Rui Costa slipped out of the chasing pack to form a decisive three-man break on the penultimate climb of the final stage, eventually distancing the other contenders and race leader Tony Martin to seize top spot and take both his first victory in the world champion’s jersey and his third overall win at the Tour de Suisse.
Reasons to be cheerful
After a thrilling Criterium du Dauphine featuring most but not all of the Tour de France contenders went to the wire, this race had a lot to live up to. It didn’t disappoint. Instead of the “will he, won’t he?” tension between Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), we all wondered whether Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) could hang on from start to finish and survive the difficult final weekend in the mountains. Or, as in the Dauphine, would there be a final denouement? The suspense was heightened by Rainbow Rui’s (Lampre-Merida) intelligent riding all week and, in particular, his fine performance in the second, hilly individual time trial which kept him poised to pounce.
Having worn yellow all week and survived the queen stage on Saturday, Martin faced an absorbing finale with the other contenders breathing down his neck. The race was won when, on the penultimate climb, Mathias Frank (IAM) attacked and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) plus Costa quickly followed. On their own they might have struggled, but teammates in the day’s early break up ahead dropped back to provide support and distance the race leader who, like Costa, was isolated.
The Panzerwagen had allies in second-placed Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) and, latterly, others but it was too little too late as the leading threesome had gained a race-winning margin to battle for the honours. Costa distanced the other two in the last 2.5km to solo across the line and seal his third consecutive victory in this race. All hail the King of Switzerland.
Martin clung onto fourth overall and he’ll be the man to beat in the 54km time trial in the Tour come Perigueux.
Leading Swiss rider Frank battled well to secure second overall. Indeed, the performance of his team in their home race more than justifies their Tour de France wild-card selection.
With news that Belkin, who won the team prize, is to leave the sport at the end of this season, you’d have expected the squad to be well to the fore this week and Mollema, who rounded out the podium, will lead the team at the Tour. Dumoulin slipped to fifth but he too will feature in the Giant-Shimano Tour squad, although their emphasis will switch to the sprinters.
Also taking part in the Tour and showing they’re ready and able to shoulder their responsibilities as wing-men, Roman Kreuziger and Janier Acevedo will ride for Contador and Dauphine winner Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp).
FDJ’s great white hope Thibaut Pinot was struck down with a chest infection and finished 15th but will be back to lead their Tour campaign.
Aside from the other stage winners, there were a number of great performances, such as Cannondale neo-pro Davide Formolo), the second youngest man in the race, who finished best young rider. The team also picked up a stage win and the points jersey with Peter Sagan. Europcar’s Bjorn Thurau was king of the mountains thanks to smart riding in the breaks.
Unlike the Dauphine, there were ample stages for breakaway artists and sprinters alike. A lumpy stage two heralded success for Orica-GreenEDGE, who have been strong all season. Cameron Mayer, fully recovered from his Giro ills, triumphed in a three-man sprint. Denied by the previous day’s break, Sagan left no one in any doubt as to his form on stage three. He even had time to preview a new finish line salute. Three days later he treated us to a masterclass in descending. He’s on form for a third green jersey at the Tour.
Not to be outdone, Mark Cavendish (OPQS) produced a show of force on stage four, while Sacha Modolo‘s (Lampre-Merida) persistence finally paid off in a messy sprint finish on stage five. On stage six, the Panzerwagen put his leg-churning skills to good effect, splitting the peloton in the final kilometre and setting up teammate Matteo Trentin for the victory.
With Martin’s second TT success on stage seven, it proved to be a very good week for OPQS with four wins despite losing Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra in a crash and Tom Boonen to pre-race injuries.
Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) ignited the closing stages of Saturday’s queen stage and quickly distanced the competition to record his first ever WorldTour win. Instead of podium girls, he had a couple of Saint Bernard dogs who looked as if they could gobble him whole. Yes, here’s yet another amazing climbing talent from Colombia.
Hit me with your rhythm stick
I’m not sure a rhythm stick will heal the various ills that have befallen the peloton this week, but it certainly couldn’t hurt with the Tour de France rapidly approaching. First up, Fabian Cancellara (Trek) came into the race still hurting from his recent crash. He performed better in the second time trial than the first, so Spartacus fans will have heaved a sigh of relief. He retired after a painful bee-sting on the arm but should be on form come the Grand Depart.
What should we make of his fellow Trekmates Frank and Andy Schleck? Schleck the elder has been in fine fettle but was a DNS on stage three following a crash while Andy was in the final day’s break. Allegedly, they’ll both be at the Tour.
At Sky, the most serious injury befell the returning Sergio Henao, who was hit by a car and fractured his knee while scouting the second TT course. He won’t be at the Tour. Peter Kennaugh was a DNF on stage eight while Sir Bradley Wiggins, who might yet find himself drafted into the Tour squad, was a non-starter on stage five citing the effects of a recent crash and a chest infection. On a lighter note, it was good to see friend of VeloVoices Joe Dombrowski on the final stage fully recovered from his early season knee problems.
Race at a glance
3 – The number of times Rui Costa has won this race (2012, 2013, 2014).
3 – Number of riders who have won this race while wearing the rainbow jersey: Hennie Kuiper (1976), Vittorio Adorni (1969) and Rui Costa (2014). (Thanks to Cillian Kelly @irishpeloton.)
3 – Number of runner-up finishes by IAM’s Mathias Frank in 2014: Criterium International, Bayern Rundfahrt and Tour de Suisse.
Stage 1: Winner – Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Leader – Martin.
Stage 2: Winner – Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE). Leader – Martin.
Stage 3: Winner – Peter Sagan (Cannondale). Leader – Martin.
Stage 4: Winner – Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Leader – Martin.
Stage 5: Winner – Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida). Leader – Martin.
Stage 6: Winner – Martin. Leader – Martin.
Stage 7: Winner – Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). Leader – Martin.
Stage 8: Winner – Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE). Leader – Martin.
Stage 9: Winner – Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida). Overall winner – Costa .
1. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) 33:08:35
2. Mathias Frank (IAM) +0:33
3. Bauke Mollema (Belkin) +0:50
4. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +1:13
5. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) +2:04
6. Steve Morabito (BMC) +2:47
7. Davide Formolo (Cannondale) +3:00
8. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) +3:03
9. Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) +3:20
10. Eros Capecchi (Movistar) +3:46