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Grüezi fellow cycling lovers, welcome back to Switzerland. Today's Tour de Suisse stage stage 7 will take the riders from Savognin to Wetzikon over 204.1 kilometres.
The stage starts with a downhill pretty much during the first 40 kilometers. This will leave plenty of time for any breakaway pretenders to open up a gap.
It is a very nervous race a this point, very fast. A crash occurred, but all the riders involved could continue. The field is slightly disintegrated.
Attacks all over the place. No-one gets away, though.
Weather update: It's still cloudy in Switzerland, and rainshowers remain possible. At the moment, it is dry.
Angelo Furlan of Lampre just caught the back of the bunch again after crashing. His team captain Simon Spilak also reconnected.
There are still lots of breakaway attempts as the profile gets more even. But everyone is marked...
The bunch will soon turn right into the Vorderrhein valley as it makes its way to Chur.
There are three KOM points on the menu today: Wildhaus (Cat.2, km 106.9), Hulftegg (Cat.3, km 153.8) and Bettswil (Cat.3, km 191).
The intermediate sprints today are in Chur (48 km), Wetzikon (183 km), Bettswil (192 km) and Wetzikon (finish).
Aliaksander Kuschynski (Liquigas) and Sylvain Chavanel (Quickstep) now tried their luck. In vain, once again. Chavanel, even though he has just taken up competition again after a skull fracture earlier this season, is always a dangerous competitor.
Thomas Löfkvist (Sky) has a mechanical. But he gets assistance quickly and is able to return into the bunch.
Clouds are hanging low in the sky and cover up the surrounding mountain summits. The bunch passes through the twon of Rhäzüns, where a few spectators cheer them on. Tempo is still very high, an average of 45 km/h is reported by Radio Tour.
Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) has opened up a gap. Not much: seven seconds at the moment. Maybe someone can support him in his bid and increase the chances?
Quinziato is reeled back. Other attacks follow immediately...
The bunch is racing along the Rhine river now, one of the most important rivers in Europe. It is 1,230 kilometres long and ends in the North Sea in the Netherlands.
Switzerland is really demanding everything from the riders this year. It has started to rain again - not a lot, but enough for it to look uncomfortable.
50 kilometres have been raced. Still no breakaway in sight...
The sprint in Chur: 1. Jonas Ljungblad (Omega Pharma - Lotto), 2. Jeremy Hunt (Cérvelo Test Team), 3. Marcus Burghardt (BMC Racing Team).
Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma) just crashed for the second time today. He gets back up and into the saddle.
The weather gets more miserable. It's wet and more grey clouds loom on the horizon.
More than 52 kilometres were covered ion the first hour of racing, tells us Radio Tour. That's very fast indeed bearing in mind that yesterday's queen stage of the event should still have an effect on the riders' legs...
Shortly after passing Landquart, 16 riders were able to get away. We're trying to sort out their names for you, hold on.
LL Sanchez is in it, so is Oscar Freire and Juan Antonio Flecha. Full list coming up. They have 1'45".
This is it, 16 riders are off the front:
Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank), Aliaksandr Kuschynski, Manuel Quinziato both (Liquigas), Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana), Mark Renshaw (HTC), Marcus Burghardt, Mathias Frank (both BMC), Greg Van Avermaet (Omega), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse), Oscar Freire, Tom Leezer (both Rabobank), Daniel Sesma (Euskaltel), Jürgen Van De Walle (Quickstep), Matthew Wilson (Garmin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Michal Golas (Vacansoleil).
The bunch is taking it easy now. They have let them go, as many teams apre represented. The break already has 4'48".
It is going to be a wet and logn day in the saddle for our small lead group, but at least they made it out. Time to breathe again in the back of the bunch - this is certainly a welcome relief after a very nervous first hour of racing.
Classics specialist Flecha (who will laugh about this weather) is the best-placed rider in the group. He is currently 27th behind yellow jersey Robert Gesink (Rabobank), at 8'24".
BMC's Mathias Frank is quite a phenomenon. He was already in the break yesterday, and again today. The Swiss native is very motivated for his home race...
