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The third stage of the Tour de Suisse is the first real mountain stage, with the Grimselpass and then the Hors Category Grosse Scheidegg squeezed into 90km of racing before a rapid descent to the finish in Grindelwald.
It's a short stage today, but “it has it in it” as the German saying goes. 108 km from Brig-Gils to a descending finish at Grindelwald. Only two climbs on the agenda, but one is a category one and the other is HC.
It's a rainy day in Switzerland, and we have a large group of 30 or so riders 1:40 ahead of the field. We don't have all the names yet, but we'll see who we can come up with.
We know that Andy Schleck, Jakob Fuglsang, Jens Voigt (LEO), Michael Albasini (THR), Christian Vande Velde (GRM), Jose Joaquin Rojas (MOV), Peter Sagan (LIQ) and Rubens Bertogliati (TT1) are in the group of 31.
Daryl Impey of NetApp is supposedly in the group, too.
We have one DNS today: sprinter Allan Davis of Astana. He had been absolute last in the rankings, nearly 24 minutes down.
The first climb is the category one Grimselpass, topping out at km 50. The climb is just over 12 km, and features a number of gradients of seven to nearly nine percent, with one section reaching 10 percent.
And the riders are on their way up right now!
The climb is taking its toll and we know now some names who were in the leading group, but have fallen out on the way up: Robert Hunter, Daniele Righi, Rinaldo Nocentini, Thomas de Gendt and Rubens Bertogliati.
The gap is at 1:50. So we now have 26 riders in the lead group as they grind their way up.
Finally we have our full list of who is who in the lead group!
Jakob Fuglsang, Andy Schleck, Jens Voigt, Michael Albasini, Mads Christensen, Jan Bakelants, Francis de Greef, Greg van Avermaet, Laurens ten Dam, Jack Bobridge, Christian Vandevelde, Giampaolo Caruso, Alberto Losada, Jose Rojas Gil, Peter Sagan, Dominik Nerz, Christiano Salerno, enrico Gasparotto, Tanel Kangert, Jorge Azanta Soto, Kevin de Weert, Dries Devenyns, Ben Gastauer, Wouter Poels and Daryl Impey.
Fuglsang is the highest ranked of the group, 13th overall at 1:26 down.
Robbie McEwen (RadioShack) is not really know for his climbing abilities. What did he tweet about today's stage? “Hoping the rain holds off. 2pm start for only 107km, but there's a catch, 3000+ metres altitude gain. 2 big arse mountains. “
Van Avermaet and Nerz have apparently fallen back from the group.
The group is spilttering on this fierce climb, and we have only Fuglsang, Schleck, Poels, Ten Dam and Sagan in the lead.
The weather is not getting better as they approach the top.
The leading five are very nearly to the top now.
We now have 11 riders 20 seconds behind the lead group: Albasini (THR), De Greef (OLO), Bobridge (GRM), Vande Velde (GRM), Caruso (KAT), Rojas Gil (MOV), Samoilau (MOV), Salerno (LIQ), Kangert (AST), De Weert (QST), Impey (APP).
The peloton is at 3:05
Visibility looks to be about zero -- lots of rain and fog.
The first climb has been conquered, and Poels takes the points, ahead of ten Dam, Schleck, Fuglsang and Sagan.
The one chase group is still at 20 seconds, but the peloton is now 4:05 back.
The riders now face a 25km descent. Let's be careful out there!
Near the end the field will take to the Grosse Scheidegg (HC) traveling just over 16 km up to 1962 metres high. It starts out with some steep sections, up to 11 percent, a flatter section in the middle, and then a steep climb up to the top. The maximum gradient is 12.4 percent.
Remember, though, we don't have a mountaintop finish. From the top of the Grosse Scheidegg, everything goes down down down for another 11 km.
Interesting for the riders to try and pick up their meal bags -- like we said, the visibility is absolutely terrible. And the weather is awful.
The five are still in the lead, but the next chase group has dropped to one minute back.
There is less fog in the valley, but still lots of rain and wet road.
The gap back to the peloton is 3:00.
Mauricio Soler of Movistar won Sunday's second stage, his first win in four years. The Colombian climber dedicated his victory to his late teammate Xavier Tondo, as you can read here.
