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Tour de Suisse 2012: Stage 9

The final stage of the Tour de Suisse, 215.8km from Näfels-Lintharena to Sörenberg.

85km remaining from 215km

A frenetic opening to proceedings saw the front end of the peloton fragment and reform repeatedly as breaks attempted to get away, but it took quite some time for the bunch to be satisfied with the composition of any groups that went clear. Things eventually settled down 40km in, when a move featuring Jeremy Roy (FDJ-BigMat), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM), Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) went up the road, rubber-stamped by race leader Rui Costa's Movistar team.

Kangert (30th at 11:03) and Roy (32nd at 11:51) were the best placed of the quintet overnight, so Movistar had no qualms about allowing them up the road, even if the pair have - temporarily - moved into the top two placings on the overall standings.

As the day progresses, the yellow jersey group will start to make inroads into the break's lead, as they tackle the two hors categorie climbs that precede the second category haul towards the finish at Sörenberg. More immediate threats to Rui Costa's slender overall lead will come from Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi).

 

This was the GC picture before the start of today's stage. With 7 riders within a minute of Rui Costa's lead, with three big climbs on the agenda and with over 200 kilometres to race, this classification could well be turned upside down by the time we get to the finish later this afternoon.

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

79km remaining from 215km

The escapees have come through the finish line at Sörenberg for the first time and are grinding their way up the hors categorie Glaubenbielen. The pace is proving too much for Kris Boeckmans, and he has been distanced by Roy et al.

As the peloton begins the climb, there is a sense that the lengthy preamble is over and the serious business is about to commence. Accordingly, the last time check shows that the bunch has shaved a minute off its deficit to the four leaders. The gap is now 11:35.

Matteo Montaguti was the man doing the bulk of the pace-setting at the front of the break and he has led Roy, Kangert and Bookwalter over the summit with 11:25 in hand on the yellow jersey group.

Jeremy Roy takes over on the spectacular descent down the other side of the mountain. After the inclement weather of last weekend, the conditions are ideal for this final stage of the Tour de Suisse - clear blue skies and pristine tarmac on the descent for good measure.

Back in the main peloton, RadioShack-Nissan are setting the tempo, and a number of riders - including their own Fabian Cancellara - have been dumped out the back. Frank Schleck has a golden opportunity to take a very big win today - Rui Costa appeared to be on the ropes at times yesterday, and it seems as though they're looking to hit the Portuguese rider early and often today.

A split in the leading group on this long, sweeping descent, as Montaguti and Kangert have moved slightly clear of Roy and Bookwalter.

A split in the leading group on this long, sweeping descent, as Roy and Bookwalter have moved slightly clear of Montaguti and Kangert, but they should come back together in the valley.

69km remaining from 215km

Rui Costa is safely ensconced in the middle of the RadioShack-led peloton. He doesn't seem to be in any undue distress right now, but this pace could begin to take its toll later in the day.

Approaching the summit of the climb, there are also a few Rabobank jerseys visible near the front of the bunch. The Dutch squad put in a lot of work on the front yesterday, with Laurens Ten Dam and Steven Kruijswijk especially active, but Robert Gesink wasn't able to finish things off and couldn't follow Frank Schleck's attack in the finale. Nonetheless, Gesink is just 25 seconds off Costa's overall lead and will surely try something this afternoon.

The bunch comes over the top of the Glaubenbielen 10:40 down on the leaders.

65km remaining from 215km

As expected, our four leaders have regrouped in the valley. The quartet will work together on the approach to the next climb, the HC ascent of Glaubenberg, but it would be a surprise if they are all still together by the time they reach the summit.

Levi Leipheimer was distanced briefly on the descent, but he is being shepherded back on to the rear of the peloton by three of his Omega Pharma-QuickStep teammates.

