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Tour de Suisse 2012: Stage 8

Stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse, 148.2 km from Bischofszell to Arosa.

60km remaining from 148km

As we pick up the action with 60 kilometres still to race, an interesting four-man group featuring Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Barracuda), Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) and Remi Cusin (Team Type 1-Sanofi) has 6:10 in hand over the peloton.

The leading quartet slipped away inside the opening 15 kilometres of the stage and steadily chugged away from the peloton thereafter. The maximum extent of their advantage was 7:20 with 75km to race, but RadioShack-Nissan and Rabobank have begun to chip away at that lead on the long preamble to the summit finish at Arosa.

The final hors categorie haul to the finish is preceded by the second category climb of Castiel. Yellow jersey Rui Costa (Movistar) has a 50-second overall lead coming in to this final pair of mountain stages, but he will need to be vigilant in the finale this afternoon.

The overall situation in the wake of Fredrik Kessiakoff's surprise time trial victory yesterday is as follows:

1 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 26:10:55
2 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:00:50
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:55
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:04
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan
6 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:01:12
7 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma - QuickStep 0:01:15
8 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha Team 0:01:17
9 Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Sky Procycling 0:01:22
10 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:27

40km remaining from 148km

Costa enjoyed a decent outing in the time trial yesterday - he entered the stage with a slender 8-second lead over Frank Schleck and came away with a rather healthier 50-second advantage over Roman Kreuziger.

Puncture for Rui Costa and the Portuguese rider is taking his time to replace his front wheel. The pace is still relatively sedate in the peloton, however.

36km remaining from 148km

Costa is weaving between the cars and safely making his way back on to the rear of the peloton, which is now 5:30 behind our four leaders.

With Robert Gesink just 55 seconds off the overall lead, it's no surprise to see his Rabobank squad setting the tempo on the front of the peloton. Matti Breschel is currently stringing things out on the front.

This time last year, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) came agonisingly close to overall victory, but he's some way off the pace this time around. 27th overall at almost 3 minutes, Cunego drops back to the team car to gather bidons for his teammates.

Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan) is also contributing richly to the pace-setting at the head of the peloton in the service of his teammate Frank Schleck.

32km remaining from 148km

None of the leading quartet are a threat in the general classification, with Michael Albasini the best-placed, almost 10 minutes down on Costa.

Indeed, as the road begins to kick up towards Castiel, Albasini and Velits have forced their way clear of Dekker and Cusin.

29km remaining from 148km

The gap to the peloton had fallen to 5 minutes, and Albasini was in no mood to hang around. The local rider forced the pace and Velits was the only man able to follow. 7.6km of climbing separate the pair from the summit of the second category climb.

There's been a discernible injection in pace in the main peloton as the climbing begins in earnest. It's been a slow-burning stage to date but things may yet catch fire ahead of the final climb.

Up front, it's now Velits who is setting the pace under clear, blue skies and the leading duo had settled into a brisk tempo on the climb.

Meanwhile, the Rabobank pace-setting is seeing riders shelled off the back of the peloton as the gradient begins to bite.

Marzio Bruseghin (Movistar) now takes over at the front in support of Rui Costa's yellow jersey. The veteran Italian is looking to make the pace a little more even.

King of the mountains Vladimir Isaichev (Katusha) is among the riders suffering at the back. The yellow jersey group is being thinned out considerably. Around 40 riders remain in contact.

27km remaining from 148km

Velits and Albasini continue to plough their lonesome furrow up ahead, but the acceleration in the peloton has seen their gap fall to a shade over 4 minutes.

Laurens Ten Dam sets the pace for Rabobank ahead of Robert Gesink. Levi Leipheimer, Nicholas Roche and Roman Kreuziger are also up towards the front of the yellow jersey group, which is continuing to decrease in number.

24km remaining from 148km

Rui Costa is dangling off the back of the yellow jersey group, which is now down to just 15 riders. His teammate Alejandro Valverde is still in the group, four or five positions ahead of him.

French talent Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) is also still a part of this increasingly elite group, which is now just 2:25 behind the two leaders.

Rui Costa is continuing to hang on in penultimate position in the yellow jersey group as the gradient levels out slightly. The Portuguese rider should stay in touch over the top of this climb but it's a worrying sign ahead of the tough haul to the finish that follows.

Velits and Albasini tap out their rhythm out in front. Albasini has particular motivation this afternoon - with no stage wins for the home nation to date, the Swiss are in danger of drawing a blank in their home tour for the first time since 1999.

22km remaining from 148km

Albasini leads Velits over the top of the day's penultimate climb. There isn't much of a descent before the road kicks up again towards the finish.

