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Fothen scoops victory after Schleck crashes hard

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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) takes the stage

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) takes the stage (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The bunch sprint was led home by Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner)

The bunch sprint was led home by Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) won stage five of the Tour de Suisse, one of his best career results.

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) won stage five of the Tour de Suisse, one of his best career results. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) takes the stage after a dramatic crash of his breakaway companion, Fränk Schleck.

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) takes the stage after a dramatic crash of his breakaway companion, Fränk Schleck. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The bunch sprint was led home by Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) behind Astana's Serguei Ivanov.

The bunch sprint was led home by Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) behind Astana's Serguei Ivanov. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) saw his hopes of overall victory go up in smoke today.

Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) saw his hopes of overall victory go up in smoke today. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Bouygues Telecom's bikes are ready for the start.

Bouygues Telecom's bikes are ready for the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fränk Schleck (CSC) is probably dreaming about his possible victory.

Fränk Schleck (CSC) is probably dreaming about his possible victory. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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CSC Team presentation.

CSC Team presentation. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner).

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner). (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) is signing on for the day.

Pablo Lastras (Caisse d'Epargne) is signing on for the day. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) at the team presentation.

Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) at the team presentation. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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This Silence-Lotto rider had some problems with his wheel.

This Silence-Lotto rider had some problems with his wheel. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) is signing an autograph.

Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) is signing an autograph. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Swiss riders Steve Morabito & Johann Tschopp are talking about their breakaway.

Swiss riders Steve Morabito & Johann Tschopp are talking about their breakaway. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Riders waiting for the train before they can get to the start.

Riders waiting for the train before they can get to the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Riders making their way to the start.

Riders making their way to the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Pietro Caucchioli & Maxim Iglinsky climbing the only 1st category mountain of the day.

Pietro Caucchioli & Maxim Iglinsky climbing the only 1st category mountain of the day. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole).

Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole). (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Some of the men who animated the race today.

Some of the men who animated the race today. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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José Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne) & Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis).

José Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne) & Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis). (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) takes the biggest victory of his career.

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) takes the biggest victory of his career. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fränk Schleck (CSC) thanks his lucky stars as he crosses the finish line unscathed after a nasty fall.

Fränk Schleck (CSC) thanks his lucky stars as he crosses the finish line unscathed after a nasty fall. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Schleck attributed his luck to a guardian angel medal given to him at birth by his mother.

Schleck attributed his luck to a guardian angel medal given to him at birth by his mother. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Schleck will be stiff & sore tomorrow but will be able to start the Tour de France.

Schleck will be stiff & sore tomorrow but will be able to start the Tour de France. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) happy with his win today.

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) happy with his win today. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fothen took the win on the fifth stage into Caslano.

Fothen took the win on the fifth stage into Caslano. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fothen gives the double handed salute.

Fothen gives the double handed salute. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fothen accepts the rewards from winning the stage.

Fothen accepts the rewards from winning the stage. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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On the podium with the flowers.

On the podium with the flowers. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) in the leaders jersey.

Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) in the leaders jersey. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Anton Hernandez leads by six seconds from Kim Kirchen (High Road).

Anton Hernandez leads by six seconds from Kim Kirchen (High Road). (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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David Loosli (Lampre) leads the Mountains classification.

David Loosli (Lampre) leads the Mountains classification. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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René Weissinger (Team Volksbank) leading the sprints classification.

René Weissinger (Team Volksbank) leading the sprints classification. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Italian National champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) climbing.

Italian National champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) climbing. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fothen as he crosses the line solo.

Fothen as he crosses the line solo. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Gerolsteiner rider Markus Fothen took what is arguably the most significant result of his pro career when he won the fifth leg of the Tour de Suisse, a hilly stage concluding in Caslano.

Fothen broke free on the final climb and descended well to close down the lone leader Fränk Schleck (CSC), who had made his own move earlier on the ascent of the second category slopes of the Cademario.