Incidentally, Leipheimer was one of four former US Postal riders

58km remaining from 215km

Gregory Rast leads the main peloton, with Marzio Bruseghin keeping an eye on affairs for his Movistar teammate Rui Costa. The pace has dropped slightly again and the gap to the four leaders has stretched out once more to 11:30.

Leipheimer has only just made his way back on to the rear of the peloton, thanks to the help of Matteo Trentin and Peter Velits.

55km remaining from 215km

The four leaders have begun the long climb up the Glaubenberg. Jeremy Roy sets a sensible tempo on the front.

Leipheimer is back at his team car getting some adjustments to his saddle on the fly. He rides off, but immediately decides that he's still not satisfied, so he drops back once again.

Frank Schleck, meanwhile, is looking very comfortable in the main peloton, sitting around seven places off the front.

53km remaining from 215km

Marzio Bruseghin hits the front on the approach to the Glaubenberg. Given the Kangert's virtual overall lead, the onus was on Movistar to make some kind of contribution to the pursuit behind. The gap is now down to 10:20.

A crash for Laurent Didier (RadioShack-Nissan) on the final left-hand bend before the Glaubenberg. The Luxembourger is quickly back on a replacement bike, but he'll be hard-pressed to get back on to help Schleck further up the climb.

Linus Gerdemann sets the tempo at the head of the peloton. His efforts are chipping away at the lead of the four leaders, but as yet he has done little damage to the large yellow jersey group.

As the climb starts to bite, the field begins to thin out. Andreas Kloden, Peter Sagan and Damiano Cunego are among the riders losing contact.

The selection is coming from the rear of the peloton on the Glaubenberg. Riders are been jettisoned out the back in twos and threes, as RadioShack and Rabobank take command of affairs. Gerdemann continues to do the bulk of the pace-setting.

Rui Costa is still in the RadioShack-led group, but he is slipping further back along the line. The Portuguese is currently behind Roman Kreuziger, and neither man seems especially comfortable.

Bauke Mollema, Laurens Ten Dam and Steven Kruijswijk are all in this group along with their leader Robert Gesink. Rabobank have an embarrassment of young talent in the thier team, it will be interesting to see how they perform together at the Tour de France next month.

47km remaining from 215km

Andreas Kloden had appeared to be dangling off the back of the yellow jersey group at the foot of the climb, but the German has not only recovered, he is now putting in a long turn on the front. The yellow jersey group is down to around 30 riders at this point, 7:45 down on our four leaders.

Rui Costa, meanwhile, has moved a little closer to the front of the group. He's hanging tough with this pace, but yesterday he was very vulnerable when the rhythm stopped and started on the final climb. That said, he limited losses to hold on to yellow, and he's looking to repeat the trick this afternoon.

Brent Bookwalter begins to lose contact with the rest of the break on the approach to the summit of the climb, as Matteo Montaguti dictates the tempo. Roy digs in to hold his wheel.

More riders are beginning to struggle to cope with the speed in the yellow jersey group on the climb. Jakob Fuglsang, Laurens Ten Dam and Chris Anker Sorensen are among those to be left behind.

45km remaining from 215km

Mikel Nieve puts in the first serious attack among the overall contenders. Tom Danielson is the first to follow, then come Schleck, Valverde and Costa, before the rest of the group joins them.

Frank Schleck launches a smart counter-attack, and he is beginning to inch away in the company of Nieve on the Glaubenberg.

Danielson chases alone, while a small group including Costa, Gesink, Valverde and Leipheimer sits a little further back. Roman Kreuziger, Nicolas Roche and Kruijswijk have been dropped.

Schleck is alone in front, but just behind him are Danielson and Nieve. A little further back is the group made up of Costa, Valverde and Leipheimer. These are the men who will decide the outcome of the Tour de Suisse.

Fine riding from Tom Danielson - the American has left Nieve behind and almost bridged across alone to Schleck. They have about 10 seconds in hand on the yellow jersey group.

Just as Danielson was within touching distance of Schleck's coattails, the Luxembourger hasitly gathers himself and kicks clear once again, opening out the gap as he does so.