Soler left a number of big names behind him when he climbed to victory this weekend in Crans-Montana. He was together with Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and defending champion Fränk Schleck when he attacked in the closing kilometer to take the win.
The peloton is spread out all over the place here. The first big group split up into a bunch of little ones, the peloton too. Some riders are trying to break out, while others are deciding to be careful and take their time on this wet and dangerous descent.
It looks now as if we have one rider in the lead. Yes. Bakelandts has taken about a 25 second lead over a large group.
Obviously the situation is changing faster here than we can keep track of!
The group behind Bakelandts consists of: Fuglsang (LEO), A.Schleck (LEO), Albasini (THR), De Greef (OLO), Ten Dam (RAB), Bobridge (GRM), Vande Velde (GRM), Caruso (KAT), Rojas Gil (MOV), Samoilau (MOV), Sagan (LIQ), Salerno (LIQ), Kangert (AST), De Weert (QST), Poels (VCD), and Impey (APP).
A quick peek now at who is wearing what jersey and leading which ranking. Soler is in yellow, followed by Cunego at 16 seconds and Bauke Mollema of Rabobank at 22 seconds. Young Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad is fourth (0:27) and Fränk Schleck fifth at 31 seconds.
Actually we still have eight riders within one minute of the leader, and 18 within two minutes. however, we suspect that will change dramatically today.
Omega Pharma-Lotto's Bakelandts has now moved up to a 45 second gap over his nearest chasers.
Soon they will start climbing again.
And we apologize, it is Bakelants, with no "d" in there.
The points jersey belongs to Van Garderen, who finished second in the opening time trial and seventh yesterday. That gives him 18 points, which puts him ahead of the two stage winners Soler and Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek), who are second and third with 15 points each.
The race has a separate sprint classification. Lloyd Mondory of AG2R leads that one, ahead of Jose Gutierrez (Movistar) and Andre Greipel of Omega Pharma-Lotto.
Bakelant's gap is now 1:18. It is also a bit dryer at the moment.
Matti Breschel of Rabobank has come back from knee problems to claim the King of the Mountain title – for the moment, at least. The Dane leads Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Matthias Frank of BMC Racing Team.
Rabobank leads the team classification ahead of Leopard Trek and Movistar. Which completes the rankings and ratings for today.
We understand that Andy Schleck has fallen out of the chase group.
The race opened Saturday with a 7.1km time trial, which to no one's surprise, was won by Fabian Cancellara of Leopard Trek. It was his fifth win in the opening time trial of this race, which is quite a record. Van Garderen was second, and Peter Sagan of Liquigas third.
Everyone has started climbing again, and Bakelant's gap has dropped to 52 seconds. The peloton is at 3:13, with Lampre leading the charge.
Schleckis back in the chase group, and he and Fuglsang are in fact at the head of the group.
Cancellara won the overall title here in 2009, but it seems highly unlikely that he will repeat that feat this year. There are a lot more mountains, for one thing. And for another, he finished 17:44 down yesterday.
The Swiss rider was disappointed himself with his ride on Sunday, as he tweeted: “Normality dayli program is back.normal racing.Had a really bad day yesterday.Dont no what happen.Yellow was not given me this littel extra.”
Movistar is now leading the field, with Soler tucked in behind them.
Any Sherlock Holmes fans out there? The Grindlwald might sound familiar to you. That's where he came to grief in his fight with Moriarity.
The gap between Bakelants and the first chase group, which seems to have gotten smaller, is now down to 31 seconds. The peloton is at 3:28
It seems to be not raining at the moment where the chase group is, and the road might possibly be dry. We don't make any guarantees as to how long these conditions might last.
Soler has only one teammate with him at the moment. And World champion Thor Hushovd is amongst those who has fallen off the back of the field.
Very narrow road here. Hard to get all those team cars up there, and the riders keep shooing the motos away.
The furrther up we go, the darker and the wetter it gets.
It's a bit hard to tell but it looks like the group around the yellow jersey about 30-40 riders.
Bakelants' gap keeps falling, and the Soler group is now at 2:57.
The descent to the finish should be quite interesting. It is said to be even steeper than the ascent. And on wet roads....
18 seconds only now for Bakelants.
The Soler group has shrunk, maybe 20 riders now.
Still Schleck and Fuglsang at the head of the chase.
Only few seconds for Bakelants, it will be over momentarily.
