By Shane Stokes in Verbier
This season has seen Team High Road's Kim Kirchen step up to a new level in the sport, with victories in Flèche Wallonne and two stage wins in the Vuelta al País Vasco being added to on Thursday by his triumph on stage six of the Tour de Suisse.
Kirchen timed his effort to perfection on the day's final climb up to the village of Verbier, out-sprinting Andreas Klöden (Astana) to the line and taking time out of all of the other main contenders. Significantly, he gained 29 seconds over Igor Antón (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and wrested the yellow jersey from his shoulders. He is now 27 seconds ahead of Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), with Antón a further six seconds back.
"I felt good at the end today," he said after the stage. "The riders went up the climb very strongly, with the group going very quickly due to early attacks. I kept my own rhythm. I had a little bit of a problem early on on the climb [due to the pace] but my morale went up when I saw some other riders being dropped. I remained calm. I knew I could do something today, especially as the yellow jersey Antón was in difficulty. My aim was to go for the yellow jersey but finally, the stage win came too."
He was keen to thank those who helped him. "The team were very, very strong with the young riders, and very motivated. My co-captain [Thomas Lövkvist] helped me and I also have to thank my team-mates and the directeur sportif. This year we have seen a very, very strong High Road team and I think that all the work done in the winter and at the beginning of the season has paid off. The morale is very good."
Kirchen has had a very solid career, with his results last season including seventh overall in the Tour de France and second to Le Louron (this was later upgraded to first when Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) tested positive – ed.).
While Kirchen has netted several professional victories, including wins in the Luxembourg national championship and on stages of the Tours of Luxembourg, Poland and the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali, he's jumped up a level this year and become more adept at winning.
Click here to read the full feature.