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Hello and welcome back to the Tour de Suisse! Today's the queen stage of the Swiss event with two Cat. HC and one Cat. 1 climbs on the menu over 213.3 kilometres from Meiringen to La Punt.
The riders are underway, the peloton is together as they rol through the town of Meiringen. There are 148 riders left in the race - and we expect more to quit today as the stage is extremely difficult and the Swiss weather still not improved...
The official start has now occurred! Off we go for 213 kilometres of challenging climbing and fast descents... The first climb, the Sustenpass, will be tackled right away. Its summit comes after 28 kilometres.
The weather at the moment is actually not too bad, with the sun sending a few rays throught scattered clouds. But it's not very warm, only 17° Celsius in the valley at 600 meters above sea level. The Sustenpass is at 2.224 metres - if we calculate that the temperature cedreses by one degree per hundred meters of altitude, it will be just above 0 degrees on the summit...
Also, there might be some snow there after yesterday's rain, as the rain turned to snow above 1.600 metres of altitude.
We have a breakaway: Eleven riders are off the front: Edouard Vorganov (Katusha), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas),Philip Deignan (Cervélo), Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel), Brice Feillu, Marco Marcato, Wouter Poels (all Vacansoleil) and Jérémy Roy (FdJ).
The group has around one minute on the bunch.
Late notive, but better late than never: Mark Cavendish (HTC) has quit the race. The sprinter did not turn up this morning. Also, Wilfried Cretskens (Omega) abandoned just now.
Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) and Mathias Frank (BMC) are trying to bridge up to the lead group. Frank is 25 seconds behind the leaders, with Iglinsky further away.
Frank, the only Swiss rider off the front, has made it to the breakaway. We have 12 riders in the lead now, followed by the bunch at 1'17" - not an extraordinary gap. HTC riders around overall leader Tony Martin are controlling the pace.
Iglinsky is back inside the peloton. An Euskaltel rider, Juan José Oroz, now tries to bridge up to the lead group.
It is still very cloudy here is Switzerland and the sun at the start has gone away...
Oroz looks like he'll make it. Only 12 seconds left to the group. The bunch, meanwhile is relegated at 1'27".
The riders are slowly making their way up the Sustenpass. The Alpine landscape is very green, with dense forests covering the slopes. It actually looks quite wild for Switzerland - were it not for the excellent road surface!
Oroz has made it to the leaders. We therefore have 13 riders at the front now:
Edouard Vorganov (Katusha), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas), Philip Deignan (Cervélo), Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Juan José Oroz, Amets Txurruka (both Euskaltel), Brice Feillu, Marco Marcato, Wouter Poels (all Vacansoleil), Jérémy Roy (FdJ) and Mathias Frank (BMC).
The bunch is currently 2 minutes adrift.
This getting serious, as the riders are swallowed by large clouds of fog on their way up the mountain. At this point it is not much of a problem but will be once the riders tackle the descent. Visibility is very poor at times.
Several riders are getting dropped out of the back of the bunch. What a long day today, and this is only the start... Only a few kilometres left and the riders will have mastered the first of three climbs on the menu for today.
After yesterday's surprise victory of Switzerland over Spain in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, Swiss riders will be motivated to continue challenging their international rivals here at the Tour de Suisse. Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, 2009 victor of the event, will be eager to try and dethrone Tony Martin today. Cancellara lies only one second behind Mrtin on GC.
There are some patches of snow on the slopes above the road. It sure looks chilly.
The leaders have extended their advantage to 2'50" now. They will be at the summit soon.
The leaders have crossed the KOM point on the Sustenpass., zipping up now. The patches of snow have turned into fields...
At the summit of the HC climb, Wouter Poels took the points in front of Mathias Frank, Brice Feillu, Amets Txurruka and Juan Manuel Garate.
They are fast descending now. Fortunately the fog has lifted and the clouds are high up in the sky on this side of the mountain, so the descent should not be dangerous. The road is dry, too.
We have just been informed that Cavendish, who did not start today, is still taking the opportunitiy to get some climbing into his legs. Apparently the Manxman is riding some of the route today, followed by a team car.
Koldo Fernandez (Euskaltel) has abandoned.
The last riders to have corssed the pass were already 11 minutes behind the leaders. And there is more to come...
The leaders are racing through Wassen now. Brice Feillu had trouble hanging on in the descent but is now back with the group. They have incresed their lead to 4 minutes.
The front group of 13 had somewhat disintegrated, with several small groups now starting the next climb, the Oberalppass (Cat. 1). But now, the riders are together again - save for Feillu, who still has trouble following the pace.
