By Shane Stokes in St. Moritz
Australian rider Simon Gerrans had a strong ride on yesterday's sixth leg of the Tour de Suisse, being clear in a long-distance breakaway for much of the mountain stage and then making a stirring bid for stage success. He overhauled 2005 Tour de France mountains jersey winner Michael Rasmussen on the final climb of the Albulapass and spent several kilometres at the head of the race before being caught and passed by the flying Spaniard Koldo Gil (Saunier Duval).
Jörg Jaksche (Team Würth), Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) and Jose Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) also got by, but in taking fifth place, Gerrans showed he is coming into strong form.
"This is definitely a whole new level for me, climbing-wise," he said at the finish in La Punt. "This is the first race I have done in the mountains this year, so I am pretty happy with the way things are going prior to the Tour.
"I think having last season under my belt as a first year pro played a huge factor in my improvement. I am probably just maturing as a bike rider, and generally getting stronger."
When asked if Rasmussen blew up on the final climb or if he got a second burst of energy, Gerrans said that it was probably a combination of the two. "I think Rasmussen may have cracked a little a bit about halfway up the climb, while I just stuck at my own rhythm, rode my own tempo and managed to take them back one by one. A couple of kilometres from the top I faded a little bit as well and got caught by these guys in the front."
"Still, this ride is great for the morale. I have been confirmed for AG2R's Tour team now… we have a very strong team going to the Tour this year, so for me to be coming into good form now is great."