The two traded pulls until the Luxembourg rider dramatically crashed with approximately four kilometres to go, losing what looked to be a certain opportunity to wrest the race leader's yellow jersey from the shoulders of Igor Anton (Euskaltel Euskadi).

Schleck misjudged a tight right-hand bend and slammed into the guardrail, flipping over and falling down the other side. He was miraculously unharmed, apart from scrapes and bruises, but ultimately finished 2'52" back in 44th place.

Schleck had started the day just 16" seconds in arrears and with Fothen hitting the line almost a minute clear of Anton's group, it was clear that there would have been a change at the top of the general classification.

Fothen scooped up the victory, returning to the limelight he enjoyed when he led the best young rider competition in the 2006 Tour de France. "It is wonderful, it is a great race here at the Tour de Suisse," he said at the post-race press conference. "It is a good preparation for my season goal of the Tour. I am in a very good condition and am very lucky.

"The team's first goal today was to work for Oliver Zaugg as he is our rider for the general classification. I did that but when we saw that there were so many riders on the final climb, we spoke amongst ourselves and it was clear then that if I was strong, I could attack.

"Once I went the aim was to gain as much time as possible until the top of the climb, then try to catch Frank Schleck on the descent."

Fothen did just that and the two worked together until Schleck had his fall. The Gerolsteiner rider was clearly shocked by what happened. "The crash was unbelievable, it looked terrible. I didn't have much time to react to it – if I had, it would have perhaps made me brake hard and perhaps, fall too.

"When I saw the crash, I had the impression that it was finished [for Frank Schleck], that he would be very badly injured. I am reassured and am very happy that he can continue. He was lucky. We had agreed to work together and then let the victory be settled in the final kilometre."

Astana rider Serguei Ivanov took second, 50 seconds back, while Marcus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) led in the first group some seven seconds later. Many of the big guns were present, including Anton, Kim Kirchen (Team High Road), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Andy Schleck (Team CSC). Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) lost time, however, conceding 20" and 57" respectively to the other race favourites.

Team High Road's Kim Kirchen remained second overall, six seconds back, while Fothen's team-mate Oliver Zaugg is just eighteen seconds back in third place.

Anton was happy to remain at the top. "The day was difficult," he said. "There were tough climbs at the start and some good riders got away in the break. At the end Schleck attacked and it was clear that he was the strongest. If he hadn't crashed, he would surely be in the yellow jersey.

"Tomorrow will be a difficult day. I hope to feel better than today – I will need to be. I think that Devolder, Cunego, Klöden and Schleck will be the strong guys. Some of them lost time today but we still need to watch them."

Kirchen is also a threat, given that he is the closest challenger. He was nineteenth on the stage, crossing the line at the back of the Anton group. He told Cyclingnews that he felt under a little pressure. "The stage was okay but it was a little bit too warm today. There was a big difference [when compared to the previous stages] so I was suffering today. However I survived and I hope I will be better tomorrow."

The 187.9 kilometre stage had started with the a third category climb and then the long ascent to the top of the first cat Lukmanierpass. A break went clear with several riders, amongst them Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole) and Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), as well as perennial attacker Jens Voigt (Team CSC) plus Maxim Iglinsky (Astana).

The latter was the last to be caught but he was eventually reeled in just outside the 20 kilometre to go point. Then, following an effort by Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Serguei Ivanov (Astana), Schleck made his own bid for stage victory, catching the latter, being later reeled in himself by Fothen, and then crashing hard.

He crossed the finish line holding a religious medal, thanking his guardian angel for saving him from what seemed certain to be much more grievous injuries.

"My mother gave this to me when I was born. It is a guardian angel, it brings me luck," he told the media, clearly thanking his good fortune.

"I suppose that I went into the corner too fast," he continued. "I didn't realise that the corner turned so sharply and I was going too quick. I just hit the barriers and went over them. It is a pity because I would have got the yellow jersey today."

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