Tübach > Weinfelden 185km
I’ve struggled to write this preview. Finding the right words to describe such a terrible tragedy is very difficult.
I knew Gino Mäder a little bit, we exchanged a few messages over the last couple of years. He messaged me just after being pipped on the line by Primož Roglič in Paris-Nice back in 2021,
“Maybe I make it into your previews soon as a breakaway hopeful;)”
That day I foolishly didn’t include him in my preview, this was Gino’s cheeky way of pointing that out to me, I didn’t make that mistake again. Gino was an incredible talent, stage wins at the Giro and Tour de Suisse in 2021 was followed up by 5th place in that year’s Vuelta, he had arrived at the highest level. 2022 was a struggle, but 2nd place in Romandie was an excellent result, and he started off this year with 5th place in Paris-Nice. Not only was he a good climber, but he was excellent on his TT bike and he packed a fast sprint. I’m sure we can all remember that look he gave Michael Woods when he smoked him in a sprint to win a stage in Tour de Suisse. He had that swagger you need to be an elite athlete.
Life can be cruel, Gino will be missed by his family, friends and teammates, it’s a hole that will never be filled. I always find it difficult writing about grief, it immediately brings me back to when my own son died, it’s not a place I like to revisit. Gino will always be remembered by fans, but nothing can compare to what his family are going through, and will continue to go through for the rest of their lives. I would like to send them strength, they’ll need it, but with the help of those close to them, they can survive this.
This is not the right time to have a discussion about safety in our sport, but there’s something I would like to say. Descents are part of cycling, but it is incredibly dangerous for riders when flying down a hill at 100km/h. As fans, we need to look at our own behaviour. Riders are glorified for taking massive risks on descents, whether it is Pidcock in the Tour de France or Bonifazio going down the Cipressa. It is time to analyse our own behaviour and not encourage riders to take silly risks for our entertainment. No one should die while riding their bike, it’s up to the unions to ensure that safety measures are put in place to minimise the risk the riders have to take. I have no idea what the answers are, I just hope this is the last time an athlete dies while doing their job.
Stage 7 should be a battle between the break and the peloton. 2537m of climbing is within the capabilities of most fast men, especially if the first two categorsied climbs are ridden at tempo. There’s an unclassified climb with 20km to go, which looks a hard one, we’ll have to see if we get a sprint or if the break takes the day.
Sunny and warm.
This is the cat 1 climb which starts after 45km of racing. Climbers who want in the break will hope it forms here, but they’ll probably be disappointed.
This is the final climb of the day and it’s not even classified. 6km at 4.2% won’t be easy for some of the fast men, especially with a section of 750m at 10%. The crest comes with just 16km to go, it’s very hard to make up anytime, and there’s an intermediate sprint with 10km remaining, one that the GC riders will fight for.
There’s a roundabout with 1.3km to go and another just 300m later. The road then narrows significantly with 600 to go, before a corner with 400 to go and another with 300 remaining. On Street View the finish straight is a tiny dirt track, I’m going to assume the organisers have laid some new tarmac and widened the road.
It’s all about break management. The sprinters have hauled themselves over the mountains, they’ll want a bunch sprint, but the breakaway riders will be looking to disappoint them. The likes of Merlier and Meeus will be vulnerable on the final climb, if the pace is pushed on they could lose contact, leaving a sprint between the climbing sprinters.
Jumbo-Visma would be happy with that, as would Intermarché, Alpecin and Groupama – FDJ. I think we’ve enough teams wanting a sprint to make sure it happens, they’ll do everything they can to ensure the break forms in the opening kilometres of the stage and is long gone before the first climb. Get a weak break up the road, and it’s a nailed-on sprint. If a stronger group escapes, life be will tricky as the domestiques are tired.
Once into the finale, teams need to be at the front with 2km to go. The roundabouts and double corner makes it almost impossible to move up the bunch.
Tim Merlier – can he survive the final climb? After tough mountain stages, I have my doubts, I would have backed him if it was the opening stage. The team also have Remco to protect, Merlier won’t have lots of men to surround him and help him stay in contact.
Wout Van Aert – came here looking to win a stage, this is a great chance for him. The stage 2 sprint was messy, Wout decided to go for it and launched with over 300m to go, but he couldn’t hold on. If Jumbo-Visma can get rid of Merlier, he’s the fastest in the bunch, despite what happened on Monday.
Biniam Girmay – can he back up Monday’s win? He’s fast enough, and he’s got an excellent sprint train, a second win wouldn’t be a surprise.
Arnaud Démare – climbing well, and was unlucky to be boxed in on Monday. He’s riding with a point to prove, not being selected for the Tour is hurting him.
Kaden Groves – he’s got the speed to win, but needs a good position, something he’s not always great at.
Peter Sagan – can he get a win for old time’s sake?
Søren Kragh – to win from the break requires class, and he’s got buckets full of the stuff.
Gino, we’ll miss you.