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Kreuziger crushes rivals

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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) won the stage

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) won the stage (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kirchen was the leader before the time trial

Kirchen was the leader before the time trial (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) focuses on what is ahead.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) focuses on what is ahead. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kim Kirchen gets his bike weighed in before the start.

Kim Kirchen gets his bike weighed in before the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) focuses on what is ahead.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) focuses on what is ahead. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Norwegian time trial champion Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road).

Norwegian time trial champion Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road). (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Bram Tankink (Rabobank).

Bram Tankink (Rabobank). (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) won the stage and moved into the overall lead.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) won the stage and moved into the overall lead. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kirchen was the leader before the time trial but slipped to 7th after a dissapointing ride.

Kirchen was the leader before the time trial but slipped to 7th after a dissapointing ride. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Steven De Jongh (Quick Step) is happy still but that may be due to the fact he hasn't started yet.

Steven De Jongh (Quick Step) is happy still but that may be due to the fact he hasn't started yet. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) rode up with his Belgian champ jersey that he earned in a somewhat flatter time trial last year in Belgium.

Leif Hoste (Silence-Lotto) rode up with his Belgian champ jersey that he earned in a somewhat flatter time trial last year in Belgium. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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René Weissinger (Team Volksbank) leads the sprints classification and was already happy he couldn't lose that lead today.

René Weissinger (Team Volksbank) leads the sprints classification and was already happy he couldn't lose that lead today. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Cancellara's bike get's weighed.

Cancellara's bike get's weighed. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Ralf Grabsch (Team Milram) before the start.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) and Ralf Grabsch (Team Milram) before the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Cancellara said he would "put on the rainbow jersey and 'enjoy' the day."

Cancellara said he would "put on the rainbow jersey and 'enjoy' the day." (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Sébastien Portal (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) – ready or not here we go.

Sébastien Portal (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) – ready or not here we go. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) enjoys flatter time trials better and that is where he won the French champion jersey.

Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) enjoys flatter time trials better and that is where he won the French champion jersey. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) cools off even before the start.

Pablo Lastras Garcia (Caisse d'Epargne) cools off even before the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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David Loosli (Lampre) is warmed up and ready to go to defend his mountain jersey.

David Loosli (Lampre) is warmed up and ready to go to defend his mountain jersey. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) and the difficulties to get to the start.

Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) and the difficulties to get to the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) are discussing the best tactics to get to the top without losing the zest for tomorrow's stage.

Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone) are discussing the best tactics to get to the top without losing the zest for tomorrow's stage. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Irishman Philip Deignan (AG2R La Mondiale) makes an expression as if to say he wasn't going to enjoy the day.

Irishman Philip Deignan (AG2R La Mondiale) makes an expression as if to say he wasn't going to enjoy the day. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) and Steve Morabito (Astana) share a laugh before the suffering starts.

Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) and Steve Morabito (Astana) share a laugh before the suffering starts. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Caisse d'Epargne) smiles as his bike passes the UCI check

José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Caisse d'Epargne) smiles as his bike passes the UCI check (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) ready to roll off the ramp

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) ready to roll off the ramp (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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The last minute adjustments of Christian Knees' mechanic may have helped to get the Milram rider do a great time trial and moving into the top 10 overall.

The last minute adjustments of Christian Knees' mechanic may have helped to get the Milram rider do a great time trial and moving into the top 10 overall. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Damiano Cunego (Lampre) looks lean and mean which are good signs for a mountain time trial.

Damiano Cunego (Lampre) looks lean and mean which are good signs for a mountain time trial. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Andy Schleck (Team CSC) signs autographs.

Andy Schleck (Team CSC) signs autographs. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) gets his bike back from the UCI lady.

Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) gets his bike back from the UCI lady. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) concentrates in the final moments before the start.

Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) concentrates in the final moments before the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Andy Schleck and Igor Anton talk about what is awaiting them.

Andy Schleck and Igor Anton talk about what is awaiting them. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Anton stretches before the start

Anton stretches before the start (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) relaxes before hitting the slopes.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) relaxes before hitting the slopes. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kreuziger's mechanic makes sure everything is set to avoid David Millar moments.

