivals.
Froome’s main rival should be former teammate Richie Porte. The Australian will be using the race to gauge his competitiveness against his former team leader. So far this season, Porte picked up a win at the season-opening Tour Down Under and placed 11th at Paris-Nice.
Despite his undeniable talent, we haven’t seen much from him to suggest that he can hold his own against Froome, and he’s already six seconds back of Froome after the prologue. But maybe now, as he settles into his role as team leader at BMC, we’ll see him come to life. If something goes wrong for him (as it often does), Tejay Van Garderen will be there to pick up the torch for BMC.
Also in the running is Ilnur Zakarin, who picked up a career-best win at the event in 2015. The Russian rider managed to beat out a very strong list of GC contenders that year, including Froome, Nairo Quintana, and Vincenzo Nibali. Like Porte, he also put himself in an early hole, conceding 13 seconds to Froome in the TT.
Alongside Zakarin will be fellow Katusha rider Simon Spilak. Spilak placed second at the event in three consecutive years (2013-2015), falling just short each time. He also finished second in the 2010 event but was retroactively awarded the win after original race winner Alejandro Valverde tested positive. He’s not a household name, but the Tour of Romandie seems to be his event. He sits six seconds ahead of Froome after day one.
Youngsters Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) will also be looking to establish themselves as serious Grand Tour contenders, while local boy Michael Albasini (Orica Scott) hopes to do Switzerland proud and bring the Tour de Romandie home for the first time since 1998. All three put time into Froome in the prologue, with Jungels sitting just 12 seconds behind the leader and 17 seconds ahead of Froome.
Since it’s still early days for our GC contenders, the Tour of Romandie is quite difficult to predict. Form matters a whole lot more than past results, and we just don’t know much about how the contenders are shaping up. But we know who the favorites are. Here are the odds!
Odds to win 2017 Tour of Romandie:
Chris Froome (Team Sky): 8/5
Richie Porte (Team BMC): 17/3
Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha): 14/1
Simon Spilak (Team Katusha): 14/1
Tejay Van Garderen (Team BMC): 25/1
Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors): 26/1
Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb): 26/1
Michael Albasini (Orica Scott): 35/1
Photo credit: Ciclismo Italia [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]