Austrian Bernard Eisel (La Francaise des Jeux) surprised a few when his guarding position behind teammate and top sprinter Baden Cooke turned into a winning move. The tricky move towards the end also earned Eisel the yellow leader's jersey that during the first stage was worn by last year's winner Jan Ullrich.
How it unfolded
Two climbs of the lowest category were all that stood between today's stage and a flat stage, but it looked as though it was set up for the big sprinters like Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), Baden Cooke (Francaise des Jeux), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (QuickStep). The attacks started early in the 170 kilometre stage, and the peloton saw attempts from Joan Horrach (Illes Balears), Michael Albasini and Kjell Carlström (Liquigas - Bianchi) and Walter Beneteau (Bouygues Telecom) before a rider was finally let away. It was the Swiss champion Gregory Rast from the local Phonak boys who pulled a PR stunt, showing off a piece of equipment behind his saddle. Could it be hearing aid related? Since his attack certainly wasn't a fluke, but looked planned days ahead, he was let go, and his gap started to grow. Saunier Duval who missed out in last year's competition, took some responsibility for the ace of the peloton, but didn't panic behind Rast.
25 year-old Gregory Rast, sporting the Swiss championships as his only victory so far, pedaled along at a brisk speed, and had built up a four minute gap over the first climb of Hoochstroos. Michael Albasini (Liquigas-Bianchi) was the second rider over the little climb, and Illes Baleares rider Toni Colom was third. With 77 kilometres to go, Rast reached a maximum 4'48 before the peloton started to pull him back, and by doing so, they passed the feed zone so fast that they had to hold on to their musettes for dear life.
Worth noting at this point was that none of the strong sprinting teams took any responsibility for the stage, except for Davitamon-Lotto, who let one rider blend in with riders from Bouygues, Illes Baleares and Domina Vacanze at the front. Gregory Rast had a safe gap over the first intermediate sprint with 56 kilometres to go, and Daniele Colli and Michael Albasini from Liquigas-Bianchi made an effort to take second and third ahead of the peloton.
Rast managed to keep the peloton away over the second climb of Weerswilen, and avoided running out of power while being caught uphill. Shortly afterwards, Rast was eventually caught, and the peloton looked confused to say the least: 29 km to go, and nothing to do. The sprinters' teams remained low key, and they seemed to ask for attacks, and attacks they got. Phonak's Niki Aebersold rode off and was joined by Alejandro Valverde (Illes Baleares). Behind them, Christian Moreni (QuickStep) was the only rider representing the fast finishers, instead Phonak and Illes Baleares were allowed to keep their riders at the front and in the break.
Rabobank's big guy Thorwald Veneberg countered when Valverde and Aebersold sat up, and shortly after, Veneberg slowed down. QuickStep's Paolo Bettini was seen screaming at the chief commissaire, mixing complaints about the motorcycles with hot blooded Italian phrases. Eventually the peloton calmed down, and Discovery Channel's Benoît Joachim took off on a solo attempt that didn't last too long.
Francaise des Jeux started to build what looked like a decent leadout, mostly because of the wind that made a few suffer and hampered most in their attempts to move closer to the front. Despite having a handful of strong riders at the front, Davitamon-Lotto's Robbie McEwen shook his head, and didn't re-appear at the front again. Coming into windy Weinfelden, Francaise des Jeux took over from the Davitamon-Lotto boys, and split the peloton up in two bits. The Francaise des Jeux boys were Bernhard Eisel, Baden Cooke, and Brad McGee, and they took Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini (QuickStep) and Peter "Paco" Wrolich (Gerolsteiner) with them to the finish. Bettini hadn't waster any energy during his trip back to the cars at a point where other riders struggled, and made a jump for the line with 350m to go. His strength failed towards the end, and Baden Cooke managed to close the gap in time for Eisel to sprint to victory in front of Tom Boonen and Peter Wrolich.