The gap has come down slightly, to 4 minutes.
The weather is not getting any better, we're afraid. It's still very grey and wet.
The gap has come down to 3'45" as Rabobank, amongst other teams, controls the pace.
The front group has arrived in the feed zone. Time to pick up some gels and sandwiches.
Matteo Bono of Lampre has abandoned.
The breakaway is almost at the foot of the Wildhaus climb now. Their lead is 3'25" as the approach the Cat. 2 ascent.
The road has turned uphill now. The weather is still really bad, raining all the time. No wonder the grass is green on this part of the planet.
Iglinskiy and Renshaw have trouble holding the pace. They are dropped slightly.
The front group is halfway up the climb now, working well together. Their advantage has increased again to 3'30".
But it's not enoughfor Mark Renshaw (Sky), who attacks out of the breakaway! He gets a gap, about 17 seconds.
But the others don't panick and bridge back up to him. They have to stay together if they want to make it through.
We have another rider that just abandoned the race: Valeriy Dmitriyev of Liquigas.
The leaders have crossed the Wildhaus summit. The KOM points were taken by Michal Golas in front of Mathias Frank, Matti Breschel, Greg Van Avermaet and Daniel Sesma.
The bunch crests the climb 3'07" behind the break, still well within reach.
Swiss rider Frank therefore takes over the mountains jersey from Wouter Poels (Vacansoleil). A fair reward for all his efforts!
The 16 men are all back together now, including Iglinskiy and Renshaw.
This second part of the stage is a lot bumpier than the first as we've left the Rhine valley and are now crossing over to Wetzikon over the Toggenburg mountain range. It's nothing like yesterday's climbs, though...
The breakaway has been able to increase its lead again a little, up to 4 minutes now.
Rabobank is pulling behind but the Dutch squad might not be overly motivated to take on full responsibility as it has Freire in the lead group, as well as Leezer. Freire could be a good bet for the win today if the escape comes through.
Aliaksandr Kuschynski and Mark Renshaw are away, again! Renshaw initiated the attack and now they have 16 seconds over their chasers.
But the two leaders are being reeled back in, their advantage is melting as the chasers force the pace.
That's it, Kuschynski and Renshaw are back within the lead group. The clouds are so dense and grey that we fear we'll have more rainshowers again before the finish. It's coming down intermittedly.
They're in Wattwil now. The leaders are again 4'30" minutes off the front. There are still two climbs coming up, Hulftegg (Cat.3, km 153.8) and Bettswil (Cat.3, km 191).
Burghardt could be going for his second stage victory in Suisse today. The German already won stage 5 in Frutigen on Wednesday. Then, too, it had rained all day...
Looks good for the break, the gap is up to 5'25" with 60 kilometrers to go. The road is moving up again towards the Cat. 3 climb.
Ha! The sun makes a short guest appearance! But there are still a lot of clouds up there.
Marcus Burghardt (BMC) is currently riding 20 seconds in front of the breakaway.
Wow. Burghardt is now leading the group by one minute, with the bunch almost six minutes back. This is a serious endaveour.
Burghardt crests the climb. It has started rainign again. LL Sanchez sprints to take some points as second on top.
Burghardt is impressive. But will he make it on his own until the finish? The bunch crosses the climb 6'12" behind the German.
Race leader gesink is surrounded by four team-mates at the front of the bunch, followed by Fabian Cancellara and his Saxo Bank teammates.
Burghardt gives his all in the descent, against the rain and wind. He holds his minute over the chasing group of 15.
Burghardt now leads by 1'23". Van Avermaet is trying to organise a chase. It's hard to find a proper collaboration as everybiody wants to save energy.
Flecha is now the first rider of a string of 6, trying to bridge back up to the group in front of him. The chasers are disintegrating.
The riders are passing Wetzikon now for the first time, as there will be a loop around town for a final Cat. 3 climb before they cross the finish line.
Flecha's group is back with the other chasers. They are 11 men now, four of them must have been dropped upon this acceleration.