Baeklants is caught and passed. He is now in the group, with -- you guessed it -- Schleck and Fuglsang at the head of things.
This is an absolutely beautiful area, but of course the riders are totally unaware of it. All they can think of now is to first get up this mountain and then to safely get down it again.
Still 7 km to go to the summit, and the gap is at 2:30.
This is an interesting stage, and hard to predict. The gap continues to drop on the climb. Will this group make it to the end? Will the yellow jersey group catch them? Will someone break out to win?
Nothing but questions...
It looks like the lead group has shrunk: Schleck, Fuglsang, Caruso, Bakelants, ten Dam and a few more.
Di Lucas attacks out of the field. Soler goes with him. As does everyone else.
They are now catching those who have fallen out of the lead group, including Christian Vande Velde.
In fact the yellow jersey group is itself shredding rapidly.
Di Lucas continues to set a high pace to try and break the group up even more.
Ooh, the sun is shining!
The lead group continues its way up the goat path, er, road to the mountaintop. Still another 2 or 3 km.
Six riders in the lead group now: Fuglsang, A.Schleck, De Greef, Ten Dam, Caruso and
Cunego now at the head of the yellow jersey field.
Cunego tries to break off, and gets a slight lead. This is a steep section.
Schleck and Caruso drop back slight from the group. Now three riders in front: ten Dam, Sagan and Fuglsang.
Cunego still has a slight lead over the field. Soler is giving solo chase. The gap to the leaders is 1:37.
Schleck and Caruso are back in the lead group.
Cunego's lead over the yellow jersey group has now grown significantly.
Cunego flies past Albasini who was once in the lead group.
De Greef is also back in the lead group. They just had a nice relativels flat section, but it is a bit steeper now.
The team cars have to pull over to let riders by on this very narrow road. This way Cunego can move up safely and those falling out of the lead group are safer, too.
Soler is ahead alone of a chase group of eight. Cunego has one minute and Soler 1:28.
Schleck drops back from the lead group and lets Fuglsang go for the glory.
Leipheimer and Fränk Schleck are amongst those in the group behind Soler.
This is not one of those "steep up the hill" type climbs, but reminds us more of a Beatles's song, "The long and winding road".
Cunego has passed and dropped A. Schleck. He can see the lead group.
Once again cars pull over to let Cunego by. Soler still gives chase, about 40 seconds behind the Italian.
The lead group has changed again: Fuglsang, ten Dam, Sagan and his Liquigas teammate Salerno.
As the leaders approach the crest, they have 9 seconds on Cunego and 47 on Soler.
Cunego cataches the group just before the top. Then he and ten Dam take off.
Ten Dam can't keep up and Cunego goes on his own. Still not at the top!
Cunego takes the mountain points, followed by ten Dam, Sagan, Fuglsang and Salerno. Soler is less than 40 seconds back, and there is a large group behind him.
Or was it Salerno third and Sagen fifth?
STanding water on the road here, lots of switchbacks and steep drops.
Cunego leads the way, with Salerno behind him and then ten Dam. The others are further back.
Did we mention that there are of course no guardrails?
At least it is not raining.
Cunego continues to fly along, with 20 seconds on his nearest follower.
Salerno crashed on the descent, unfortunately.
Sagan has now caught Cunego!
We're in a village now, and the road is fortunately wider and not so steep.
The stage for Sagan and the overall lead for Cunego?
Fuglsang has caught and passed ten Dam.
The final km for the two leaders. Cunego continues to lead.
The finish line is in sight.
With about 200 meters to go, Sagan jumps and takes the stage. But the overall glory will go to Cunego.
Fuglsang and ten Dam fight it out -- almost literally -- for third place. Fuglsang gets it.
Soler crosses the finish line just over a minute down, so he has now offficially lost the lead.
Riders continue to dribble in, and will probably do so for quite a while now.
Andy Schleck took it easy after he dropped out of the lead group, and only now crosses the finish line.
Here's the top five for today's stage:
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale 3:09:42
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:21
4 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:21
5 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:48
Cunego jumps to the head of the GC, followed by Soler at less than a minute, and Mollema in third.
And here is the official GC:
1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD
2 Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:54
3 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:16
4 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:19
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad 0:01:21
That's it for today! Thanks for reading along.
Join us again tomorrow when the sprinters get their chance in a significantly flatter stage than today!