Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) claimed his first win of 2018 with victory on stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse. The Italian, who has lived in Switzerland for a number of years, capped off an exciting day’s racing by leading from the front and winning the first summit finish of this year’s race.
Ulissi edged out Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Dimension Data) but admitted that a top-10 position on GC was also an ambition for him and his team. UAE were hoping that three-time Tour de Suisse winner Rui Costa would lead them at the race, but he was struck with a knee injury before the start.
“Before the race, the team asked me to go for a good place on GC, so I’ll be focused until Sunday. I’ll try to defend myself in the mountains and then do a good time trial. A good GC for me would be to finish in the top 10. Winning would be difficult,” he said during his post-race press conference in Leukerbad.
Ulissi was among the leaders who hit the final climb towards the finish. A powerful attack from Mikel Landa (Movistar) looked to have secured the stage win, but a late chase and a blustery headwind ensured that the leaders brought back the Movistar man with the line in sight. Ulissi hit the front early and despite the long wind up was more than strong enough to hold off the opposition. After a Giro d’Italia spent working for Fabio Aru, this was just the performance that Ulissi needed.
“I’ve showed I’m very well physically because there was 2,500m of altitude gain in the stage and it was raced very hard all day," he said. "I came out of Giro d’Italia very well, my condition is excellent. In the finale, I was afraid we wouldn’t bring Landa back and that we’d be racing for second place.
“The Tour de Suisse is one of the most important races in the world, so naturally for me it’s a big victory. I’ve been living in Switzerland now for nearly five years, in Lugano, so this has a special taste. I really wanted to win here and I’m really happy.”
The win moved Ulissi into eighth overall, 40 seconds down on overall leader Richie Porte (BMC Racing). There are two more mountain stages to come, plus the final 34km time trial on Sunday. Ulissi is aware that the overall win is probably beyond him, but he is determined to finish strongly and has taken aim on the top 10 on GC.
“It’s natural that on this finish today, my physical condition was superior to some riders who are preparing for the Tour de France," he said. "I’m very explosive on these finales and I defend myself well in the time trials, but there are riders who, objectively speaking, are stronger than me in the mountains and go better in time trials, like Porte, to name one. For me, it would be great to finish in the top 10, and winning a stage like today is already very important.”
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