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Tour de Suisse 2009: Stage 6

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We will be reporting live on the sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse as of 15:30 CET.

Hello and welcome to the Tour de Suisse!  After the mountains we are now at what is considered the easiest stage in the race, and we may well see another sprint finish in Bad Zurzach.

There's not a lot happening so far today in this stage. The 155 riders took off promptly at 13:38, and they started climbing almost immediately.  There were lots of attempted attacks but no one got away. Everyone stayed together for a long time.

But that was too good to last.  With 50 km under his belt, Reto Hollenstein of Team Vorarlberg-Corratec took off. And did he ever take off!  There are now 116 km to go, and he has a lead of 5:14.

That gives the Swiss rider the "virtual" yellow jersey. He came into the day as 47th, 4:06 down.

Who is Reto Hollenstein, you ask? So do we.   He is a 23-year-old Swiss, who last year rode for the Continental Team Atlas-Romers and turned pro this year with the Austrian Professional Continental Team Vorarlberg-Corratec.

104km remaining from 177km

Interviewed on his team website, Hollenstein said, "In my first year as a pro I want to mainly gather experience and do good work for the team, so that we as a team can bring in good results.  I want to use the chances I get. A start at the Tour de Suisse would be surely be 'the' season highlight for me!"

Looks like he is achieving all of those goals today!  Right now his lead is 8:11.

The first climb of the day was the Hölzlisberg, a category two climb. Unfortunately no one seems to want to tell us who won that climb.

99km remaining from 177km

 Has the peloton started reacting to Hollenstein?  His lead is down, all the way to 7:59.  Ok, he will be away for a while longer.

Meanwhile, he has helped fill the small team's bank account, by winning the 1500 Swiss Francs awarded for the first sprint.

After that climb, there was a very long descent, nearly 75 km.  The peloton arrives at the finish line for the first time at km 121.8, and then heads off for two rounds of a circuit course.  That includes the category three climb Zurziberg, with the last climb coming 27 km before the finish.  That ought to give the sprinters time to get ready for the relatively flat run-in.

It is warm again today, 23-28°, starting out sunny but with increasing clouds and a chance of showers or even thunderstorms late in the afternoon.

As always, a  look at Who's Who.  The overall leader is Tadej Valjavec of AG2R, who is 14 seconds ahead of Oliver Zaugg (Liquigas) and Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank). Defending champion Roman Kreuziger is fourth, at 42 seconds, closely followed by Astana's Andreas Klöden at 45 seconds.

Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre) leads the sprint classfication ahead of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Björn Schröder of Milram.

96km remaining from 177km

 It's lunchtime for all our hungry riders now.  Hollenstein, of course, went through the feed zone 7:31 ago.

 Enrico Gasparotto (Lampre) leads the sprint classfication ahead of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and Björn Schröder of Milram.

 Tony Martin (Columbia) has a good grasp on the mountain ranking, leading with 58 points ahead of Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) and Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank).

Saxo Bank leads in the team ranking, in front of Columbia and Liquigas.

70km remaining from 177km

 The gap is coming down ever so slightly and is now at 7:18.  Some of the riders in the peloton are stopping for a nature break.

 

We are sorry not to present a more exciting stage today, maybe we can make up for it with an exciting sprint finish!

The riders are slowly approaching the circuit course, which they will ride twice.

60km remaining from 177km

Is Hollenstein finally getting tired?  His lead is beginning to go down, slowly but surely.  Now it is at 6:51.

The Zurziberg, which is climbed twice near the end, has a two km ascent with an average gradient of 7%.

We are used to seeing brothers ride together or against each other, but yesterday's stage featured a father-son duel:  Marcello Albasini, DS at Cervelo TestTeam vs. Michael Albasini, rider for Team Columbia-Highroad.  When the son took off and attacked, the dad had to send his riders after him – but without success.

52km remaining from 177km

 Hollenstein heads up the second climb of the day.  The peloton has finally woken up and turned on the speed, bringing the gap down to 4:47.

 The field is stretched out single file now on this pleasant flat section.

 Happy Hour for Cervelo.  They pass bottles around.  It's very important to keep hydrating, especially on a hot sunny day like this.

Is it a problem for the Albasinis, that they are competitors at races?  "No! We each do our  own job," said papa Marcello.

"Not really, because we don't compete directly against each other," said son Michael.  "I sit on the bike and my father rides behind in a car."

 Tony Martin and a Columbia teammate have jumped out of the peloton and the King of the Mountains takes the second place mountain points.  Not many, since it is only category three, but every bit helps.

