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Long path to glory

Another gruelling journey awaits this year's riders

(Keystone)

The eventual winner of this year's Tour de Suisse will have 1,451 kilometres of road and a total climb of almost 19 kilometres to overcome as the ten-day event grinds its way around the four linguistic regions of Switzerland.

Day One: Lucerne prologue. Individual time trial (5.7km)

The Tour de Suisse gets underway in the picturesque city of Lucerne for the first time in the race's 69-year history. The time trial, which sees riders racing individually against the clock, begins outside the national transport museum which will be open all day, free of charge, for Tour de Suisse spectators.

Day Two: Lucerne-Schaffhausen (171.9km)

Reunited with their team colleagues, the riders cover their first serious distance. This stage is one for the sprint specialists since it is generally on the flat, although the category three climb up the Hallauerberg near the finish will certainly give a taste of the uphill struggles ahead. The riders will twice pass by the Rhine Falls at Neuhausen for a brief glimpse of Europe's largest waterfall.

Day Three: Schaffhausen-Domat/Ems (191.1km)

The Tour de Suisse begins the first of three stages to be held predominantly in the large, eastern canton of Graubünden. The village of Domat/Ems receives the Tour for the first ever time at the end of another mainly flat stage. If the weather is good, though, the riders will have a clear view from the village of the mountainous road that awaits them on day four.

Day Four: Domat/Ems-Samnaun (157.6km)

The first category one climb is encountered as the riders test their legs with a tough ascent over the Fluela pass. After a high-speed descent and a further 60 kilometres of flat racing, a further category one climb is required to reach the stage finish in Samnaun. Spectators at the finish line can take time out to walk through Switzerland's only duty-free shopping precinct, although the riders themselves will probably want to head straight for bed.

Day Five: Chur-Ambri (160.2km)

The first, and longest, transfer on the Tour sees the riders driven to Chur, Switzerland's oldest town. Once again, though, the cyclists will have little time to savour the 5,000 years of history around them as they prepare for another testing day in the saddle. The 160-kilometre ride into the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino includes another category one climb - this time over 1,972-metre high Lukmanier pass.

Day Six: Meiringen-Meiringen (147.7km)

"The highlight" of this year's Tour according to organiser Marc Biver, day six includes a category one climb over the Grimselpass followed by two top category climbs in quick succession, over the Furka and Susten passes. Meiringen once marked the resting place of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes who took a tumble over the nearby Reichenbach falls, although Holmes' creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was later forced by popular demand to miraculously revive the legendary sleuth. Similar popular demand will force the Tour de Suisse riders to pick themselves up for another gruelling ride on day seven.

Day Seven: Interlaken-Verbier (176.9km)

Although less steep than the Meiringen stage, the 177-kilometre stretch from Interlaken to Verbier certainly won't see the riders resting on the seventh day. A category three climb over the Col du Pillon followed up by a mountain finish in the resort of Verbier will provide further tests for some very weary legs.

Day Eight: Martigny-Vevey (170.9km)

Following a brief transfer, the cyclists depart from Martigny for a ride around the Swiss riviera on the northern bank of Lake Geneva. Passing close by the new headquarters of the International Cycling Union in Aigle before whizzing past the former headquarters in Lausanne, the riders come to a temporary halt in Charlie Chaplin's final resting place, Vevey.

Day Nine: Vevey-Lyss (235km)

The penultimate stage of this year's Tour is the longest of all and has been included specially to help the riders prepare for similar feats of endurance on the Tour de France. The flat profile should also help the sprinters recover some ground ahead of the final day's racing.

Day Ten: Lyss-Biel. Individual time trial (34.5km)

The Tour de Suisse organisers are hoping to maintain excitement until the very last stage and, with this in mind, have designated day ten as an individual time trial. Any riders still in with a chance of overall victory can go one-on-one against the clock in an effort to catch up missing seconds. The trans-national identity of the Tour de Suisse will be given pride of place as the cyclists end their long journey at the Expo.02 national exhibition site in Biel.

by Mark Ledsom


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