Playing it patiently and smart with one kilometer to go in Thursday's stage 6 at the Tour de Suisse, Gregory Rast (RadioShack) attacked his three breakaway companions and sprinted to a memorable victory in his home tour.
"It was hard out there today. There was no real sprinter in our group, just strong guys with motivation to win," said Rast. Team Director Luc Meersman gave me good advice, and it worked out well.
"I've been in the Tour de Suisse so many times, but this is such a big win for me. This stage is close to my home, and I know these roads very well. I was prepared for this. I've tried 10 years to win a stage here, and today I finally made it. I'm really, really happy."
The Swiss-born Rast made good on his promise to be familiar with Thursday's route, which is the closest to his home in nearby Cham. He checked the route, he rode the course and knew it meter by meter. All that was left was to get in the day's break on the 186km route from Leuggern to Meilen.
Joining him were Mathew Hayman (Sky), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Bert Grabsch (OmegaPharma-QuickStep). The four rode well together and established an advantage of more than 14 minutes. Coming under the red kite, Rast gave it everything he had and powered away from the others to take the win by 25 seconds to Hayman and Kolobnev.
"I was overwhelmed when I saw I had a gap," he said, referring to the immediate hole he opened up under the red kite. "I felt fantastic! But that last kilometer was endless. When I saw the 500m to go mark I was surprised. I thought I was much closer to the finish."
It was perfect weather for stage 6. The 33-year-old Rast described the early action on the hilly course that made up today's course. "In the beginning, the entire team was trying to get in a break. Jensie tried, then another group, finally I attacked with Grabsch, and Hayman and Kolobnev came too. We rode very fast. Except for Kolobnev, who has very good palmares, we were all big helper riders and we all rode super strong. No one tried to attack each other until, of course, the last 5km. I can't even remember my last win - maybe 1834," he said jokingly.
In reality his last win was four years ago in 2009 for the prologue in the Tour of Luxembourg. This was his first win in Radioshack Leopard colors.
"Everybody was really tired in our 'break of oldies'," he said, referring to the veteran group of riders in the breakaway. "On the last climb, I knew there was a big road for the downhill, so if you were alone you'd go nowhere. There was no reason to attack there. We were all a bit on the limit. I figured Hayman was the fastest in the sprint and that Grabsch wouldn't wait for the sprint. I didn't let myself think of my sprint defeats in Tour de Suisse. Luc (Meersman) had told me to wait for 1km to go. I knew when to go."