Course PreviewStage 4: Biasca - Stäfa
Date: Tuesday, 16 June
Distance: 196.6 km
Terrain: Mountainous climbs with very fast run-in.
GC Importance: The stage is likely to be very tough but the last climbs of the day may not be severe enough to shatter the leading group. May not be a change in the leaders, but expect one or two contenders to find themselves in the wrong place at the end.
Climbs: With over 3250m of climbing, this is one of the most important stages of the 2009 TdS. The main climb of the Gotthardpass which is rated hors categorie peaks out at 2108m after almost 40km of climbing. Later in the stage the riders climb to Sattel, Einseideln and contest the category 2 climb of Sattelegg (1190m).
Details: Stage 4 of the 2009 TdS is likely to be first critical day for the main contenders in the race. Whilst it is possible that a big group will come home together, there may be some riders who get caught out in the last 60km.
Immediately after the start in the town of Biasca the riders will commence the longest ascent of the race, over 40km of climbing to the summit of the famous Gotthard Pass.
The climb comes too early in the stage to determine the stage winner, but the magnitude r of this climb is likely to take its toll on the legs of the riders, who will face more difficult challenges later in the race. If the weather at the start is poor, the climb of the Gotthard will be even more difficult as conditions at the summit of the climb can often be difficult.
There are a number of different routes to the top of the Gotthard from the Ticino side. This year the race will climb the pass via Tremola. During the final 12km of this route the riders will climb over cobbled surface and face 38 hairpin bends climbing 932m on that surface at an average gradient of 7.3%.
It is likely that the bunch will stay together for this climb, but there is a chance that one or more of the local riders (such as Martin Elmiger of AG2R or Gregory Rast of Astana) may try to escape. In last year’s race Elmiger tried a similar move on the second stage to steal some limelight in front of his home fans on his local training roads.
After the points at the top of the Gotthard, the riders will face a long descent, that initially winds its way down through Göschenen, Wassen and Erstfeld. Then the roads will straighten out and begin to undulate once the bunch reaches Altdorf (the start town of last years time trial up the Klausenpass) at 90km. A few kilometers later the rider hit the feed station in Flüelen with 100km to go.
Over the next 10km the riders will gradually climb alongside the Vierwaldstättersee i.e. the Lake of Luzern, through 10 tunnels carved into the side of the mountains. If the race hasn’t come to life by now, expect the action to commence around here. With 90km to go the riders pass through the town of Brunnen and they will be able to see the next climb ahead.
The town of Schwyz lies at the bottom of the next climb, the category 2 to Sattelegg. This climb is not steep, but at 30km, is long enough to wear down many riders particularly after the long run-in from the Gotthard. The climb is in two parts – the first half past the ski-station at Sattel to Rothenthurm followed by a flattening out for 10km before the second-half, steeper part of the climb kicks in at Einsiedeln.It is this second part where we should expect some fireworks.
The race should be in full swing at this stage as a number of contenders will know that the stage move needs to be made before the summit of the final climb at Sattelegg. Once the top is reached there is 50km to go with a very fast and very technical descent to the Zürichsee lake. A break leading over Sattelegg has every chance of leading to the finish. Having said that, as the final climb is not overly difficult, there is a strong chance that a large group could also make it to the finish.
Once the riders finish the descent at Siebnen with 38km to go, the riders will race over a fast, relatively flat parcours to Eschenbach where the first sprint of the day will be contested. 12km later another sprint will be contested in Wolfhausen. Now with just 8km to go, no further challenges exist for the riders, apart from a likely very fast run-in over a slighting downhill route. This will be a strong rider’s day. It will be a surprise if a sprinter can get up for this, but it so it has to be Freire again. More likely will be a large group from which a number of riders could try to jump in the last 10km. — Edward Madden — Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->