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The Tour de Suisse: the last warm-up race before the Tour de France. Last year it was a showcase for Fabian Cancellara, and the Saxo Bank rider is wearing the leader's jersey again. Will he be able to hold it until the end?
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Tour de Suisse. Today we will see the peloton takcle the 196.6 km from Sierre to Schwarzenburg.
We have an interesting profile today. The first 70km or so are flat, if not slightly downhill, but that changes dramatically at about km 70, Then the riders shoot up the day's category one ranked climb, the Col des Mosses. Then there is a long descent and the rest of the way is quie hilly, with barely a flat metre to be seen. There is also a closing category three climb 24.6 km from the finish.
What makes the finale fun – or something – though, is the nastly little 2 km long, and 11% gradient unranked climb which comes at both km. 32.9 and km 2.2. Shall we just say we are not expecting a mass sprint finish today?
The field is still together so far. Martin Maaskant of Garmin-Transitions tried to jump, but he was caught again almost immediately.
Three riders have gotten away: Alexandre Pliuschin (Katusha), Jussi Veikkanen (Francaise des Jeux) and Ermano Cappeli (Footon). They have a 15 second lead at the moment.
Three riders didn't start today: Dominik Nerz of Milram, Joao Correia of Cervelo, and rather surprisingly, Peter Sagan of Liqugas. Nerz crashed near the end of the race yesterday, and we don't know about the other two, but we are checking into it.
Meanwhile, the gap has jumped to 1:30.
Where are these three in the general rankings? Veikkanen is 69th, at 2.18; Pliuschin is 76th at 2:35; and Cappeli is 109th, at 4:12 down.
Now the gap has jumped to 4:50!
Just in case anyone was too caught up with the Dauphine this weekend to follow this race as well, here is our top ten going into this stage:
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 4:35:37
2 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:01
3 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:03
4 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step 0:00:10
5 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:11
6 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:12
7 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:13
8 Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank
9 Nicolas Jona Castroviejo (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:00:14
10 Matthias Russ (Ger) Team Milram 0:00:15
In the sprint ranking, Matthias Russ of Milram leads with seven points ahead of Joost Van Leijen (Vacansoleil, six points) and Mathias Frank (BMC, three points).
What's up with Peter Sagan? The young Slovakian who had such a wonderful spring finished nearly 11 minutes down yesterday.
Cyclingnews' Stephen Farrand just talked to the team, and they told him that Sagan was tired after racing hard all season. They decided to pull him out and let him take a break before planning the second part of his season.
The gap has now ballooned to 10:05. Saxo Bank, Columbia and Euskaltel are at the head of the peloton.
Mathias Frank of BMC is the King of the Mountains going into today's stage. He has 13 points and thus leads Aitor Hernandez of Euskaltel-Eusakdi (12 points) and Matthias Russ of Milram (eight points).
In this race we have a sprint classification and a points classification. Our stage winner from yesterday, Heinrch Haussler (Cervelo) leads the points ranking, ahead of Pablo Urtasun Perez (Euskaltel) and Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).
And let us not forget the teams ranking. There we have Liquigas ahead of Saxo Bank and Quick Step.
And now the gap has gone up to over 13 minutes. Saxo Bank is leading the chase, but it doesn't seem to be working. Of course, we still have a bit to go before the climbing starts.
Laurens ten Dam of Rabobank is our only DNF so far. He crashed on yesterday's final descent and was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with two broken vertebrae, a broken wrist, a broken chin, and a severe concussion. Needless to say, that knocks him out of the Tour de France, but he is aiming for the Vuelta a Espana. You can read more about it here.
Was Heinrich Haussler happy to win yesterday? What a silly question, of course he was. “For me the season really starts here. This definitely gives me confidence for the tour, my form is good now,” the Cervelo rider said.
What was the finish like? “We were riding 30-40 guys and then a small bunch got back together ready to go but I looked around and I was the only one there so I went even harder because I didn't have anyone to help me. But I knew I was going uphill for the last 200 metres and there was some head wind so I waited and waited for the right moment - yeah it was a nice win."
It was his first win of the season, a year that has been marked by knee injuries and personal problems.
The Vuelta a Espana has announced the teams who will ride there this year? Which big-name team(s) got left off the invite list? Check it out here.
HTC-Columbia will look to keep Tony Martin up near the front of things today, but the young German is really more after stage wins and Tour prep than GC here. “If we get into the situation where we can create a sprint finish during any stage, the team will certainly look to maximise that but Tony has shown he is able to stay with the best,” said team manager Rolf Aldag.