Ten Dam leads the 20-strong yellow jersey group over the top of the Castiel 2:52 down on the leading pair. Their advantage drifted back out again slightly over the final section of the climb.

18km remaining from 148km

As the road begins to climb once again, Albasini kicks again and opens a gap over Peter Velits.

15km remaining from 148km

Albasini continues alone and has a gap of almost three minutes over the yellow jersey group, which has swelled slightly since the climb of Castiel.

Rui Costa is a little better placed as the road climbs once again, but the gradient really kicks up in the final 8 kilometres.

Gesink jumps away from the rest of the intermediate sprint at Peist to hoover up the remaining one-second time bonus.

Steven Kruijswijk is also up here in the yellow jersey group in support of Robert Gesink. Rabobank are looking to make a strong statement and make some material gains for Gesink this afternoon.

9km remaining from 148km

Albasini is on the false flat before the final climb begins in earnest. He has stretched his lead out to 3:15 over the Rabobank-led chasers, while Velits is caught in the no man's land in between.

Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) takes a turn on the front of the yellow jersey group for Frank Schleck.

8km remaining from 148km

Thibaut Pinot sits at the back of the yellow jersey group and stretches his back ahead of the final haul to the line.

7km remaining from 148km

Albasini has managed his strength well. He begins the toughest section of the climb with 3:25 in hand and that could well prove enough to hold out for the win, although much will depend on when the blue touchpaper is lit in the yellow jersey group behind.

5km remaining from 148km

Ten Dam taps out a steady tempo in the yellow jersey group, but Albasini's lead has stretched out to 3:30 on the climb to Arosa.

Gerdemann leads the chasers down a short descent ahead of the climb to Arosa's stiffest section, which kicks up to 15%.

As the gradient ratchets upwards, Jakob Fuglsang takes over the reins in a bid to thin out the yellow jersey group and set up Frank Schleck.

Frank Schleck sits in third place in the group as it passes under the 5km to go banner. For now, Rui Costa is managing to hold on.

Peter Velits is swallowed up by the chase group. Up ahead, Albasini has three minutes in hand on the steepest section of the climb.

4km remaining from 148km

Rui Costa is dropped by the group of chasers and he's battling to keep them in sight as the road moves inexorably upwards.

Sensing the moment, Frank Schleck attacks hard from the front of the group of chasers. The reaction comes from Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Levi Leipheimer, and the trio have a handful of seconds on the Rabobank-led group.

Further back the road, Valverde sits up and waits for Rui Costa and tries to carry him back up to Schleck and company.

3km remaining from 148km

Schleck kicks again and Nieve and Leipheimer are again present and correct. Gesink and Kruijswijk, meanwhile, are at the head of a group that is now around 15 seconds back on the Luxembourger and losing ground gradually.

Albasini looks to have done enough to win the stage as he comes through the steepest section of the climb with a healthy part of his lead still intact. The question now is whether Rui Costa can hold his overall lead.

2km remaining from 148km

Albasini reaches the summit and now just has the false flat to the finish to come. He can sense the victory. Behind, Schleck leads Nieve and Leipheimer as they pull away from Rui Costa and Gesink.

Into the final kilometre for Albasini, who will take stage victory at Arosa.

1km remaining from 148km

Schleck pushes on the pace again in the chase group, he needs every second he can get on Rui Costa, Gesink et al.

Michael Albasini wins the stage at Arosa, to the delight of the home fans.

Schleck leads the trio into the finishing straight 1:16 down on Albasini, but to his chagrin, Leipheimer and Nieve come around him for the time bonuses.

20 seconds later Gesink and Kruijswijk come across the line with Thibaut Pinot in tow.

Roman Kreuziger rolls in 1:57 down on Albasini, losing almost 40 seconds to Schleck.

Rui Costa comes in a little over two minutes down, led by Alejandro Valverde, which will just keep him in the yellow jersey.

Overall, Costa now leads by just 14 seconds from Frank Schleck.

 

1 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 3:45:39
2 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:15
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma - QuickStep 0:01:15
4 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:15
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:36
6 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:01:36
7 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:01:36
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:39
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:01:57
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:57

Stage result:

1 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team 3:45:39
2 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:15
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma - QuickStep 0:01:15
4 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:15
5 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:36
6 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:01:36
7 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:01:36
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:39
9 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:01:57
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:57

General classification after stage 8:
1 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 29:58:39
2 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:14
3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Omega Pharma - QuickStep 0:00:21
4 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:25
5 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00:40
6 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana 0:00:42
7 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:00:43
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:01
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:04
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:01:13

Thanks for joining us for today's live coverage of the Tour de Suisse. We'll be back for tomorrow's final stage but in the meantime, stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full results, report, news and pictures from Switzerland.

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