Kreuziger's mechanic makes sure everything is set to avoid David Millar moments. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) has the bike ready

Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) has the bike ready (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kirchen concentrates, as he knows what's at stake today.

Kirchen concentrates, as he knows what's at stake today. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kirchen seems to look a bit worried

Kirchen seems to look a bit worried (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road) is the Norwegian champion in the time trial.

Edvald Boasson Hagen (High Road) is the Norwegian champion in the time trial. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) just wanted to survive today.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) just wanted to survive today. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Boasson Hagen rolls off and almost seems to smile.

Boasson Hagen rolls off and almost seems to smile. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) starts

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) starts (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Leif Hoste (Silence - Lotto) has a desperate look on his face.

Leif Hoste (Silence - Lotto) has a desperate look on his face. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Gregory Rast (Astana) gets going

Gregory Rast (Astana) gets going (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Morris Possoni (Team High Road) grabs the bars at the bottom but would change soon.

Morris Possoni (Team High Road) grabs the bars at the bottom but would change soon. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team) heads out

Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing Team) heads out (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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No, it's not Cancellara in pain but a last joke shared with the officials.

No, it's not Cancellara in pain but a last joke shared with the officials. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Cancellara is off, knowing that today nobody would expect him to win.

Cancellara is off, knowing that today nobody would expect him to win. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Sébastien Hinault (Crédit Agricole) is not related to Bernard

Sébastien Hinault (Crédit Agricole) is not related to Bernard (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Jürgen Roelandts (Silence - Lotto) is having a terrific season as a neo-pro.

Jürgen Roelandts (Silence - Lotto) is having a terrific season as a neo-pro. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) held the best time for a long while before being bested by Kreuziger.

José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Epargne) held the best time for a long while before being bested by Kreuziger. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) starts

Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) starts (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Zabel's spare bike

Zabel's spare bike (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Pieter Jacobs (Silence - Lotto) did a great ride

Pieter Jacobs (Silence - Lotto) did a great ride (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Bobby Julich heads off

Bobby Julich heads off (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) relaxed before the start.

Laszlo Bodrogi (Crédit Agricole) relaxed before the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) could do without the time trial up the mountains.

Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) could do without the time trial up the mountains. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Bodrogi is Hungarian TT champion but, like others, also on a flatter course.

Bodrogi is Hungarian TT champion but, like others, also on a flatter course. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) in the mountains jersey.

Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) in the mountains jersey. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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A Mavic mechanic takes a picture from CSC bike.

A Mavic mechanic takes a picture from CSC bike. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Jens Voigt hits the road

Jens Voigt hits the road (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Pre-race chatter

Pre-race chatter (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Gutierrez with a last sip of water

Gutierrez with a last sip of water (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Gutierrez is off.

Gutierrez is off. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Frank Schleck (Team CSC) and Xavier Florencio Cabre (Bouygues Telecom) chat before the start.

Frank Schleck (Team CSC) and Xavier Florencio Cabre (Bouygues Telecom) chat before the start. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) hits the cobbles in the first few metres.

Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) hits the cobbles in the first few metres. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Frank Schleck (Team CSC) rolls off.

Frank Schleck (Team CSC) rolls off. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Tanel Kangert (AG2R La Mondiale)

Tanel Kangert (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Caisse d'Epargne)

Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Andy Schleck (Team CSC)

Andy Schleck (Team CSC) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Andreas Klöden (Astana) heads out to what turned out be a very good ride and second overall.

Andreas Klöden (Astana) heads out to what turned out be a very good ride and second overall. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Thomas Lövkvist (Team High Road)

Thomas Lövkvist (Team High Road) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kreuziger gets ready

Kreuziger gets ready (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kreuziger powers away

Kreuziger powers away (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kirchen hits the road

Kirchen hits the road (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) on the climb

Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) on the climb (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team)

Jeff Louder (BMC Racing Team) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Cancellara didn't go 100% and saved some energy for the final stage.