“Hopefully he can remain in the front pack for the duration of the event but we won’t overdo it and with the Tour de France coming up it’s important to be competitive without taking risks in our preparation. If he remains at the top of the GC until the last stage time trial he will have his chance for a victory.”
The leading trio has now started its way up the big climb of the day, the Col des Mosses.
This won't be the first look at the Col des Mosses for many riders today. They met it last year in the Tour de France.
So who are these three riders who are setting such a torrid pace? Alexandre Pliuschin is a 23-year-old Moldovan riding for the Russian team of Katusha. He turned pro in 2008 with AG2R, Pliuschin has a strong U-23 background, having won the U-23 Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2007.
Did anyone really think the gap would fall on this climb? Wrong! It has gone up yet again, to 14:06!
Jussi Veikkanen, 29, of Finland has been with Francaise des Jeux since 2005. He has won his national road title multiple times, and got this season off to a good start by wining the second stage of the Tour Mediterraneen, and wearing the leader's jersey for three stages.
The peloton is only now preparing to start its way up the climb. They must have picked u their speed, as riders are already being dropped off the back, such as Liquigas' Valerio Agnoli and Fabio Fallini of Footon.
Ermanno Capelli is 25 and has been with this team – under its various names – since 2008. He was third in the U-23 Milan-San Remo in 2007. He hasn't had the best of seasons in 2010, missing the time limit on the stage 16 time trial in the Giro d'Italia last month.
We have our first DNF today. David Vitoria of Footon has given up. Things haven't been going so well for him here, though. He as dead last in the opening time trial and lost over nine minutes yesterday.
Everyone is over the top of the climb now, and the three leaders have a comfy lead of 15 minutes.
Everyone is heading downhill now. We can only think of that famous saying from a TV show years ago: "Let's be careful out there!"
HTC-Columbia brought along sprinter Mark Cavendish, but he won't have a lot of opportunities here. According to Aldag, today's stage “will be tough for our sprinters so there will be a few hanging in there and fighting during this stage but it’s good conditioning for the Tour.
“There aren’t too many stages in Switzerland that are good for our sprinters but there is a chance that tomorrow we can get Cavendish at the front. Either way it isn’t vital and will give us some good mountain experience for France.”
Pliuschin was the first over the mountain, so he gets 12 points. The rest go like this:
1 Pliuschin (KAT) 12 Points
2 Capelli (FOT) 8
3 Veikkanen (FDJ) 6
4 Hernandez (EUS) 4
5 Frank (BMC) 2
And that gives us a new leader in the mountain ranking:
1 Hernandez (EUS) 16 points
2 Frank (BMC) 15
3 Pliuschin (KAT) 12
Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas and Fabio Felline (Footon) have both abandoned the race.
The gap is now 13:45.
The gap has shrunk again by another 20 seconds. Is it seriously starting to come down? And will it come down enough to matter, or will this trio make it to the end?
Matthias Russ of Milram was in yesterday's escape group and took the sprinter's jersey. “Matthias Russ rode a super race,” said DS (and former rider) Ralf Grabsch. “ Unfortunately the escapees were caught shortly before the finish. But as a reward for his hard work, Matthias will ride Monday in the sprinter's jersey.“
The gap is 12:30 now, so it is definitely coming down. Slowly, to be sure....
Saxo Bank won't hold try to hold onto Fabian Cancellara's leader's jersey at any cost. “Unfortunately, today's stage demanded us to do a lot of work and especially, Stuart (O'Grady) put in a huge effort considering the fact he has just recovered from a broken collarbone. However, we won't hold on to the jersey at any cost as there are opportunities to take it back later,” said sports director Kim Andersen after the stage.
Sorry to have so little information on what's actually happening, but our messenger pigeons seem to be having trouble finding their way up to the Cyclingnews blimp. Time to find the binocuars and lean out the window for a look.
Team Sky's Simon Gerrans was eighth in yesterday's stage, and the team is also looking to Thomas Löfkvist to do well in the race. DS Marcus Ljungqvist is happy about that. “The final climb surprised a few but it was really good to see five of our guys in that front group. It was a good day for us - Simon is riding well and Thomas is looking really strong on the climbs so it's going to be interesting to see what we can do. The whole team is looking good and working well together."
Yes, the gap really is dropping. It is now under 10 minutes, at 9:30 to be exact.
Saxo Bank leads the chase, followed by RadioShack. With 58 km to go, the gap is down to just over seven minutes.
