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Live coverage of stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse. It's the queen stage of the race - 224.3km with a high-altitude summit finish at the Rettenbach Glacier above Sölden.
Hello there and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the queen stage of the Tour de Suisse. After two days in the mountains, the trend continues today as we have a repeat of last-year's finale up at the Rettenbach Glacier. A massive day in terms of the GC.
This is what's in store
As you can see, there's an early hors-catégorie mountain pass but it almost pales into insignificance when you glance across to the final climb. It's brutally steep, with an average gradient of over 10%, it's long, and it's high up - 2669 metres above sea level. To compound matters, it comes as the final chapter in a stage that's a whopping 224km in length.
As we pick up the action, the riders have covered the flat opening section of the race. We have a two-man breakaway of Mathias Brandle (IAM) and Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep), who was in the break yesterday.
Mountains classification leader Antwan Tolhoek (Roompot) once again wants to get involved but is currently stuck between the bunch and the break.
- 184.3km remaining from 224.3km
40km into the race and the gap to our two leaders has ballooned - currently standing at almost 8 minutes. The pace, understandably, relaxed in the bunch at the moment.
Three non-starters to report today:
Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal)
Dries Devenyns (IAM)
Amets Txurruka (Orica-GreenEdge)
Before things get serious on this stage, why not catch up on yesterday's action-packed stage 6?
Weening won from the break, Izagirre tried to stage a coup, Latour handed yellow over to Kelderman, and Van Garderen cracked. Here's our report, with results and photos.
Tolhoek has finally made the bridge, so we now have a trio out front with a lead of over 9 minutes.
Tolhoek, the 22-year-old neo-pro, has been a mainstay of the breakaways at this year's Tour de Suisse.
As such, he has a substantial lead at the head of the mountains classifications - 80 points compared to second-placed Weening's 54. He looks likely to extend that on the Hochtannbergpass, which would pretty much sew up the blue jersey with two stages remaining.
- 169.3km remaining from 224.3km
The gap has grown out to nearly 12 minutes. None of these three are of any threat to the overall classification as none of them are within half an hour of Wilco Kelderman's lead.
The breakaway trio are about to make their way onto the first climb of the day, and they do so with a lead of over 12 minutes.
There's more fall-out from Operación Puerto this morning, as debate rages over WADA's 10-year statute of limitations and the (in)ability to sanction riders who might be paired to one or more of the 211 blood bags.
Our Spanish correspondent Alasdair Fotheringham has spoken to Enrique Gómez Bastida, the head of Spain's anti-doping body, and has this report:
So, well over 12 minutes for the break as they take on the steepest ramps of the HC Hochtannbergpass. Is that enough for the stage win?
With such a small group - as opposed to the large breakaways of the previous two days - and with so much flat ahead of the final climb, the answer is: probably not.
After this climb the road descends before a bit of false flat, but then it kicks up once more - quite viciously actually - to the Arlbergpass. It's not a categorised climb, but it will definitely be felt in the legs.
And here's a nice shot from the Katusha team taken from the top of the Arlbergpass where there are actually blue skies! After two days of miserable rain, the weather gods have taken mercy...
The leading trio are on the upper slopes of this first mountain pass and we can expect Tolhoek to soon skip away in search of the KOM points.
Feed zone bantz from IAM Cycling, who have collected snowballs from the mountain
As expected, Tolhoek goes for it at the summit and takes maximum KOM points ahead of Brandle and then Keisse. He has now reached triple figures and has nearly double the tally of his nearest rival - teammate Pieter Weening.
The peloton have made some inroads into the breakaway's advantage on the climb and the gap has come down to 10 minutes.
No real urgency or attacks yet in the bunch. The fireworks will be saved for the bumper final climb.
Kamil Gradek of Verva ActiveJet has abandoned the race.
Away from the Tour de Suisse, we have a special feature today on Cyclingnews with the last in our 'Dream Team' series.
To coincide with Women's Week on CN, Ina Teutenberg has picked her nine-rider team, which you can read about here.
