Climbers Rejoice: 2011 Tour de Suisse set to be a climbing extravaganza
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Climbers Rejoice: 2011 Tour de Suisse set to be a climbing extravaganza

by Jered Gruber at 3:01 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Fränk Schleck will have an ideal course when he pursues a second consecutive overall victory in Switzerland

The route of the 75th Tour de Suisse was announced today and it's a doozy. It's an extremely difficult pre-Tour de France test and could signal the moment where Switzerland's national tour moves a step ahead of the Criterium Dauphine as the preferred Tour de France preparation race.

Leopard Trek will likely be sending its Tour de France team to the race, as the Schleck Brothers have already confirmed their presence. Fränk Schleck was a happy winner in 2010, and he will have a very good chance at a repeat victory if he and his brother return to Switzerland in June in solid condition.

It will, however, not be a Tour de Suisse for Fabian Cancellara. He should be able to count on at least one and possibly two time trial victories, but the overall title will be out of reach. He hasn't confirmed his presence yet, but it would be completely unexpected if Fabian Cancellara were to miss out on his home race, so look for Leopard Trek to send its A-Team to Switzerland in June. They'll be the prohibitive favorites, and they'll get a chance to test their form on a selective course highlighted by two time trials, three mountaintop finishes, and a lot of climbing.

The 2011 edition will start in Lugano on June 11, 2011 with a difficult 7.3 kilometer time trial around the lakeside city. The time trial, almost the exact same course as last year's, will include a 2km, 115 meter ascent, followed by an equally decisive 2km descent. Fabian Cancellara took the win in 2010 by one second over Roman Kreuziger and three seconds over Tony Martin and Peter Sagan. One would be hard pressed to find a better favorite than Cancellara come June's first stage.

Stage 2 will relay the painful theme of climbing at this year's Tour de Suisse immediately after the flag drops. Riders will be subjected to the race's first Hors Categorie summit by Kilometer 20. The 2478 meter high Nufenenpass will likely not be anything more than a cold, uncomfortable climb and a launching point for the day's break, but it will make it abundantly clear what's to come in the days ahead.

After the opening festivities on the Nufenenpass, riders will get over 100 kilometers of flat to rolling roads before hitting the day's uphill finish to the oft-used ski town of Crans-Montana.

The Leopard Trek boys will feel at home here. They had their first 'training' camp over the winter at Crans-Montana. If all is going to plan, Fabian Cancellara will be in yellow for this stage, and he'll likely be able to defend it on the fairly sedate climb from Sierre to Crans-Montana. He managed to defend his overall lead with aplomb in 2009 at Crans-Montana when he finished 3rd behind the day's winner Tony Martin and second placed Damiano Cunego.

Fabian Cancellara's dreams of a second Tour de Suisse overall victory will likely end with Stage 3. The third stage is only 108 kilometers long, traveling from Brig-Glis to Grindelwald by way of the Category 1 Grimselpass and the Hors Categorie Grosse Scheidegg. The immense final climb of the Gross Scheidegg gains 1262 meters in 16.4 kilometers of climbing, averaging out to 7.7%. The difficulties are not over with the climb though - the descent is the harder side of the climb, which averages a curvy, just over 9% grade to the finish in Grindelwald. All hail the climbers with at least a little bit of a gift for heading back down the mountain.

After three straight days of general classification madness, there will finally be a respite of sorts with the 198 kilometer Stage 4 from Grindelwald to Huttwil. Even as a 'flat' stage, the day includes one Category 2 and two Category 3 ascents. The final part of the stage will be marked by two laps of a lumpy 25km circuit, so there's no guarantee of a sprint finish.

Stage 5 will be another lumpy day, but should give the sprinters their say. The 204 kilometer stage, which heads to the northern part of the country from Huttwil to Tobel-Tägerschen includes one category three and three category four climbs. The sprinters better take advantage of this day.

The race finishes of the next two stages will be outside of the borders of Switzerland. Stage 6 will be in Liechtenstein, Stage 7 in Austria. The climbers will clock back in for Stage 6 and its massive Hors Categorie mountaintop finish in Liechtenstein at Malbun, which climbs over 1000 meters in the waning moments of the day. It's steep: 14.4 kilometers at 8.6%. It's a climb that would be at home in the Giro d'Italia and will likely be the decisive climb of the 2011 Tour de Suisse.

The climbing saga continues in Stage 7. The seventh day will revisit another stage finish from Fabian Cancellara's 2009 victory romp. The Tour de Suisse returns to Tirol's ski resort area of Serfaus. The stage will begin in Liechtenstein and head south back into Switzerland before heading back to the northeast for its finish in Austria. Yet another Hors Categorie climb is on the docket, 120 kilometers into the 223 kilometer day, the Flüelapass. The Category Two Norbertshöhe follows, and then the climb to Serfaus caps off another difficult day.

The Serfaus climb was not enough to get rid of Cancellara in 2009, despite its five or so kilometers in the 9% area. The climb eases off for the final four kilometers, so it should come down to a select, but not terribly small group.

Stage 8 will be another lumpy one, but should give the sprinters a day in the sun. The 167.3 kilometer stage begins in Tübach at the southern part of the Bodensee. After an opening 40k loop, it heads northwest along the shores of the great lake to a likely bunch kick in Schaffhausen, the host of the Tour de Suisse's last stage.

The Ninth and final stage of the 2011 Tour de Suisse will be a time trial, as is the norm at Switzerland's national tour. The 32.1 kilometer test against the clock around the far northern town of Schaffhausen will be one final, tough day for the riders.



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