Cancellara didn't go 100% and saved some energy for the final stage. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Olivier Bonnaire (Bouygues Telecom)

Olivier Bonnaire (Bouygues Telecom) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Rujano did well and finished second

Rujano did well and finished second (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Marc De Maar (Rabobank)

Marc De Maar (Rabobank) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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David Loosli (Lampre)

David Loosli (Lampre) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Frédéric Guesdon (Française des Jeux)

Frédéric Guesdon (Française des Jeux) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner)

Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux)

Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne)

Mathieu Perget (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Bodrogi passed his one-minute man Deignan on the climb

Bodrogi passed his one-minute man Deignan on the climb (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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The typical Jens Voigt race face

The typical Jens Voigt race face (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) is the mountains leader.

Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) is the mountains leader. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Gutierrez at the tough finish stretch

Gutierrez at the tough finish stretch (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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His face shows a bit of wear and tear

His face shows a bit of wear and tear (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Is that a smile on Yannick Talabardon's face?

Is that a smile on Yannick Talabardon's face? (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Xavier Florencio Cabre (Bouygues Telecom) is happy to be done for the day.

Xavier Florencio Cabre (Bouygues Telecom) is happy to be done for the day. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kreuziger waves to the crowd

Kreuziger waves to the crowd (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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The Czech rider received lots of prizes

The Czech rider received lots of prizes (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Kreuziger is all smiles

Kreuziger is all smiles (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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And he earned the yellow jersey, too

And he earned the yellow jersey, too (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Two yellow jerseys on the podium!

Two yellow jerseys on the podium! (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Who wouldn't smile here?

Who wouldn't smile here? (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) gets another mountain jersey but he is still tied on points with Loosli

Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) gets another mountain jersey but he is still tied on points with Loosli (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Iglinsky happy

Iglinsky happy (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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René Weissinger (Team Volksbank) still leads the sprints classification

René Weissinger (Team Volksbank) still leads the sprints classification (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) is the points leader and gets the "lady bug jersey"

Oscar Freire Gomez (Rabobank) is the points leader and gets the "lady bug jersey" (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)
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Freire on the podium.

Freire on the podium. (Image credit: Isabelle Duchesne)

Kirchen cracks, Klöden into second overall

Storming to his biggest career win thus far, Czech rider Roman Kreuziger wrested the yellow jersey off the shoulders of High Road rival Kim Kirchen on a tough 25 kilometre mountain time trial to the top of the Klausenpass.

The former world junior champion set a superb pace on the climb, beating early leader José Rujano Guillen (Caisse d'Eparagne) by sixteen seconds and Andreas Klöden (Astana) by a further two. Damiano Cunego (Lampre) was the only other to finish less than a minute behind, while the overnight leader Kirchen was on an off-day and placed only fifteenth. He was a considerable 3'25" down and dropped to seventh overall, with Klöden now the closest challenger to the new yellow jersey.

"Until now, my win in the 2004 world junior title in Verona was the most important. But now this victory here in the time trial tops that result," said an elated Kreuziger afterwards. "I hadn't done a mountain time trial yet with the pros, but I was very motivated because I was second overall going into today. This is my first big victory as a professional."

The 22 year-old clearly likes racing in Switzerland, given that he was second overall in the Tour du Romandie this season. In fact, he has a long history of competing in the country. "I was racing as a schoolboy for a Swiss club called RV Sulz and as a junior I competed for the Groupe Sportif Schumacher, which also had its base in Sulz," he said.

He headed to the race with the goal of building form, but now finds himself with a very strong chance of winning. "For the first time, I am in the Liquigas team selection for the Tour de France," he stated. "I will go there to learn and to stay there for ten days. Maybe I can do something in a stage. I came to the Tour of Switzerland hoping to do a good preparation for that race, but when I learned I was in good condition, the overall classification came into my focus."

Kirchen said yesterday that he was unsure of his chances, given that the time trial was so long, and also because he had very little experience of being in this position. He previously led the Tour of Luxembourg, but had never defended a jersey until the end of a stage race.