The breakaway riders are out of the saddle once again as they make their way up the Arlbergpass.
We're hearing that Pierre Latour has abandoned the race. The young Frenchman was wearing the leader's jersey yesterday before struggling on the final climb and losing the overall lead to Wilco Kelderman.
More on the reason for his withdrawal shortly.
- 104.3km remaining from 224.3km
The road now heads downhill for a long but fairly gentle descent, through the feed zone and into the valley.
Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) has also abandoned the race.
Confirmation there from AG2R-La Mondiale that Latour has abandoned due to bronchitis.
The Frenchman lost nearly a minute to the GC favourites yesterday but was still lying sixth overall at the start of the day. Still, many positives to take away from Suisse as the 22-year-old continues to build on his promise.
The peloton shave another minute off the breakaway's lead and it's now down to 9:30
Before the pros take their turn, sportive riders are out in force on the final climb to the Rettenbach Glacier, where cows are currently lining the road!
We have a fairly lengthy preamble now ahead of the final climb. The bunch is slowly but surely reducing the breakaway's advantage and so far, so formulaic today.
The Rettenbach Glacier provided the one of most memorable moments of last year's race - exactly one year ago today.
The riders pass through the feed zone and get themselves well fuelled for the monstrous mountain that is soon to rise up before them.
The gap still stands at nine minutes but the breakaway riders are about to emerge onto the flat, which is where we should see their lead diminish considerably.
Tolhoek has dropped back from the breakaway.
Tolhoek's teammates, Raymond Kreder and Berden de Vries, have just abandoned the race.
Plenty of snow up at the finish. It's cold and crisp up there, but the riders will just be thankful it's not wet...
One person who'll be glad of the improved conditions is Tejay Van Garderen, who put his travails yesterday down to the weather.
The American lost nearly two minutes to new race leader Wilco Kelderman on the stage 6 summit finish and now finds himself outside the top 10 and with his bid for Tour de France leadership dented.
We have a new time check and it appears the two leaders have managed to reverse the trend and grow the gap back out. It currently stands at 11 minutes 30.
10:30 now for our two brave breakaway men, who have had just each other for company for most of this long, long day. Keisse leading it at the moment, with arms tucked over his bars as he continues to plough on along these flat valley roads.
LottoNL-Jumbo are amassed at the front of the bunch keeping things under control for the race leader Wilco Kelderman. If the Dutchman can deliver again today it'd be another statement of intent ahead of the Tour de France.
Astana also have representatives up there, with Miguel Angel Lopez still clearly feeling good. The Colombian put in a really impressive display on the Rettenbachferner last year in his neo-pro season and has been racing really confidently this week, currently finding himself fifth overall.
Giant-Alpcin are also prominent at the front of the bunch, as are Cannondale. The former have Warren Barguil, who was second on stage 5, in second overall, while the American squad had a really good day yesterday with Joe Dombrowski putting in a really strong shift to pave the way for Andrew Talansky to move up into third overall.
- 27km remaining from 224.3km
The flat is where our two breakaway riders are most comfortable, Brandle a former Hour Record holder, the latter a specialist in six-day track events.
Unfortunately for them, they won't be able to stay on the drops for too much longer.
The duo pass through the first intermediate sprint point in Langenfeld and it's Keisse who takes maximum points, though it's not really contested.
The peloton will soon pass through that sprint point and we might see Max Richeze, leader of the points classification, reach out to mop up the remaining points to extend his lead.
Here's how it stands:
1 Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Etixx - Quick-Step 42 pts
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff Team 26
3 Silvan Dillier (Swi) BMC Racing Team 18
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek-Segafredo 16
5 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal 15
A big shout-out to Richeze, who has finished 2nd, 4th, 1st, 138th, and 2nd on the road stages so far.
We're talking about a leadout man, who doesn't usually enjoy this sort of limelight. He got that win ahead of Etixx's sprinter Fernando Gaviria and that last 2nd place came yesterday on a summit finish. The 33-year-old Argentine is having a great week.