Behind, Gesink leads the yellow jersey group, ahead of Costa, Nieve, Leipheimer and a struggling Valverde. Schleck has found his rhythm, however, and his gap is opening steadily. He has 20 seconds in hand on Costa, and is now the yellow jersey on the road.

42km remaining from 215km

Frank Schleck climbs seated and with every pedal stroke he moves closer to a second overall victory at the Tour de Suisse in three years.

Robert Gesink is doing all of the work in the yellow jersey group, but the last time check we have suggests that Schleck's gap is approaching 30 seconds.

Nicolas Roche has recovered well on the climb and latched on to the back of the yellow jersey group.

41km remaining from 215km

Matteo Montaguti leads Tanel Kangert and Jeremy Roy over the summit of the Glaubenberg, and the trio have a lead of 4:45 over the yellow jersey group.

Tom Danielson continues to ride alone between Schleck and the Costa group.

Schleck's face betrays grim determination but few visible signs of suffering as he continues on his way towards the summit of the climb.

Schleck reaches the summit 3:30 down on the leaders, but more importantly, he has almost a minute in hand on the yellow jersey group.

At the top of the Glaubenberg, Schleck was 26 seconds ahead of Danielson and 52 clear of the Costa group. If he can maintain those margins on the descent, he is within touching distance of overall victory.

The early part of the descent is made up of long straight roads which should - in theory - benefit a group chase rather than a lone attacker, but for now, Schleck is holding on to his 50-second lead on the Costa-Gesink-Leipheimer group.

Next up for Schleck are a series of hairpin bends. Never the most daring of descenders, the Luxembourger is through the first pair without any problems.

Interesting to see an a rather upright Schleck gripping his bar by the hoods on the straights, while his pursuers have their backs flat and their hands buried deep into their drops.

30km remaining from 215km

Steven Kruijswijk latches on to the yellow jersey group on the descent, and he could prove very useful for Gesink over the final 30 kilometres.

An unconfirmed time check tells us that Schleck is 3:15 down on the three leaders, which means he has increased his lead on the yellow jersey group on this descent. It seems as though Schleck is currently 55 seconds ahead of the Costa group.

There are two Movistar riders and two Rabobank riders in the yellow jersey group. It is essential that they work together as a unit if they are to bring back Schleck.

27km remaining from 215km

The Costa group, led by Valverde, is on the point of swallowing up Danielson.

As the road kicks upwards briefly Steven Kruijswijk hits the front of the chasing group.

Schleck has 41 seconds in hand on the Costa group. That still makes Schleck the yellow jersey on the road, but it seems as if he is slowly being pegged back.

Schleck seems to have sat up on this descent. His gap has come down to 22 seconds, and the Luxembourger is repeatedly scanning over his shoulder for a glimpse of the yellow jersey group.

The yellow jersey group has swollen considerably near the base of the descent, something which must have prompted Schleck's calculation to sit up. A large group containing Roman Kreuziger got back on to the Costa group and the pace has increased accordingly.

20km remaining from 215km

A shrug of the shoulders from Frank Schleck as he is caught by the Rui Costa group. The second category climb to the finish will decide the Tour de Suisse.

Gesink now has Kruijswijk and Bauke Mollema with him in this expanded yellow jersey group.

Frank Schleck and Rui Costa are locked in animated conversation in the group of favourites, and shortly afterwards, both men begin to speak into their radios.

15km remaining from 215km

Those negotiations have seen a sharp drop in pace in the yellow jersey group. The break's lead is back out to four minutes, while Chris Anker Sorensen takes advantage of the lull in proceedings to launch a clever attack.

Steven Kruijswijk (8th overall at 1:01) steals off the front of the yellow jersey group with Mathias Frank (BMC) and Robert Kiserlovski (Astana). So far, there has been no reaction from behind...

