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Tour de Suisse 2011: Stage 9

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Welcome to Cyclingnews’ live coverage of the final stage of the Tour de Suisse, a 32.1km time trial around Schaffhausen.

Before we get up to date with what’s been happening out on the road this morning, let’s remind ourselves of the overall situation.

1 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 31:01:49
2 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:36
3 Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:01:41
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack 0:01:59
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:11
 

In theory, Cunego should have enough in hand to hold on to the yellow jersey, but the Italian has never been particularly comfortable against the watch, even back in the halcyon days of 2004.

Of the men directly behind him, Levi Leipheimer is the man with the best time trialling pedigree, but with a deficit of almost two minutes, has he left himself with too much to do? He needs to gain 3.7 seconds per kilometre, which is a very tall order.

As we pick up the action, it's no surprise to learn that Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) has the quickest time at the finish.

Cancellara powered to the finish in a time of 41:01, catching Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo) for all of three minutes. He also reeled in Marcus Burghardt (BMC) as he smashed around the course.

Impressive as Cancellara was, the time gaps haven't been monstrous. He was just 25 seconds quicker than Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack) and 1:27 faster than Jack Bobridge (Garmin-Cervelo). There are a couple of other riders out there on the course who will now fancy their chances of coming close to Cancellara's mark.

Chief among them is Andreas Kloden (RadioShack), who has gone through the first time check 5 seconds quicker than Cancellara. The German tapped a rich vein of form for much of the spring, but has been very much under the radar thus far at the Tour de Suisse.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) is out the course now and trying to settle into a decent rhythm.

Kloden is currently on a long uphill drag, but is seated and stylish in the small ring. It will be fascinating to see his time at the second check.

Kloden is maintaining his aero position with only the slightest sway of the shoulders as he deals with the shallow gradient.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Cervelo) is looking very smooth out on the course as he heads towards the first check.

Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) has been one of the revelations of the season and he confirms his progress with a fine display against the clock here. He comes home just 48 seconds down on Cancellara for the 3rd best time at the finish so far.

At the second time check after 22km, Andreas Kloden has extended his advantage over Cancellara to seven seconds.

Klöden is having no trouble in turning that big gear. He's lighting it up on a slight descent, but there's a stiff little climb to come after 28km.

Chris Froome (Sky) crosses the line in 4th place 1:02. Just before him, Artem Ovechkin (Katusha) came home 1:24 behind.

Kloden has ripped past his minute man Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) and is showing no signs of letting up.

The green jersey of Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) is out on the course. He'll surely be looking to test himself against the watch today, but he was well down at the first time check.

Kloden has safely negotiated the toughest section of the course, and now zips under the red kite.

Kloden's shoulders are bobbing ever so slightly as he heads towards the line. It's going to be tight.

He's not going to do it...

Kloden coughed up a lot of time over the final 10km, and he comes in 9 seconds down on Cancellara.

Kloden was looking very strong over the first half of the course, but he clearly didn't dose his effort quite as well as Cancellara.

We're waiting for a time from the second check for Andy Schleck, but he has certainly improved his time trial position since his early days as a pro, or at least he is not rocking his shoulders with quite the same abandon as before. Whether that translates into improved times remains to be seen.

The top ten have begun to set off from the start house at two-minute intervals. Tejay Van Garderen and Mathias Frank are already out on the ramp and Giampaolo Caruso is waiting for the off.

Klöden is having no trouble in turning that big gear. He's lighting it up on a slight descent.

Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek) readies himself in the start house and rolls down the ramp. His teammate Frank Schleck will be the next man to start.

Tom Danielson comes through the first time check 11 seconds down on Kloden's mark.

Gustav Larsson (Saxo Bank-SunGard) comes across the line in 4th place, 41 seconds down on Cancellara.

At the first time check, Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) is third, 8 seconds down on Kloden.

Jakob Fuglsang, Bauke Mollema and now Levi Leipheimer are out on the road.

Leipheimer was looking very determined on the start ramp. He knows he needs to put 3.7 seconds per kilometre into Cunego.

Christian Vande Velde put in a solid if unspectacular ride, 1:03 down for provisional 7th place.

Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) rolls down the start ramp. No sign of a frontal Camelbak....

Andy Schleck is not having a good afternoon on his time trial bike. He hits the second check 1:45 down on Kloden. Not encouraging ahead of the Tour de France, but luckily for him he has one of the strongest outfits for the team time trial in Leopard Trek.

Speaking of which, the consistent Linus Gerdemann cross the line for provisional 8th place, 1:24 down on his teammate Cancellara.

Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) is negotiating the opening kilometres, while a pensive Damiano Cunego waits for the countdown.

Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) rolls down the start ramp.

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) has the 3rd best time at the first check, 12 seconds behind his teammate Andreas Kloden.

Damiano Cunego isn't looking particularly comfortable as he tries to keep his big gear turning over on a long uphill drag, but we'll get a better idea at the first time check.

Not a good day for Andy Schleck, he loses over 2:30 to his teammate Cancellara at the finish.

Not a good day for Frank Schleck either, it seems. He's 38 seconds down at the first check, and in real danger of slipping off the podium.