And on cue, Richeze eases off the front of the bunch at the intermediate sprint. Sagan doesn't offer a challenge.
Giant-Alpecin are really pushing on here. The gap is falling fairly quickly now and currently stands at 8:39. Not the best news for our leaders.
- 17km remaining from 224.3km
17km to go and in 4km time we'll be starting the climb.
We have one more intermediate sprint point before the climbing begins.
Another minute has been shaved off the breakaway duo's lead on the flat. 7:30 is the gap now.
Keisse and Brandle switch from big ring to inner ring and from drops to hoods as they hit the lower slopes of the climb.
- 11.5km remaining from 224.3km
The climb now officially starts with 11.5km remaining and the gradients ramp up immediately well into the double digits. Keisse is in a bit of trouble already here.
Brandle is just tapping away at it at his own rhythm as he opens up a substantial lead on Keisse.
The peloton now hit Sölden and Richeze once again comes to the fore to mop up those sprint points.
The peloton start the climb 6:30 in arrears. It may be close, but it's still likely that today's winner will come from this bunch.
Yesterday's efforts take their toll in Weening, who is immediately out the back as the road heads uphill. The same goes for Sagan.
The peloton hit this steep early section and it's LottoNL who are forcing the pace.
- 10km remaining from 224.3km
The peloton is disintegrating, fast.
Kelderman is losing teammates here as Barguil has Ten Dam and Geschke leading the bunch for him. Where is the Team Sky chokehold we saw on stage 5?
Geraint Thomas does have Kiryienka and a couple of teammates with him but they're content to let Giant take it up for now.
Brandle ploughs on but he's now just 5 minutes ahead.
Michele Scarponi comes to the front now - probably the standout mountain domestique of this year's Giro, where he played a big role in Vincenzo Nibali's dramatic victory.
Here he's paving the way for someone far younger and less experienced than himself - Miguel Angel Lopez.
The road winds its way up through the pine trees - an average gradient, remember, of over 10% - and Brandle loses another minute.
He's shelling time quickly here and any hopes he may have had of a stage win are going out of the window.
Gorka Izagirre is dropped as Matvey Makykin (Katusha) attacks.
And now Sky hit the front and it's the metronome Kiryienka who grinds his way up with that low cadence.
- 8.1km remaining from 224.3km
This 'peloton' is now down to around 20 riders.
The riders are yet to come up above the snow line but at the finish it's closing in and the snow is starting to come down.
- 7.5km remaining from 224.3km
Brandle continues to haemorrhage time. 2:45 now and dropping constantly.
Kelderman in trouble!
Kiryienka's pace setting is putting lots of riders in difficulty, and our race leader has been dropped. He tries to fight but he's not closing the gap here.
It's raining on the riders now but it won't be long before that will be felt as snowflakes.
This GC group is ever-thinning.
Kiryienka still on the front with Thomas behind. Barguil is in there, as are Van Garderen, Spilak, Talansky, Rui Costa, Pantano, Ion Izagirre, De La Parte, Miguel Lopez, Atapuma, Mamykin.
Brandle gets out of the saddle in a vain attempt is get some power through the pedals but nothing is doing. He has less than a minute now on the rapidly-advancing GC group.
It's all over for Brandle. He's caught with 5.4km to go.
He's been suffering like a dog all the way up this climb but the Austrian finds the strength to pull a wheelie for the cameras as he is caught.
- 5km remaining from 224.3km
Atapuma dropped. Kiryienka STILL on the front.
12 riders in this front group now as the gradients begin to ramp up once more after a slight respite. You can see the members of the group in the situation bar on the right of your screen.
Van Garderen attacks!
The American really suffered yesterday and lost nearly a minute to the rest of these guys, but he's fighting back here and immediately opens up a gap.
As the weather conditions deteriorate there are problems with the TV transmission and we lose pictures of this main group as they make their way up the mountain.
Talanksy in trouble after that Van Garderen attack.
3.5km to go and Barguil goes now in pursuit of Van Garderen.