Van Avermaet attacks again, Flecha tries to come across but fails. Quinziato and Freire give it a try.
Quinziato, Freire and Frank chase Van Avermaet no, with the rest following close behind. But will they be able to ctach Burghardt again in this way?
LL Sanchez is chasing the main breakaway on his own.
The situation with 33 kms to go:
-Marcus Burghardt (BMC)
- Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank), Aliaksandr Kuschynski, Manuel Quinziato (both Liquigas), Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana), Mark Renshaw (HTC), Mathias Frank (both BMC), Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Oscar Freire, Tom Leezer (both Rabobank), Daniel Sesma (Euskaltel), Jürgen Van De Walle (Quickstep), Matthew Wilson (Garmin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Michal Golas (Vacansoleil) at 1'10"
- Peloton at 6'46"
Burghardt is on a short descent and takes the opportunity for a big gear. He might well be taking advantage of the fact that the chase is poorly organised, and go for the stage win. He looks like he has the power to do it...
Ballan must have had a mechanical. He is with three team-mates chasing back to the bunch inside the team cars.
Burghardt gets final instructions from his DS in the team car riding beside him. The finale has one climb left with 13 kilometres to go, then it's all downhill again until Wetzikon.
Iglinsky, Renshaw and Sesma will soon be swallowed by the bunch again. The Flecha group is 30 seconds behind the Freire group, and LL Sanchez is actually only 45 seconds behind Burghardt.
This is an update on the situation with 20 kms to go:
- Marcus Burghardt (BMC)
- Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne) at 44"
- Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Mathias Frank (BMC), Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma), Oscar Freire (Rabobank) at 1'15"
- Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank), Aliaksandr Kuschynski, Tom Leezer (Rabobank), Jürgen Van De Walle (Quickstep), Matthew Wilson (Garmin), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) and Michal Golas (Vacansoleil) at 1'45"
- Mark Renshaw (HTC), Maxim Iglinskiy (Astana), Daniel Sesma (Euskaltel) at 4'46"
- Peloton at 6'55"
Rabobank still in control over the bunch. They have nothing to fear as not even Flecha, best-placed GC rider in the break, will be a threat to Gesink. They'll just be happy that today's rainy stage will be over soon!
Armstrong sits well-protected in the Radioshack train just behind Rabobank.
1'22" for Burghardt over his chaser LL Sanchez as he starts the last climb. This will be decisive.
In the meantime, Sanchez has been caught by the group around Freire. Five riders against one in front.
LL Sanchez is taking long turns in front of the chase group, with Van Avermaet also very motivated. They can still get Burghardt, but they have to work hard now.
The Flecha group is losing ground. It's over for them as they are now 2'58" behind the leader.
Burghardt has made it over the climb. He has to dig deep now as the five chasers are not far behind him. Freire has some trouble hanging on but he fights his way back to the group as they, too, come across.
Frank consolidates his mountain jersey with 3 additional points.
Burghardt holds his ground, still 1'12" over the chase group.
What a performance by Burghardt. The German is on his way to a second stage win in this Tour de Suisse. It's raining again, let's hope nobody crashes on the descent.
The bunch is strung out now in the finale. They are limiting time loss, at the moment it's 6'25". But the road is not very wide, either...
1'06" for Burghardt, he is giving nothing away. He'll be able to celebrate in Wetzikon, where a lot of spectators have come out to the finish despite the poor weather.
A great day again for the Swiss-led BMC with a stage victory and the mountains jersey for Frank.
Two kilometrers left to glory. The roads are dry now for Burghardt. He passes the flamme rouge.
He already celebrates with his DS in the team car beside him, and takes out a necklace from his jersey, giving it a kiss.
He passes the finish line with a German flag...
Quinziato attacks early, followed by Van Avermaet, with Freire in tow. But the Spaniard comes around both of them, easy.
So Freire second, Van Avermaet third, Quinziato fourth.
Thanks for having joined us again today, and stay tuned for full results, report and photos of an impressive Suisse stage, unfortunately held in rainy circumstances once again. Have a nice day, wherever you are!