It is looking good for our breakaway. The 12 riders (without Feillu, who is riding alone now, 30 seconds behind the group) now have five minutes on the peloton. Feillu's Vacansoleil teammates are looking back but can't see him...
The Oberalppass culminates just over 2,000 metres. It is not quite as steep as the previous one, but will add to the suffering.
Feillu's efforts are rewarded. He gets back to the group.
The leaders have passed Andermatt, extending their advantage to 6'22". Seems like the bunch has given up hope of catching them before the final climb - or before the finish?
With regards to Mark Cavendish, who abandoned the race this morning, the HTC team has stated that he was still in too much pain from his injuries suffered in a crash in stage four. We will follow up on this later on this evening, so stay tuned for more information to come.
Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes spoke to Oscar Pereiro at the start today. The Astana rider was "happy with my form and with how things are going. Today's going to be a tough one and a good test of everyone's condition."
The 2006 Tour de France winner will be preparing for this year's July Grand Tour, where he will be one of Alberto Contador's main helpers.
The riders are covering a total of 4,761 vertical metres today. It will be essential for the breakaway to work together until the very end if they want to stay clear.
At the moment, Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre) is the new overall leader of the race, as he's in 17th positon with 26 seconds behind the current yellow jersey, German Tony Martin (HTC).
Again, the riders work their way up the climb amidst patches of snow... Fortunately, the clouds hovering above the race don't seem to want to shed any water at this point.
Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes also got a hold of Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) this morning. After a very successful spring season, the Belgian "finds it hard to get motivated again. My form is OK but not too great. I hope to ride the Belgian Championships later on this month." Gilbert will not participate in the Tour de France, as he plans to peak a second time this year in autumn.
The breakaway leads the bunch by 5'30" on top of the climb. Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil) will take over the mountains jersey from Mathias Frank (BMC) this evening.
They are flying down the descent now. The scenery changes as the forests make way to green pastures. The leaders speed through the village of Sedrun.
At the summit of the Oberalppass, Frank did not leave his jersey to Poels without putting on a fight - but the BMC rider was outsprinted by the Dutchman and had to settle for second at the KOM point, taking eight points in front of Roy (6), Feillu (4) and Txurruka (2).
Poels now leads Frank by two points in the classification - but a third categorized climb is yet to come today!
The riders will soon be able to recharge their batteries, as the feed zone is coming up. There is plenty of rolling downhill yet to do before a small - not categorized - ascent awaits them at km 120. From then on, the road will get bumpy again, with more climbing to do before the Albulapass (Cat. HC) really starts around km 180.
The bunch is still being led out by HTC-Columbia as they, too, will get to the feed zone soon. The current gap to the front riders is 5'35". They will have to work hard in the next few kilometres in order to catch the break before the summit of the ultimate climb, the Albulapass (2,315 metres above sea level).
A short rainshower left the roads slightly wet as Feillu seems to have problems holding the pace, once again. Correction: he's back within the group now as they continue their way after grabbing their feed bags.
This morning at the start in Meiringen, Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes also interviewed Nick Nuyens (Rabobank). "My form is coming up," the Belgian said. "Due to a strong sinusitis after Het Volk, I missed out on my form for the Classics, but now, it's getting better."
The Begian Championships later on this month will be "difficult" for him, though. "I only have one teammate there, and with the other teams having plenty, it will not be easy. Although sometimes one can take advantage of such a situation."
Nuyens will not be racing the Tour de France in July, but aim at the Vuelta and the Worlds later this season.
It's started to rain a bit again, and the riders have put on their vests. Apparently the weather forecast predicts more rain until the finish, as well as very chilly temperatures: 4°C on the Albulapass, and 7° in La Punt... this stage gets more and more demanding.
Olivier Bonnaire (Française Des Jeux) has called it quits. First, he had some mechanical problem and waited for his team car. But then he decided to abandon...
The gap between the break and the bunch is back to 6'34", as the leading riders take on the climb up to Flims.
Daniel taking over from Hedwig. Thanks, Hedi.
The the leaders are now on a small ungraded climb towards Flims. It's good to see Feillu in the break again after his exploits during stage 4. I see Garate is there too. Dangerous climber, who of course won the stage on Ventoux in last year's Tour de France.
Saxo Bank have moved to the front now to give HTC a hand in bringing back the break. Conditions are still poor as the rain continues.
