Stage 9: Altdorf - Berne
Déjà vu. If his stage winning attack two days ago was reminiscent of his victory in Milan Sanremo, Fabian Cancellara's flourish today in his hometown of Bern was forged in the same manner as his Tour de France stage win in Compiègne last July.
The big CSC rider blasted out of the peloton inside the final kilometre, closing up to Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert (Française des Jeux) and edging by with less than 100 metres to go. He hit the line a bike length clear, earning a massive roar from the crowd and following up his final-stage time trial success here one year ago.
"The victory is great for me because I live just five kilometres from here, and because my my wife Stefanie and daughter Juliana were here at the finish," he said afterwards. "It was quite difficult to catch Philippe Gilbert but I got a huge push from the shouts of the public.
"I attacked in the last kilometre. The moment was probably chosen by chance, it is never possible that you decide to attack exactly here or there. I was helped by the fact that some of the sprinters had already left the race. When I was at the front of the peloton, I looked on the right side and the left side to see if any of the fast men were around. I realised it was a good moment then and I went."
Cancellara finished just ahead of Gilbert and four seconds ahead of Daniel Moreno (Caisse d'Epargne). Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step) had also tried to catch Gilbert and he held on for fourth, finishing just ahead of Markus Zberg (Gerolsteiner) and the rest of the main field. Race leader Roman Kreuziger (Liqugas) placed 26th and thus preserved his overnight 49" lead over Andreas Klöden (Astana), landing his biggest win thus far.
"It seems to me that this victory is the real debut of my pro career," he said. "Nobody, not even me, would have thought that I would win this race. I came here to prepare for the Tour de France. I suffered in the first days due to the rain and the cold, but afterwards I realised that I was in great shape. In fact, maybe my good form came too early.
"In the Tour of Romandie [where he was second – ed.] I was on the wheels of the same people, riders such as Andreas Klöden. I missed the extra bit there, I was not able to pass them. But now here in the Tour de Suisse I succeeded and, especially in yesterday's time trial, I had a super feeling. Today's last stage was also good, ending to be an easy job for me and the team."
The 22 year-old was asked what the success meant to him. "For now, it is too early to say," he mentioned. "It will take a few days to realise what I have achieved in this Tour de Suisse. Until now the biggest win I had was the 2004 junior world title in Verona, but that has now been topped by this victory."
Peculiarly, he said the toughest moment was not the effort he had to make on Saturday's stage. "It was not the time trial, but the start of the Tour de Suisse which was very difficult for me. It was tough with the bad weather.
"I came here aiming to prepare for the Tour de France. Nobody, not even me, believed it was possible for me to win . I realised that my form was very good, though, and so it became clear that I could do something. Now I will take the start of the Tour de France with the goal of learning, and also seeing if I can finish the three weeks."
Kreuziger had been worried that Andreas Klöden would try to take the jersey from him, but the stage was relatively straightforward. Francisco Perez Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Maarten Tjallingii (Silence Lotto), Herve Duclos-Lassalle (Cofidis), Darren Lill (BMC) and Rene Weissinger (Volksbank) got clear and worked well together, but their progress was limited by the main bunch. It looked like a big sprint was on the cards, but both Gilbert and Cancellara were determined that this would not be the case.
The latter's team-mate Bobby Julich was impressed with the manner of the stage victory. "There is not much to do with Fabian when he is motivated," he said, when asked if the team had to do much to set things up for the win. "He took yesterday's time trial easy. With today's sort of finish, everybody is going to be on the limit. Today he was a kilometre and a half or two kilometres faster than everyone else... he went with five or six hundred metres to go and while Gilbert was already away, he caught him in time. He [Cancellara] is just incredible, he is a legend."
His team-mate Stuart O'Grady echoed that sentiment. "It is his home town, if you give that guy a sniff of the victory, he is going to take it. He is an absolute animal."
Both he and Gilbert looked exhausted after the line, Cancellara slumping to the ground. When asked why he did so, he gave an idea of the effort it took to take the victory. "I had lactic acid up to my hair, I had cramps everywhere," he said.
How it unfolded
The race got off to a nervous start, with numerous individual riders and groups trying to get away – all unsuccessfully, on a beautiful warm, sunny day.
At 30 kilometres, a group of five was able to form and establish a lead: Francisco Perez Sanchez (GCE), Maarten Tjallingii (SIL), Herve Duclos-Lassalle (COF), Darren Lill (BMC) and Rene Weissinger (VBG). None of them was a threat to anyone in the top ten, so the peloton was content to let them go, and they quickly built up a lead.
Their lead held at three minutes for a long time, then jumped to four minutes, but that was too much for the peloton, led by Liguigas. They brought it down to two minutes and let it stay there.
There were two intermediate sprints near the end of the stage, and Weissinger made sure to win the first one, thus assuring himself of the overall sprinter's jersey.
With 18 km to go, the lead had shrunk to 56 seconds as they crossed the finish line for the first time and set off on a short lap.
At eight kilometres to go, it was over and the leaders were gobbled up by the peloton. A few riders tried to get away, but the sprinters' teams went after them. But with about 1.5 km to go, Philippe Gilbert of FdJ decided not to wait for the sprinters and took off. Only one rider could follow him, and unfortunately for him, it was Fabian Cancellara. The Swiss rider ruthlessly bore down and with about 150 metres to go, zipped by the Belgian to take his second stage win of the Tour.
The overall win went to Roman Kreuziger, the sprints jersey to Weissinger, the points jeresy to Cancellara, and the Mmouintains jersey to Maxim Iglinsky.
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