By Shane Stokes in Lyss
Kim Kirchen moved a step closer to winning the 2008 Tour de Suisse when he and his High Road team safely defended the yellow jersey on Friday's seventh stage. The 170.6 kilometre stage to Lyss saw numerous attacks at the start, and so High Road decided to send their other high-placed rider Thomas Lövkvist up the road.
"The start was very, very fast and it is not easy to control things on this type of parcours. Many teams wanted to go in the break, there were many riders up there, and so the tactic of having [Thomas] Lövkvist up there meant that we had to do a bit less work."
He was himself aggressive on the run-in to the finish, jumping across to a break containing eventual winner Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and GC threat Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner). "Towards the end, I attacked myself," he stated. "There was a little hill that I like a lot, and I thought, why not?' The gap was not too big and so I decided to try to bridge [to the Cancellara break]. It is less dangerous up front and getting back up to Fothen was good."
"It was a very nervous at the start but once the break went clear, it was more tranquil. I think the finish was a bit too dangerous, though; there was a roundabout with 500 metres to go. I am sorry but I have to say to the organisation that they need to have finishes that are less dangerous. It was fine for Cancellara, he was clear alone, but for those behind it was risky."
Although Kirchen is a proven winner, he has somewhat limited experience of being a race leader. "I haven't really been in this position before. I had the jersey once in the Tour of Luxembourg but the rest of my stage race wins were taken on the final day. So now for me this is a new situation. Like I said before, the most important thing is not to be stressed. That is my big target."
Sunday's stage is likely to go down to a bunch finish, but Saturday's mountain time trial gives opportunity for Kirchen's rivals to try to steal the yellow jersey off his shoulders. He is a good climber but the 25 kilometre distance of the test means that nothing is guaranteed.
"I am not sure how it will go," he admitted. "It is very long and like the other riders, I am a bit nervous. With the yellow jersey on my shoulders this is not the usual situation. 25 kilometres is quite long, it will be necessary to make a big effort. I think tomorrow the strongest riders will be to the front and I think the Tour de Suisse will be decided there.
"In the Tour of Catalunya there was a time trial of 17 kilometres but the first seven kilometres were flat and the rest was uphill. I also did the Alpe d'Huez time trial in the 2003 Tour de France. But 25 kilometres is quite long and there are a few riders within a minute [of the lead]. It is still quite open."
He was asked about which riders he feared, but said that his focus was elsewhere. "For tomorrow, I won't think about anyone else other than myself. I will do my thing and see what happens."
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