The leaders lost a minute on the climb. A combination of Saxo Bank joining the chase and there are a few tired legs in the break but it's interesting that Saxo Bank are coming to the front so early in the stage.
The gap down to five minutes as the break now start the descent. The peloton are a few km from the top.
The descent has two sections to it. The first, which the break has just completed is followed by a false-flat before the road begins to dip down again.
The peloton are now on the descent of the climb. Once they're at the bottom of the valley it's all up hill or flat until the finish.
The break has managed to gain a few more seconds on the bunch on the descent. The gap is now 5.25.
The leaders are now through Reichenau. Roughly 20 miles of flat-ish roads before the climbing begins but really there isn't much flat road here at all. Saxo and HTC still on the front.
Francesco Gavazzi is leader on the road at the moment.
The lead dips under 5 minutes now. These guys still have the climb and then a short descent to the finish. It's going to be very tough for them to stay away.
Poels is now leading the KOM competition now having won the points on the first two climbs. The leaders have 51km to go now and the cooperation seems to have gone now. They're not riding with much cohesion. I feel a bit of a selection about to take place.
They're on the lower slopes of the climb now.
The gap is down to 3,50 now.
The bunch are now on the lower slopes of the climb now. Special Breschel is near the front, Martin too, with Cancellara on his wheel. Those two are separated by just 1 second in the overall. Who is the better climber? Martin?
Oroz and Lastras are good climbers too and they're in the break. Watch out for them.
Feillu takes something from the car and holds on to the driver's arm like his life depends on it. Still holding, still holding, still holding.
Vande Velde from Garmin Tranisitions near the front. We've not seen much of him so far in the race. Of course he's coming back from a broken collar bone. Will he test himself today on the climb?
We should see a big shack up in the overall today. Riders to watch are the Schlecks, Leipheimer, Kirchen, Kreuziger and Leon Sanchez
There's a slight break from the leaders, Garate, Lastras, Vanotti nip off the front. That will suit the bunch.
Vanotti's on a bit of a mission here. Garate and Lastras just hanging on as the behind them the remnants split all over the road.
Marcato and Frank have made it to the front trio now.
Deignan is out of the back. That's a bit of a surprise to be honest.
Euskaltel missed that split so they'll have to work hard to bring those five riders back.
Frank is pushing the new lead group along and they have 17 seconds on the chasers and 3.35 on the bunch.
The five leaders are working well together. They've gained another couple of seconds on the chasers. Long way to go though.
Feillu makes it over to the leaders so we now have six guys at the front of the race.
HTC on the front. I think that's Monfort chugging away. No it's Roulston.
Crisis. The riders are held at the train barriers.
Hulsmans is laughing but I dont think the GC riders will be finding this so funny. The gap is going to go up a lot.
Okay, they've got back to real life again and the pace is going to shoot up. They lost around a minute there. Lastras has flown so HTC have to react, they have to chase now.
The gap is close to five minutes again as the two lead groups come back together again.
Oroz attacks but it's going to come back together as Lastras leads the chase.
HTC are working hard now. Three riders, then Martin and then Andy Schleck.
A lot of responsibility on Monfort's shoulders here actually. He'll be Martin's last man on the climb and if the German wants the race he'll need all the help he can get.
Oroz took the points at that sprint there but Frank wasn't too happy about it. Oroz was simply protecting Hernandez's lead.
Saxo have put a man on the front now. The gap still over four minutes.
It's Jens Voigt who is driving the bunch in case you were wondering as Marcato tries to break things up in the lead group. No joy though.
17km of climbing left and then the descent to the finish.
The gap is back under four minutes now so the work from Saxo is paying off.
Lastras makes a move. Told you he was dangerous.
He's trying to bridge over to Roy and Feillu.
Feillu is setting the pace, Roy is just trying to hang on. Remind me why Feillu won't be at the Tour this year?
Roy is dropped.
Lastras Oroz and Garate are working together just behind. Gap to the bunch is under three minutes.
Lastras is in trouble now and he's starting to slip from Garate's wheel but it's bye bye Fabian. Cancellara is dropped from the lead group.
But all is not lost. Andy Schleck attacks. Not a massive move and Gesink is going after him.
Gesink just about to catch Schleck with another rider there too. Not sure who he is though. It might be Westra
Spectacular scenery here in Switzerland as the peloton have a huge drop to their right hand side overlooking some great views. The Schleck group have a small lead but nothing huge, maybe 75 meters.
Andy's is waiting to Frank. Gesink sets the pace. A quick step rider coming along for the ride too.