12km remaining from 215km

The Kruijswijk group catches and passes Brent Bookwalter as the final climb to the finish at Sörenberg begins.

 

Alejandro Valverde is doing all the work at the front of the yellow jersey group now. Movistar need to close down the dangerous Kruijswijk, and then Rui Costa will be left to his own devices in the finale.

10km remaining from 215km

With 10km to go, the Kruijswijk group has 35 seconds in hand over Rui Costa et al.

The Kruijswijk group catches Sorensen on the final climb to the line. They are 3:40 behind our trio of leaders and 30 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group.

8km remaining from 215km

Kruijswijk is now within 20 seconds of the yellow jersey on the road. Valverde is doing all the work in the group of favourites, ahead of Gesink and Mollema. Rui Costa sits in 4th place.

Schleck and Gesink will surely try to rid themselves of Rui Costa closer to the summit of this climb. The Tour de Suisse is beautifully poised in its final kilometres.

Kruijswijk retains his 35 second lead over the yellow jersey group. That kind of advantage would move him into the top 5 but no further.

6km remaining from 215km

Meanwhile, in the other race within a race, Montaguti, Roy and Kangert are still out in front,and the stage winner will come from this troika of riders.

Alejandro Valverde has done all the work on the front of the yellow jersey group on this climb. Once the attacking starts, the Spaniard will surely be left behind and Rui Costa knows that he will have to respond to such accelerations by himself as we get closer to the summit.

Montaguti and Kangert climb seated, while Roy is constantly in and out of the saddle.

5km remaining from 215km

Roy attacks and instantly opens a decent gap. Kangert is smartly across but Montaguti is unable to follow.

Valverde's pace-setting has succeeded in discouraging attacks for now, and Costa retains his grip on the yellow jersey.

4km remaining from 215km

Rui Costa comes to the front himself after Valverde swings off. This is a show of defiance from the Portuguese rider, who wants to draw the sting out of the legs of the legs of Schleck and Gesink.

3km remaining from 215km

Leipheimer hits the front of the yellow jersey group, and his pace-setting has pegged Kruijswijk's gap back to just 15 seconds.

Meanwhile, Tangert leads Roy over the official summit of the climb and the pair negotiate the final drag to the finish.

1km remaining from 215km

Final kilometre for Roy and Kangert.

Back in the yellow jersey group, Schleck et al need to attack now if they are to deny Rui Costa.

Kangert attacks inside the final kilometre but Roy follows and then leads out the sprint...

...but Kangert comes around him to take the win for Astana.

Montaguti comes home in third place, but all eyes are on the yellow jersey group.

Nieve goes on the attack, but he does little other than almost bring the Costa group back up to Kruijswijk.

In spite of Nieve's best efforts, the yellow jersey group fails to fragment. The contenders all sweep across the line together and Rui Costa is confirmed as the winner of the 2012 Tour de Suisse.

Costa waits for Valverde to cross the line and he greets his controversial teammate with a heartfelt hug. A mainstay at the Dauphine in the days before his suspension for his part in Operacion Puerto, Valverde played a huge supporting role for Rui Costa on the final climb today.

Costa was careful to mark Frank Schleck on the final kick to the line, as he ensured that the Luxembourger didn't snatch so much as a metre from him.

Incidentally, today's win is the biggest of the Estonian Tanel Kangert's career and it comes on the back of a solid display at the Giro d'Italia last month.

Stage result:

1 Tanel Kangert (Est) Pro Team Astana 5:54:22
2 Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:00:02
3 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:31
4 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Pro Team Astana 0:01:46
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:46
6 Mathias Frank (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:01:46
7 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank 0:01:46
8 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:01:48
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:48
10 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 0:01:48

Final overall standings:

1 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team 35:54:49
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 0:00:47
7 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda 0:00:48
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:59
9 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:42
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:52

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of the Tour de Suisse. Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for a full report, results, pictures and news from a dramatic day of racing in Switzerland.

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