This Swiss stage race is the final women’s World Tour race on European soil of the 2023 season, and it promises three days of aggressive, unpredictable racing.
It’s just the second edition of the race through the Romandie region of Switzerland; last year’s inaugural edition was won by Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, after an epic battle with then World Champion Annemiek van Vleuten.
The French-speaking Romandie area always provides a stunning backdrop for a bike race, with crystal clear lakes and snow-capped peaks, and it’s a popular area for skiing in winter. As such, it’s the perfect place to race as the landscape offers varied terrain, undulating and mountainous and featuring wide, flat roads – a treat for the racing enthusiasts in a truly spectacular location.
The race takes place from the 15-17 September.
Stage 1 – Friday 15th September – Yverdon-les-Bains – Yverdon-les-Bains (144.1km, Hilly)
The first stage of this year’s race will immediately put the riders on the offensive and begin what should be a thrilling three days of racing. The route begins with two circuits of a hilly parcours that includes a category 3 climb, and it’s likely to cause a frenetic pace in the bunch as they seek to establish the day’s early break. With a significant uncategorised climb following after on each pass of the circuit, we could well see the bunch splitting early.
There’s a flat section which will offer some respite with around half the stage remaining, before the riders tackle a different category 3 climb, before heading back to Yverdon-les-Bains for a flat run-in to the finish. It looks like a day for the breakaway, or perhaps a reduced bunch sprint for those riders who are able to handle the pace.
Stage 2 – Saturday 16th September – Romont – Torgon (110.8km, Mountain)
The shortest stage of this year’s route is also the toughest. Departing from Romont and heading south, the peloton will have around 40km of flat to cover before the road begins to rise steadily with a section of around 20km of false flat, before the serious climbing begins. The final 50km of the day features two category 1 climbs, which will separate the bunch and draw out the leading contenders for the general classification.
First up is the ascent of Les Mosses, a 13.5km climb up to a ski resort with an average gradient of 4.1%.The final climb and summit finish is at the resort of Torgon and represents a tougher prospect – slightly shorter at 10.4km in length, but with an average gradient of 6.8%, it will offer an opportunity to attack for climbers who have the legs.
Stage 3 – Sunday 17th September – Vernier – Nyon (131.9km, Hilly)
The final, decisive stage of the Tour de Romandie begins in the town of Vernier and heads north, before heading anti-clockwise around a loop of the town of Nyon, where the riders will complete two circuits and eventually finish the race.
There are two category 3 climbs that provide obstacles on the circuit and they come in quick succession, meaning that any GC riders still in contention have the opportunity to go on the offensive as they seek to close any gaps to their rivals. It’s a day that could end in a number of ways but with a parcours that invites exciting, attacking racing, it will be one not to miss.
Riders to Watch
Last year’s race saw Ashleigh Moolman Pasio defeat Annemiek van Vleuten in an all-out battle to the top of Thyon 2000. The South African returns this year to defend her title, and though Van Vleuten will not be in attendance this year due to her recent retirement, Moolman Pasio faces another formidable Dutch foe in the shape of Demi Vollering.
Vollering hasn’t raced since the World Championships and will be keen to finish the year in style. She comes with a typically strong SD Worx team to support her and will automatically be favourite to sweep all three stages and the GC.
Trek-Segafredo may be a thorn in the side of the Dutch champion, though they currently only name five riders in their starting line-up, so may lack some depth. What they lack in numbers they more than make up for in quality though. Elisa Longo Borghini has had a poor season by her lofty standards, and will be keen to rectify this; she has the pocket rocket Gaia Realini to support her, or to go for leadership, depending on which of them finds themselves with the best legs. They also have Lizzie Deignan and Amanda Spratt, both of whom could launch a serious GC challenge on their day.
American Kristen Faulkner returns for Team Jayco-Alula, though her form is uncertain after a long lay-off with injury. Canyon//SRAM bring a typically strong team though perhaps lack a stand-out leader; Elise Chabbey will hope to go well on home soil, and young German climber Antonia Niedermayer could be an outside shout for a podium spot.
The recent Tour of Scandinavia was also a good indicator of form. Double stage winner Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ) is clearly finishing the season on a high, while Jumbo-Visma’s Amber Kraak finished just behind the Dane and may also be able to spring a surprise.
Riders to watch (GC)
5-stars Demi Vollering
4-stars Ashleigh Moolman Pasio
3-stars Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig
2-stars Gaia Realini
1-star Amber Kraak
When – 15-17 September
Where – Switzerland
What – 3-day stage race
‘Watch the Femmes’ TV Coverage: Eurosport, GCN
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