Silence-Lotto's Robbie McEwen did it again, jumping into the wind early and taking it all the way to the finish line, to win his second straight mass sprint in the Tour de Suisse. Second and third places went to Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Gerald Ciolek (High Road).
"In the finale I had Leif Hoste, Jurgen Roelandts and Greg Van Avermaet beside me, and they did it perfectly," McEwen said. "I could launch my sprint in the last turn. Now we will go drink a glass of champagne."
Referring to press reports from yesterday's awards ceremony, which claimed the the Australian had cursed at the race and the country, McEwen explained, "A Swiss newspaper wrote that I had offended the land. That is not true. I love Switzerland!"
The race was once again dominated by a long escape. Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom,) Matej Jurco (Milram) and Jonathan Garcia (BMC) got away only a few kilometers into the stage and built up a lead of up to nearly ten minutes. However, the sprinters' teams were determined not to let them stay away to the end, and caught them with only six kilometres left to the finish line.
How it unfolded
There were 154 riders at the line in Gossau, with Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rabobank), Andey Mizurov (Astana) and Eros Capecchi (Saunier Duval) the non-starters for the day.
Only a few kilometers into the race the escape group of the day formed. Matej Jurco (Milram), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) and Jonathan Garcia (BMC) got away. The peloton was content to let them go, and within 20 kilometres they had built up a lead of over eight minutes.
After only 40 km, the lead was over 10 minutes and the peloton slowly started reacting. The lead dropped to eight to nine minutes for a long time, a gap with which the peloton was content.
Light rain began to fall on the peloton for the second half of the stage, which featured two category three climbs. Small as they were, they were enough to cut into the advantage of the leading trio. By the time the race descended the second climb, their lead had shrunk to just over two minutes.
The three men took that two minute lead into the last 20 km, but their time was running out. The field bided its time, only closing down the last of the gap with six kilometres to go. The three turned around, saw the onrushing field, and patted each other on the back after a 160 km escape.
High Road looked like it was riding a team time trial, with six riders leading the peloton and pushing the pace as they crossed the two kilometre banner. Quick Step, Lotto and Milram then moved up to do lead work, but it was Lotto and High Road who would lead the field into the final corner.
With his team-mates dropping him off at the perfect moment, McEwen jumped early into the wind. The feisty Australian was able to hold off the hard-charging Freire and Ciolek to take his second win of the Tour, and his third of the year.