The Katusha team car pulls up to the leaders for a quick chat.
Sorry to say this but we are seeing a few raindrops.
It's actually beginning to look as if the peloton may have a chance to catch this trio. The gap has now fallen to six minutes.
The gap is dropping every second now.
The rain shouldn't surprise us, when we look at the sky. Lots of layers of dark gray clouds.
50km to go, and a gap of only 5:25.
Incredible how fast this gap is falling. It is now under five minutes. On the other hand, the peloton is really flying along now.
A herd of cows gets spooked as the peloton goes by.
Cervelo moves to the head of the field, as the gap comes down to 4:10.
We will now officially declare that the escapees will be caught. Of course, we have been known to be wrong before.
Omega Pharma-Lotto moves into the lead now, sharing the work with Cervelo. They will be looking to Phiippe Gilbert for the stage win today.
It's not that far until we come to that nasty, unnamed climb. It starts at km 32.9, and remember, it has an 11% gradient.
Valeriy Dmitriyev of Astana attacks out of the field.
He has about 15 secods on th efield, where we seem to have had a crash. The three leaders are only 2:43 ahead of him.
Brice Feillu of Vacansoleil gives chase.
Feillu and Dmitriyev are together but will be caught by the field any second.
No sooner said than done. The gap is now 2:20.
We just had the first sprint of the day, with Capelli taking the honours.
Only one more km until the first time up the climb....
Two minutes exactly.
The leading trio is climbing now.
A minute and a half now. It won't be much longer until the leaders are caught.
The lead group has exploded, as they grind their way up the climb. Veikkanen is out of power here.
Pliuschin carries on alone.
And he crosses the finish line for the first time.
The peloton comes over the line about 1:18 later.
RadioShack is very active in the chase.
Pliuschkin continues to lead as he is on the closing circuit, with a lead of 1:32.
Amets Txurruka is the next to jump out of the field. Many follow him.
The Euskaltel rider has 20 seconds now on the field.
A group of about 15 is now chasing Txurruka.
We are trying to figure out who is where right now.....Txurruka has a small lead over a group ahead of the long-drawn-out peloton.
Txurruka is caught and the field now has them all. We see Cancellara in his yellow jersey near the front.
Pliuschkin takes the final mountain ranking of the day.
Andy Schleck leads Cancellara in the chase.
Only 11 seconds now for the leader.
It won't be long now until Pliuschin is caught.
They sweep their way around a large hairpin curve at the moment.
There is a furious chase underway, many smaller groups.
Pliuschkin has been caught now,
There is a group of six in the lead Andy Schleck amongst them.
HTC-Columbia's Albasini jumps from the group, which has gotten larger.
The Swiss rider still has a narrow lead.
He has four seconds on the yellow jersey field.
The field is stretched out now as the rain starts again.
Albasini builds up his lead now, up to 10 seconds.
Albasini takes the final intermediate sprint.
The field is riding through a neighborhood now, with lots of barriers in the road. Careful!
The gap drops slightly, to 10 seconds.
That's it for Albasini, he is caught.
A Caisse d'EPargne rider is the next to go.
It is Luis Leon Sanchez.
Only four seconds for the Spaniard.
And now it is up to 11 seconds. The group is not giving serious chase, but it doesn't have to right now.
Oscar Freire has jumped from the field and gives chase.
Sky leads the yellow jersey group.
The group now has Sanchez in its sights.
#Sanchez is now caught, and we have small group together.
A Footon rider is next to go.
Giampaolo Cheula has a narrow lead.
The tempo has picked up dramatically.
And we see more raindrops.
All together again as they start up the closing climb.
Two HTC-Columbia riders lead the way.
The field breaks up on this diffcult and steep climb.
About a dozen riders in a loose lead group. Cancellara is not in this group.
Fränk Schleck looks to take the lead at the 1km marker.
There is a wild chase to catch Schleck.
Schleck pulls it through to the end! He wins the stage.
A Caisse d'Epargne rider was second, close behind the Saxo rider, but we are not yet sure who it was.
Second place goes to Rigoberto Uran of Caisse d'Epargne.
We will have a new GC leader, but we are still awaiting official word.
Third place today goes to Bauke Mollema of Rabobank.
Fabian Cancellara crossed the finish line six seconds down, with HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin ahead of him. So Martin takes over the GC lead.
Martin leads Cancellara by one second. Roman Kreuziger has fallen even further back, out of the top ten.
That's it for us today. Thanks for joining us and be sure to read along again tomorrow.