By Shane Stokes in Caslano
Two years ago, Markus Fothen was in the limelight due to his holding of the best young rider's jersey in the Tour de France. The German Gerolsteiner rider eventually finished second in that competition to Damiano Cunego, placing 15th overall in the race, and showing that he was one of the top emerging talents in the sport.
2007 was somewhat quiet but the former World U23 time trial champion showed he was back to top form on Thursday this week, winning the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse in Caslano. On the day's final climb, Fothen set off in pursuit of Fränk Schleck, catching the CSC rider on the descent and then racing down towards the finish with him.
Schleck was aiming to take the race lead and so it is likely that Fothen would have been the stage winner had the two arrived at the line together; however, his breakaway companion crashed with approximately four kilometres to go, enabling the Gerolsteiner rider to solo to victory.
"It is wonderful, it is a great race here at the Tour de Suisse," the German said afterwards, delighted at his win while also being relieved to hear that Schleck had no serious injuries. "It is a good preparation for my season goal of the Tour. I am in a very good condition and am very lucky.
"The first goal today was to work for Oliver Zaugg as he is our rider for the general classification. I did that but when we saw that there were so many riders on the final climb, we spoke amongst ourselves and it was clear then that if I was strong, I could attack.
"Once I attacked the aim was to gain as much time as possible until the top of the climb, then try to catch Fränk Schleck on the descent."
Fothen did precisely that, and the two worked together until the accident. He said afterwards that he was sure that the consequences would be worse. "The crash was unbelievable, it looked terrible. I didn't have much time to react to it – if I had, it would have perhaps made me brake hard and perhaps fall too.
"When I saw it happen, I had the impression that it was finished [for Fränk Schleck], that he would be very badly injured. I am reassured and am very happy that he can continue. He was lucky.
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