For the second year running, a French rider moved into the overall lead at the Tour de Suisse on the mighty Rettenbachferner, as Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) emulated Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) by taking hold of the yellow jersey on the most demanding stage of the race.
Twelve months ago, Pinot held the lead for four days before slipping to fourth overall after the time trial on the final day. This time around, Barguil faces an immediate test of his credentials, as he tackles the hilly 16-kilometre time trial around Davos on Saturday’s penultimate stage.
Barguil will roll down the start ramp with a lead of 21 seconds over Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), while Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) lies a further three seconds back in third. With another tough mountain stage to come on the final day, Barguil feels the short time trial is crucial but not necessarily decisive.
“I think Talansky is my most dangerous rival,” Barguil said, according to L’Équipe. “24 seconds isn’t a lot, but it’s not bad either. And since the final stage is very hard as well, this race won’t be over until Sunday evening…”
Barguil dislodged Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) from the overall lead by placing third on the stage, 18 seconds down on winner Tejay van Garderen (BMC). The Breton said that he had initially expected the Sky team of Geraint Thomas to shut down van Garderen’s attack with four kilometres to go, but quickly decided to take matters in hand himself. Thomas ultimately lost 1:08 and slips to 8th overall, 1:36 behind Barguil.
“I heard Geraint Thomas telling his rider [Vasil Kiryienka] twice to slow down,” Barguil said. “It’s a pity that I didn’t get on Tejay’s wheel straightaway because he got a gap. I closed in on him but then I suffered a bit. I just gave everything I had to reach the finish line.”
Barguil admitted to a degree of frustration at missing out on the stage, particularly given that he had already placed second on Wednesday’s summit finish at Carì when he came within a whisker of catching earlier escapee Darwin Atapuma (BMC) in the finishing straight following a determined chase.
Remarkably, the 24-year-old Barguil has not won a race since he claimed a brace of stage victories as a neo-professional at the 2013 Vuelta a España. Despite placing 14th overall in his crash-blighted Tour de France debut last season – in April he revealed that he had raced with a fracture on his kneecap – Barguil offered a damning assessment of his 2015 season on Friday.
“Last year was a blank season. There aren’t a lot of people who want to believe me when I say that, but it was a complete failure,” Barguil said. “Even if I showed some things on the Tour, it wasn’t the best in terms of results.”