The High Road rider was under a lot of pressure and clearly weakened as a result. "I felt that I had no power in my legs," he said after his time trial. He was then asked why he used such a big gear. "Well, if I have no power, even with a smaller gear I would not move my bike [quicker]," was his response.

Second place on the stage went to Rujano, who finally looks like getting back to the form he showed when racing to a stage win, the King of the Mountains classification and third overall in the 2005 Giro d'Italia. "I felt very well and most of all, was very motivated by the course of this time trial", said the Venezuelan. "This morning I went to see the course in car, together with my team manager José Luis Jaimerena and I understood that it could suit me very well.

"At the end the gap with the winner was not so big, but in fact I lacked power in the last four kilometres. I would have be very happy to win, most of all to thank my team Caisse d'Epargne for trusting me the way they do. I was very tired at the end of the Giro d'Italia, but I am feeling better every day and I am satisfied with my Tour de Suisse. Now I will prepare myself for the Olympic Games in Beijing and later for the Vuelta a España, which is my main goal of the season."

Damiano Cunego showed his form is on the up prior to his big season target, the Tour de France. He placed fourth and ended the day fourth overall. "We're very happy for Cunego's performance," said directeur sportif Maurizio Piovani. "Damiano showed that his pace on climbs is good and it will be better in the next weeks because his condition will increase. He pedalled on normal bike with light wheels, and he could keep a constant pace that allowed him to realize a good time."

Both Igor Anton and the Italian are well adrift of Kreuziger, 1'55" and 2'11" respectively, and while tomorrow's final stage from Altdorf to Bern is undulating almost all the way, it's difficult to conceive that they could get back sufficient time. Klöden's smaller deficit is also unlikely to be overcome, but for now the young race leader is taking nothing for granted.

"It is not over yet, tomorrow will be difficult. Let's see how it goes," Kreuziger said. "I am not quite sure if I can be the overall winner. I expect an attack from Andreas Klöden, but I have a gap of 49 seconds and that should be enough. The final part of this stage is very difficult with some climbs....I think I am probably 80 percent sure of overall victory."

How it unfolded

A number of riders didn't appear for today's mountain time trial. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker announced yesterday that he was dropping out of the race, and an intestinal virus swept through the Gerolsteiner team, knocking out Oliver Zaugg and Stefan Schumacher.

Jose Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne) brought in a best time of 1h00'38, a time which held up for quite a while. For a long time no one could come within four minutes of his time. But eventually a few riders started to get closer. CSC's Jens Voigt set the best intermediate at the first check, after 9.1 kilometres, but he could not keep it up and eventually finished 1'19 behind the Venezuelan.

Voigt was eventually passed by Steve Zampieri, but the Swiss rider could also not get better the time of Rujano and stayed in second for the time being. Next to put Rujano's time to the test was Johann Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom), but he, too, fell short. With his 1h03'43, however, he squeezed past Zampieri into second.

The top five were about to start and the 2008 Tour de Suisse was about to be played out. First off was Andreas Klöden (Astana), who set a third best intermediate time, which was still held by Jens Voigt.

In two-minute intervals, the top riders set off: Thomas Lövkvist (Team High Road) at 17:32, Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) at 17:34, Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) at 17:36, Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) at 17:38 and finally Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) at 17:40.

Just when Kirchen went, Voigt hit the line, with a 1h01'57. Another rider who moved into second, unable to get to Rujano's time.

At the first time check, things already looked bleak for Kirchen, who was almost three quarters of a minute down on Kreuziger, who set the best time with a 19'13. Kirchen continued to lose time, while a determined Kreuziger quickly stormed the mountain.

Andreas Klöden caught his two-minute man Andy Schleck inside the final kilometre, but even that effort was not enough to get past Rujano. The German was one second slower than the Caisse d'Epargne rider.

It was Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas who finally broke Rujano's grip on first place, 16 seconds faster. Kim Kirchen lost 3'24 and his yellow jersey, which he had to hand over to a happy stage winner Kreuziger.

Klöden moved to second overall, 48 seconds back, while Anton stayed in third, but already 1'55 down on the Czech race leader.

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