Roman Kreuziger is trying to come over too as Martin leads a chase with one teammate left with him. Sky are helping the chase for their man Lövkvist.
The road is starting to kick up a bit more, this really is a long, long climb. Brice still leading affairs. He looks quite good actually.
Andy Schleck is with Jacob Fuglsang not Frank, apologies.
Schleck leading his group now, his teammate sits at the back of the group.
Andy keeps looking back, probably for Frank but he's got a chance of taking the win if he gets to the front.
Vanotti and Frank both caught and dropped.
Lastras caught too. He's got nothing left.
Jacob Fuglsang is setting the pace now and he's picking up riders from the day's early break at nearly every corner. Oroz the latest to be caught and dropped.
Gesink just at the back of the group now while Feillu gets out of the saddle and pushes on the pedals again.
The Martin group are still plugging away but he could be out of yellow by the end of today's stage.
Martin has cracked. He's waving riders passed him.
The German is spinning a low gear but he's all alone now. Sad sight when we you see the race leader like that but he should catch a few riders before the top of the climb.
Lövkvist has been dropped from a group containing Levi and Lance. Frank is there with the shack guys too and Schlecks group have been caught.
Uran who was with the shack group has a go and attacks from the front. There are around a dozen riders in the favourites group.
Roy is about to be caught now by the Schleck, Armstrong group.
Martin is all by himself now, in fact he's got a Lampre rider on his wheel. Wonder how things would have worked out if Rogers had been here.
About 5km of climbing for the lone leader. And now Schleck goes!
That was a huge attack. Levi tried to stay with him but he had no chance.
He's got a gap of around 200 meters already.
Devolder is leading the chase but no one can attack right now.
He looks pretty good here does Schleck, the lone leader is in trouble though. Gesink goes!
Feillu caught and passed by Garate and Txurruka. Can they hold off Schleck?
Gesink is closing on Schleck who can't gain anymore ground on the Shack group.
The two new leaders now ride side by side. Gesink is coming to Schleck's wheel now.
Four leaders now. Two from Rabobank once from Saxo and oh nevermind. It's all about to come back together now.
Leipheimer is struggling, Devolder, and Kloden too.
Martin perhaps a minute down but Gesink has attacked!
Gesink seemed to attack in slow motion but he's really moving now. Can he keep the gap?
Andy is caught but Frank goes now.
He's got Zaugg with him.
Kloden is back from the dead and is leading the chase.
Gesink looks very good. I've said that a lot today but this time I really mean it. Promise. He's got 34 seconds on the chasers already.
Kloden leads Amstrong. Levi is at the back of the group.
44 seconds now for Gesink.
Martin is climbing with Roche on his wheel. he's two minutes down on Gesink.
Gesink was 27 seconds down on Martin so he could take the stage and yellow.
He's close to the top of the climb now and the gap is a minute for Gesink.
Kloden still setting the pace for the chasers. Armstrong now on his wheel.
Frank S and Zaugg have almost given up on catching Gesink now. Schleck takes a long look back.
Gesink, not far for him now. he's closing in on he top of the climb. he'll then need to survive the descent.Gesink isn't a great climber but he should make this.
The Rabobank car comes up to Gesink. He need to push now and get every second. Remember we still have a TT this weekend to come.
Gesink out of the saddle. Going for it as he crests the top.
It's not downhill just yet. It's actually flat for now. Armstrong is getting dropped but should get back on.
The gap at the top was 1.10
Armsrtrong on F Schleck's wheel. Leipheimer only just over the top of the climb.
This is an odd descent. It's pancake flat.
Gesink is in full tt mode now. 8km for him.
Tony Martin meanwhile is 2.46 back.
Finally Gesink has a descent. A real descent and he's screaming down the climb.
5km for the leader now.
The stage should be in the bag but how much time can he take in the overall?
Andy Schleck isn't with the Armstrong group. Looks like he was dropped at the top of the climb.
A few technical corners on this downhill, as you would expect on a climb like this. The gap is one minute now.
Gesink has just 1km to go.
Gesink still pushing as he takes the final turn.
He crosses the line and takes the win.
Start the clock.
Armstrong is chasing. and the gap is 40 seconds on the line.
That might put Uran in yellow.
He was ten seconds behind Martin.
Leipheimer coming in now. He lost over two minutes today.
Here comes Martin. 2.36 down today.
Uran finished second on the stage today.
Confirmation that Gesink is now in yellow. Uran is 29 seconds down.
Thanks for following us today. Tune in tomorrow for another stage of the Tour de Suisse.