June 19, 2011 9 Comments
Liquigas‘s Peter Sagan claimed his second sprint victory of the Tour de Suisse, beating Matt Goss and Ben Swift on an uphill finish in Schaffhouse. Race leader Damiano Cunego finished safely in the front group, but Bauke Mollema dropped from second to fifth ahead of Sunday’s decisive individual time trial.
The day’s breakaway comprised Francisco Ventoso (Movistar), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Jaroslaw Marycz (Saxo Bank-Sungard) and Jan Barta (Net App). They escaped in the opening kilometres and established a lead of seven minutes before the peloton started to bring them back in. Paolini and Marycz dropped the other two with 30km remaining, but were nonetheless caught 11km from the finish.
Movistar’s high tempo on the third-category Hallauerberg climb 22km from the end split the peloton, with the pace proving too much for several sprinters, including Mark Cavendish and André Greipel, who would both have been hopeful of victory here. And after Mollema punctured with 15km remaining Leopard-Trek moved to the front to drive the pace in an effort to promote Fränk Schleck in the general classification, leading to not unreasonable accusations of poor sportsmanship from Rabobank.
Vacansoleil‘s Wouter Poels took a speculative flier with 2.3km to go, but was swamped as he passed under the flamme rouge. On a slightly uphill finish, Sagan was led out by Daniel Oss but found himself boxed in. However, he calmly worked his way out of trouble as Sky‘s Swift opened up the sprint with 200 metres to go. That proved to be too soon, though, as the incline sapped his effort and Sagan was easily able to sweep around him to take victory by two lengths. Goss also caught Swift before the line to steal second.
Despite a big effort, Mollema was unable to bridge the gap and slipped down to fifth overall after losing 48 seconds to the front group, which contained yellow jersey Cunego, Steven Kruijswijk, Fränk Schleck and Levi Leipheimer.
Sagan was delighted with his second win, which also guaranteed him victory in the points competition:
I’m really happy with this win, mainly because I’m capitalising on all the opportunities presented by the race. Today’s stage was a tricky one to judge due to the profile in the finale. I was expecting an attack that would split the group, and that’s what happened. Many of the riders, including some of the sprinters, lost contact.
It was a really hard finale but thankfully in the final kilometre I had Daniel Oss leading me out. I’m very satisfied with this second win and the points jersey. It’s been a huge success for me this week.
Cunego maintained his 1:36 advantage over Kruijswijk. Not the greatest of time-trialists, his greatest threat for overall victory is likely to come from Leipheimer who is fourth, 1:59 behind. However, he was hopeful of defending the yellow jersey for one last day:
I’ve got quite a good lead and I’m in great form at the moment so it’s up to the guys behind me to catch me.
Stage 8 result:
1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 3:52:00
2. Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) same time
3. Ben Swift (Sky) s.t.
4. Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s.t.
5. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) s.t.
Stage 9: Schaffhouse, 32.1km individual time trial
Fabian Cancellara book-ended the Tour de Suisse with his second time trial victory, although he was run mighty close by Andreas Klöden. However, it was Klöden’s RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer who stole the glory. The American set an outstanding time just 13 seconds slower than Cancellara, then had to wait for eight agonising minutes for Damiano Cunego to come in. The race leader, who had been in possession of the yellow jersey since stage three, had started the day with an advantage of 1:59 over fourth-placed Leipheimer. But in a finish reminiscent of the concluding time trial of the 1989 Tour de France, where yellow jersey Laurent Fignon capitulated in the concluding time trial to lose to Greg Lemond by eight seconds, Cunego lost time throughout the 32.1km course to concede top spot by the slender margin of four seconds.
All eyes were on the Swiss world time trial champion to set the benchmark and Cancellara duly obliged with a best of 41:01, during the course of which he overtook the three riders in front of him. However, his time was seriously threatened by Klöden, who was five seconds faster at the first checkpoint at 9km, and seven quicker at the second at 22.9km, at the top of the big climb of the day. But he faded on the descent and final flat section, ending up nine seconds slower – which would still be good enough for second.
