Larry Warbasse (Aqua Blue Sport) came up short in his attempt to replicate his stage win at the Tour de Suisse from 12 months ago but the US national champion vowed to continue fighting with four days remaining in the race.
On stage 5, the first serious mountain test in this year’s race, Warbasse escaped with Daniel Oss (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Sylvan Dillier (AG2R La Mondiale), Willie Smit (Katusha-Alpecin) and Paul Ourselin (Direct Energie).
The American went solo on the penultimate climb of the day to Montana Village but was caught on the lower slopes of the final ascent to Leukerbad, with first Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and then the peloton passing him. Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) claimed the stage, while Richie Porte (BMC) moved into the race lead, but there was still a spot on the podium for Warbasse, who picked up the combativity award for his efforts.
"I knew today would be a decent chance for the breakaway but BMC wasn’t having it," he told Cyclingnews as he came off the podium.
"I tried on the first climb and it didn’t go and so I knew it’d suit me better if I could get in on the flat because maybe I’m a bit better on the flat than a lot of other climbers. I got in there with some really strong guys but we had to ride so hard. I went for it on the climb but I think we had less than three minutes with 50k to go, so that’s a long way to go alone."
Warbasse may have been a willing player in the day’s action but his chances were cut short, mainly due to the pace-setting from BMC, but also a stiff headwind that slowed down his solo move.
"That was actually the biggest issue. I wanted to go from the bottom of the second-to-last climb but the wind was so strong that I knew I couldn’t go for that long. I gave it everything but the wind wasn’t in my favour and the race behind me wasn’t in my favour. I gave it my all and it was actually a really fun day out."
Warbasse won a memorable stage of the 2017 Tour de Suisse when he held off the bunch to claim victory at Villars-sur-Ollon. He admitted that the race brought out the best in him, and with the defence of his national title a few weeks away the former IAM Cycling rider is full of confidence.
"I don’t know, I just love it. I really like Switzerland, I like Tour de Suisse and maybe the roads suit me well," he said. "They’re not super steep climbs and stuff like that. Maybe it’s just this time of year, I’m always in good condition and I always really focus on this race. Especially this year, it’s one of our biggest races of the year, it’s always a pleasure to do well here. It just so happens I think I won in the break at the bottom of Villars-sur-Ollon which was right where I got in it today. I don’t know maybe this region is just really good for me.”
With two more days to go before final day for the sprinters and then the individual time trial on Sunday, Warbasse knows that he still has opportunities to try and repeat last year’s win. He certainly wasn’t throwing in the towel just yet.
“Absolutely. Definitely, I’ll give it everything,’’ he said.
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