45km remaining from 177km

 Hollenstein's lead has now dropped to under four minutes.  Won't be long now...

 Filippo Pozzato is looking very natty today with his sleeves pushed all the way up.  Gotta get rid of those ugly tan lines, right?

 The mountain points went to Hollenstein, Martin and Columbia's Maxime Monfort.

 Have several members of the peloton jumped off the road to the neighboring bike path?  Or are those hobby riders decked out in pro kit?

 Columbia, Rabobank and Cervelo are sharing the chase work at the moment.  Let's see, they wouldn't be trying to set things up for Cavendish, Freire and Hushovd, would they?

50km remaining from 177km

 The field is going hrough a lovely wooded section right now.  Hope it is a bit cooler there in the shade.

 

Somehow the lead has crept back up to 4:34.

 Liquigas is the next to belly up to the bar.  A pea-green rider drops back and waves his water bottle as a symbol of what he wants.

The whole peloton looks to be together, by the way.  Well, except for Hollenstein, of course.  The Category Three climb wasn't enough to drop any sprinters.

30km remaining from 177km

Ok, we were having some problems with our source there for a few minutes.  The gap is at 2:15, and Cervelo, Columbia and Rabobank continue to lead the charge.

28km remaining from 177km

And Hollenstein crosses the finish line!  Unfortunately for him, he has to go ride that circuit course one more time, and with a lead of only 2:03.

Now the field approaches the finish line, tearing through the town.

 The gap is at exactly two minutes now.

 A fan gets out on the road and runs alongise Hollenstein.  That young man had better put his shirt back on, otherwise he might have a nasty sunburn!

 Hollenstein hits the top of the climb and takes the points.  We must say that this is one of the mildest climbs we have ever seen.

24km remaining from 177km

 Under a minute now for our Swiss rider who has been away alone for so long.

 Rabobank moves up to take over the lead work from Cervelo.

And that's it:  the young man lets his head hang as he sees the peloton rapidly approaching.

 At the first sprint, just a few minutes ago, the points went to Hollenstein, Cancellara and Gasparotto.

 The mountain points on the last climb went to Hollenstein, Kozontchouk and Cuesta.

 The peloton seems to be toying with Hollenstein, as they stay a few seconds behind him.  He pounds the handlebars in frustration and looks back again.

19km remaining from 177km

 Hollenstein keeps on fighting and still maintains a slight lead.

18km remaining from 177km

And that was it.  His long solo flight is over.

 Now it is up to the sprinters' teams.  Which one will have the best legs today?

 A mechanical for a Euskaltel rider.

 Or is it "an" Euskaltel rider?

 At any rate, it was M. Irizar.

 Cervelo has taken command again, with Rabobank behind them.  And we see some of those yellow Columbia jerseys near the front, too.

 Fränk Schleck of Saxo Bank is working his way up through the team cars.  We don't know why he has dropped so far back.

 The Dutch team Rabobank is controlling things now, they seem to be trading off with Cervelo.

 F.Schleck has now caught the tail end of the peloton again.

10km remaining from 177km

 A Columbia rider pops up at the head of things, and then a Caisse d'Epargne rider does the same.  Cervelo is keeping a close eye on all of them.

8km remaining from 177km

 Columbia is slowing lining up on the left hand side of the field.

 Now Columbia has moved to the front and is really putting on the speed. Martin leads the way, distinct in his pink mountain jersey.

 Milram comes up on the other side, looking to do something for Gerald Ciolek.

 Six Milram riders at the front!

 On the other side Liquigas and Euskaltel set up their own train.

4km remaining from 177km

 One Euskaltel rider at the head of things, who looks around and wonders where his teammates are.

 Even Linus Gerdemann of Milram is taking a turn at the front.

2km remaining from 177km

 A sharp right hand turn for everyone.  They are moving very fast now.

 Cervelo has its train going already.  The other team are still trying to organize.

 Another hard turn coming up, and  HIncapie leads the way.  Hushovd behind him and Cavendish behind him.

 Hincapie drops off, Hushovd give his all and -- of course -- Cavendish slips easily around him and takes the win.

 That's 13 wins this season fro the Manxman, who happily hugs his teammates in thanks.

 Columbia's Bert Grabch tells Swiss tv, "another sprint, another Cavendish win" . Who can beat him these days?

 Looks like Freire was second -- again.  And third goes to Francesco Gavazzi of Lampre.

 That was it, the sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse and our first live report on the "new" website.  Hope you enjoyed it!

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