Van Garderen has a lead of 20 seconds. Kelderman is 1:30 back.
Barguil looks good here but Kiryienka is trying to close it down. Yes, the Sky domestique is still up there shepherding Thomas.
- 3km remaining from 224.3km
Talansky is back on now. Still 10 riders in this group with Van Garderen and Barguil up ahead.
Pantano goes now, just over a minute back at the start of the day.
- 2.5km remaining from 224.3km
Barguil is riding himself into the race lead here. Van Garderen is 20 seconds up the road but he's over two minutes down on GC after yesterday.
Kiryienka's work is finally done. Talansky leads that group now, Spilak second wheel, then Thomas.
As Van Garderen suffered yesterday, his hopes of winning the race for Tour de France leadership at BMC took a knock. A stage win here would be a good way of reaffirming his intent.
Pantano reaches Barguil as the riders come up above the snow line.
Miguel Angel Lopez now attacks.
- 1.5km remaining from 224.3km
With 1.5km to go, Van Garderen has almost half a minute and it's looking good for the stage win.
Talanksy and Spilak set off now and they're just behind Lopez. Thomas leads the rest of this struggling group.
Lopez makes his way up to Barguil and Pantano. Great ride from the young Colombian.
Barguil sugres as he sees Lopez coming up but the Colombian comes through and puts in a dig of his own. Pantano falls away.
Van Garderen comes into the barriers with a few hundred metres to go. I think he has enough.
200m to go. Van Garderen can soon sit up...
Tejay Van Garderen wins stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse
Lopez comes through now and takes second ahead of Barguil
Yellow jersey for Barguil
Pantano comes through now ahead of Talansky.
Next it's Spilak, Izaguirre, and the CCC duo. Where's Thomas?
Thomas, whose teammate did such a huge amount of work on that climb, comes home 1:10 behind Van Garderen.
And now Wilco Kelderman comes home, but he's 2:07 behind and he'll slip well down the GC.
Barguil now leads the Tour de Suisse by 21 seconds over Miguel Angel Lopez. Andrew Talansky is third at 24 seconds. Results on the way shortly.
1 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 6:26:13
2 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:16
3 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin
4 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling 0:00:31
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:33
6 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:00:43
7 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre - Merida 0:00:49
8 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Victor de la Parte (Spa) CCC Sprandi Polkowice 0:00:59
10 Jan Hirt (Cze) CCC Sprandi Polkowice
General classification after stage 7
1 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin
2 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:00:21
3 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:24
4 Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:55
5 Jarlinson Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling 0:01:06
6 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:01:07
7 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:01:31
8 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:36
9 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 0:01:39
10 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre - Merida 0:01:55
"Today is kind of mixed emotions, because I know I had the form here to win overall but I made a big error yesterday. But at least we're coming away from this race with something," says Van Garderen, whose error was in dealing with yesterday's sodden conditions.
"It was definitely welcome having some sunshine today - at least we didn't freeze on the way down any descents," he adds.
Breaking: Simon Yates has received a four-month ban after his positive test for Terbutaline.
Here's the story: Simon Yates handed four-month 'non-intentional' doping ban
How about a brief stage report?
Van Garderen emerges onto the podium to soak up his victory - his first road stage win in well over a year.
And now Barguil pulls on the yellow jersey. What a race he's having, and how French expectations must be rising ahead of Le Tour... Thibaut Pinot won the queen stage at the Dauphine last week, where Romain Bardet was second overall, and now this from Barguil in Switzerland.
Max Richeze is understandably a little late to the podium proceedings after making his way up that climb in one of the many little gruppetti... But here he his pulling on the points classification jersey, which is almost certainly is to keep for good.
A first finish line shot of Van Garderen
Tomorrow signals a brief respite from the mountain fest, but it's far from a day off for the GC men. No, the rolling 16km time trial in Davos is definitely another day for the overall.
That's all from us today, thanks for joining us for the queen stage of the Tour de Suisse and make sure you tune in again tomorrow when we'll bring you full live coverage of the time trial. Bye!