Kruijswijk is 30 seconds down on Kloden at the first time check.

Leipheimer is riding very smoothly, while Cunego is grappling with his machine on the approach the first time check 9km into the stage.

Damiano Cunego comes through the first checkpoint 40 seconds down. He's holding his own with Schleck, Kruijswijk and Mollema, and at this rate he should - just - hold off Levi Leipheimer.

If the race were to finish now, Cunego would win ahead of Kruijswijk, while Leipheimer would be 3rd, 1:31 down. Schleck is looking set to drop to 4th, while Mollema is holding on to provisional 5th from Fuglsang.

Van Garderen has lost 2 minutes at the second time check, but he's now riding his normal road bike. Clearly he suffered some mechanical problems out on the course. A shame for the young American, as he had started very well.

Cunego is looking more comfortable on the lengthy downhill section, but Leipheimer is really motoring.

Steven Kruijswijk doesn't look especially comfortable on his time trial bike, but so far he's holding his own with Schleck et al. Although he'll be hard-pressed to stave off Leipheimer over the 32.1km...

Tom Danielson has put in a solid afternoon's work. 4th place for him at the finish, 37 seconds behind Cancellara.

Cunego is on a lengthy exposed section and is rocking his shoulders and pedalling at a low cadence.

Jakob Fuglsang is putting in a decent ride. The Dane is only 29 seconds behind Kloden at the 22km mark.

Mollema is really struggling now and is set to lose 5th place to Fuglsang. He's 1:40 down at the 22km point.

Leipheimer is breathing down Mollema's neck. The American has the second best time at the 22km mark, 5 seconds behind Kloden and 2 ahead of Cancellara.

Kloden couldn't match Cancellara's power on the shallow descent that follows this point, however, so it will be fascinating to see how Leipheimer fares.

Cunego presses onwards up a small incline, responding to the shouts of the local fans. His 22km time check is going to be crucial.

Leipheimer is scarcely betraying any signs of effort as he zips though the final 10km of the stage.

Cunego is battling a little more his bike...

Frank Schleck's disappointing day continues, as he coughs up 2:11 at the second time check.

Leipheimer is thundering down the descent where Cancellara made the difference against Kloden.

Kruisjwijk hits the second time check 1:20 behind Kloden. He may lose 2nd place to Leipheimer, but he should hold on to a podium spot.

That's a fine ride from Jakob Fuglsang. He comes home in provisional 6th, 44 seconds down and is set to leapfrog both Mollema and Frank Schleck to move into 4th overall.

It's going to be a nervous finale for Cunego. He is 1:30 down on Kloden at the second time check, which means that he has just 33 seconds to play with over the final 10km.

It will all come down to who measured his effort best to date. Kloden dropped 17 seconds on the final 10km, and Cunego will hoping the same thing happens to Leipheimer.

Leipheimer comes close to catching Mollema in the final kilometre...

Leipheimer crosses the finish line in 3rd place, 13 seconds down on Cancellara. He lost a little time over the final 10km, so it's up to Cunego to hold his pace in the finale.

Mollema crossed the line 2:06 down, and will lose his 5th place to the flying Fuglsang.

Leipheimer is waiting nervously at the finish line, waiting for Cunego's arrival. The Italian must finish with a time of 43:12 or better to beat Leipheimer.

Cunego hasn't looked comfortable all afternoon, but he is keeping the pace high on this run-in. He's just a few minutes of suffering from his goal, but it could be very, very close.

A disastrous outing for Frank Schleck against the watch. He's going to finish outside the top 50 today, 3:06 down on Cancellara. He was almost caught by Kruijswijk in the final kilometre.

Kruijswijk comes home 1:38 down and has just done enough to hold off Fuglsang and claim the final spot on the podium. Fine performance from both of those riders today.

Cunego is swaying his shoulders with Fernando Escartin-like intensity as he comes under the red kite. This is going to be tight...

Leipheimer watches the big screen.

Cunego isn't going to make it.

Agony for Cunego. He crosses the line 2:16 down on Cancellara. The Italian has lost out by just 4 seconds.

That will be a crushing blow to Cunego's morale. He rode his heart out during the week, but graciously he congratulates Leipheimer before pushing away a TV camera. Understandable really.

"I'm sorry man," says Leipheimer as he shakes Cunego's hand. I'm sure he's not really.

Cunego said before Friday's stage that he needed to put more time into Leipheimer, and he will be ruing  his failure to have done so.

Stage result:

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Leopard Trek 0:41:01
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:00:09
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack 0:00:13
4 Nelson Oliveira (Por) Team RadioShack 0:00:25
5 Tom Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:38
6 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:00:41
7 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:44
8 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:00:48
9 Chris Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:02
10 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:04

Final overall standings

1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team RadioShack 31:45:02
2 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre - ISD 0:00:04
3 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:02
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:01:10
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:05
6 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:02:24
7 Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:02:35
8 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:03:11
9 Tom Danielson (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:03:17
10 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:04:12

Thanks for joining us for this thrilling finish to the Tour de Suisse. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full report, pictures, results and news from Switzerland, as we begin to cast an eye towards July.

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