Tour de Suisse review: Movistarlet success

The Tour de Suisse is over and now it’s only two weeks away from the start of the Tour de France. And what have we learned? We’ve learned that Peter Sagan‘s multi-stage winning performance in the Tour of California was not a sunshine fluke. We’ve learned that Movistar are getting really good at consistently scooping up wins, taking the race’s yellow jersey on stage two and never letting it go. And we’ve learned that Frank Schleck can attack and keep the looks behind him to a bare minimum. Let’s run through the week, shall we?

Tour de Suisse 2012: Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan, second), Rui Costa (Movistar, first), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step, third) (image courtesy of official website)

Stage 1: Spartacus fans everywhere had their fingers crossed that Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) was fully recovered from his collarbone injury and would win this TT around Lugano in front of his home crowd. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), however, was having none of that and beat the Swiss time machine by four seconds, taking the first yellow jersey of the race. Liquigas made it a Cancellara sandwich with Moreno Moser nabbing third place, just three seconds slower than Fabian.

Stage 2: Two things happened today: Frank Schleck attacked with 6km to go to the finish atop the Verbier and Rui Costa showed a knack for timing by attacking 2km from the finish to overtake Schleck and take the stage and the yellow jersey. A jersey he would not let go of for the rest of the race.

Stage 3: This rolling stage ended in a bunch sprint, after the breakaway was chased down by Movistar and Orica-GreenEDGE. Latching onto GreenEDGE’s Baden Cooke‘s wheel (after avoiding a spill by unclipping his shoe with 300m to go), points classification leader Peter Sagan showed Cooke and Sky’s Ben Swift the back of his white jersey as he came around for his second stage win. The yellow jersey was safe on the back of Costa.

Stage 4: Another rolling stage, this one ridden in the rain, that ended in a sprint. With teammate Moser chasing down the breakaway, SuperSagan let Marcus Burghardt‘s (BMC) dream of glory last for a few tantalising seconds before jumping out of the saddle, ruthlessly dashing the German’s hopes and shaking Movistar’s J J Rojas off his wheel to take his third win in four stages. The GC remained unchanged.

This is what Peter Sagan looks like, winning a sprint in the rain. (Image courtesy of Liquigas)

Stage 5: After all those Slovakian sprint wins, the peloton took it easy on this hilly stage in the rain. Katusha’s Vladimir Isaychev took advantage and went in a six-man breakaway which stayed out all day. Isaychev timed his attack perfectly at 250m to go and took the first professional win of his career. There was no change at the top of the GC.

Stage 6: Another rolling stage, this time in the sunshine, with a little uphill finish. Guess who won. I’ll give you a hint: he latched onto the Sky train, scraped the barriers at 100m to go, shrugged that off and fearlessly took his fourth stage of the week. Yep. SuperSagan won again. My prediction for July: Peter Sagan will be the bane of Sky’s existence. He’s already the bane of Ben Swift‘s life, why not the whole team? GC was unchanged.

Stage 7: Well, when will the GC change, I hear you cry! Could it be stage seven, a long, technical time trial that should shake a Schleck loose from the second slot? Yes. The TT did shake things up for everyone except Rui Costa, who tightened his grip on the yellow jersey by gaining valuable time on Frank Schleck, who lost 56 seconds to Costa and dropped to fifth, behind Astana’s Roman Kreuziger, Rabobank’s Robert Gesink and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde. The stage was won Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff, who pipped Cancellara by two seconds. (DRAT! I cry!) RadioShack’s Maxime Monfort came in third, 20 seconds down. Costa said after the stage:

To tell the truth, today couldn’t be better. I tried to keep a regular rhythm and give my maximum at the end. I knew, by the references I was being given, that I was riding within the best.

Stage 8: The Swiss crowd got an extra treat today with Michael Albasini (GreenEDGE) taking a solo victory when he rode away from his breakaway companions and took the HC climb of Arosa by himself for what must have been a very satisfying win. The drama, however, was in the GC race, with Frank Schleck attacking – yes, again, attacking – and riding up to Arosa with last year’s winner, Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Euskatel’s Mikel Nieve to finish fourth in the stage and regain his second place in the GC. Because of his attack, the other main contenders had to haul ass up the mountain and gave their all to keep precious seconds from slipping through their fingers. Rui Costa did well to limit his losses and stayed in the yellow jersey with 14 seconds in hand going into the final stage.

Stage 9: RadioShack made no secret of the fact that they were going to attack and that they dearly wanted Frank Schleck to emerge victorious at the end of the stage to don the yellow jersey. With two HC climbs before the finish and most of the top ten just one good attack away from the yellow jersey, this stage was going to be tense. With a breakaway of riders who were no threat to the overall, the yellow jersey group, packed with all the main contenders, was where all the action was. RadioShack set a blistering pace on the Glaubenbielen, thanks to Linus Gerdemann and Gregory Rast, giving their team leader the springboard from which to launch himself on the second-to-last climb of the day. Quickly losing everyone off his wheel, Schleck hit the summit in virtual yellow, a minute ahead of Costa. Although Schleck actually did a pretty good job of descending, Movistar and Garmin went hell for leather and he sat up near the base of the final climb. Movistar then took control and Alejandro Valverde, in particular, set a blistering pace so that no one could seriously attack the yellow jersey in the final kilometres of the stage. In the meantime, way out in front, Tanel Kangert (Astana), who had been out most of the stage in the breakaway, outsprinted crowd favourite Jeremy Roy (FDJ-Big Mat) to take the stage win.

General classification:

1. Rui Costa (Movistar) 35:54:49

2. Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:14

3. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:21

4. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) +0:25

5. Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:40

6. Roman Kreuziger (Astana) +0:47

7. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda) +0:48

8. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) +0:59

9. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:42

10. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) +1:52

Links: PreviewOfficial website

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