But the real battle was between Leipheimer, who started fourth-last, and final man Cunego. Although not the best of time-trialists, Cunego’s lead – one second shy of two minutes over the American – was widely thought to be more than sufficient over the course. The fact that he lost 28 seconds to Leipheimer over the first, only moderately rising section was little more than a minor concern. But at the second checkpoint – after the steepest section of climbing, which should have suited him best – Cunego’s advantage was down to just 33 seconds. And any thoughts that Leipheimer might have burnt himself out early on in trying to put pressure on the Italian were dispelled by his time at the finish – 41:14, just 13 seconds down on Cancellara.
There then followed an eight-minute wait as Leipheimer watched Fränk Schleck and Steven Kruijswijk – neither a threat – finish, before a labouring Cunego finally came into view down the closing straight. Seconds ticked agonisingly by, but Cunego’s target time passed with him still 50 metres from the line. Four seconds passed before he finally crossed the finish – the four seconds which provided Leipheimer with his overall margin of victory.
It was not so much that Cunego’s ride had been awful – 39th overall, 2:16 down on Cancellara was perhaps only marginally down on where he would have expected to finish – more that Leipheimer’s had been superb. The American had ridden a quiet and conservative race throughout the week, always there or thereabouts but hardly ever attacking. But on the one occasion when he did show some aggression, in the final few hundred metres of stage six after Cunego had had to give everything chasing down that day’s winner Kruijswijk, he took nine seconds out of the yellow jersey – a seemingly inconsequential amount at the time, but critical in the final analysis.
In the high drama of the finish, it is easy to overlook that in Klöden, Leipheimer and Nelson Oliveira, RadioShack placed second, third and fourth on the stage. And while Leopard-Trek had three of the final top ten on general classification, their highest placed finisher was not defending champion Schleck, but one of his senior foot-soldiers, Jakob Fuglsang, who was fourth overall.
Leipheimer was delighted with his morale-boosting win:
What a race. I really didn’t know how close it was with Cunego. All I heard was my director yelling at me in the last corner “Sprint! Sprint!” and I could hear in his voice that it really was a question of seconds.
“This Tour de Suisse has really been tough this year. Very mountainous, very hard. I had some good days, but also bad days, but without Team RadioShack there was no way I could win today. I am very happy I did not disappoint. Now it’s time to take some rest and start in the Tour de France.
Cunego said that he had suspected the course might not suit him, but also praised Leipheimer’s performance:
I’m really sorry I lost but that’s sport, you have to learn to lose before you can enjoy victory.
This morning I watched the path of the chrono and immediately I realized that was not suitable to my characteristics with the long straight into the wind. We must give credit to the big performance today of Leipheimer, who has once again demonstrated his strength in this speciality.
Stage winner Cancellara was delighted with his week’s efforts, which confirmed his as favourite for the Tour’s sole individual time trial on its penultimate day:
What can I say? It’s a time trial, I gave it 100 percent as I usually do and I won. To start and finish the race the way I have done, with two victories, makes it a perfect Tour of Switzerland for me.
So, who is in good form ahead of the Tour de France? Klöden showed well in both time trials and can be expected to form a formidable one-two punch with Leipheimer. Andy Schleck was anonymous for much of the week, but had two good workouts on mountain stages that suggested his best form is not that far away. Rabobank showed they will be a team to reckon with in the mountains, although their highest-placed finisher Kruijswijk is unlikely to race in the Tour having already ridden the Giro. And Peter Sagan showed that he will be a contender on the uphill sprints and lumpy stages scattered throughout the first week of the Tour which may favour the strong-man sprinters over the pure speedsters. Many have chosen not to show the true strength of their hand this week, but we have seen enough to know that there will be plenty of contenders for the various jerseys when the Tour kicks off in two weeks’ time. We will find out soon enough.
Stage 9 result:
1. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) 41:01
2. Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:09
3. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) +0:13
4. Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack) +0:25
5. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:38
1. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) 31:45:02
2. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) +0:04
3. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank)+1:02
4. Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) +1:10
5. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) +2:05
6. Mathias Frank (BMC) +2:24
7. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:35
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) +3:11
9. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) +3:17
10. Maxime Monfort (Leopard-Trek) +4:12
1. Lloyd Mondory (Ag2R La Mondiale) 27 pts
2. Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) 12
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Syep) 11
4. Luca Paolini (Katusha) 10
5. José Iván Gutiérrez (Movistar) 10
1. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 44 pts
2. Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) 35
3. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) 30
4. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) 21
5. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) 20
1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 86 pts
2. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) 50
3. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) 44
4. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) 39
5. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 36
Tour de Suisse recaps