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Tour de Suisse 2015: Stage 7


Live coverage of stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse, 164.6 kilometres from Biel/Bienne to Düdingen.

129km remaining from 152km

As we pick up the action after an hour of racing, a four-man break featuring world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Silvan Dillier (BMC), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) and Axel Domont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has a lead of 3:15 over the peloton.

The quartet escaped after 20 kilometres, seemingly dragged clear by Kwiatkowski's force of will. The weltmeister, as they herald him in these parts, made three attempts to break clear before the peloton finally relented. Today's stage has a smattering of short climbs sufficient for a break of strongmen to go the distance and hold off the sprinters, though much will depend on how keen Peter Sagan's Tinkoff-Saxo squad will be to pull this move back.

The best-placed rider on GC in this quartet is Daryl Impey, who began the day some 29:18 off the yellow jersey of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). The situation at the head of the overall standings was as follows as the stage began:

1 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) 22:16:51
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:42
3 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:00:50
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:55
5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:01:07
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:22
7 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:32
8 Steve Morabito (Swi) 0:02:29
9 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:02:43
10 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:02:46


Pinot thought he had the hard part behind him yesterday when he reached the 3km to go banner safely ensconced at the front end of the peloton, only to be undone by a finale seemingly lifted from a bunch sprint at the 1997 Giro d'Italia. Two 90-degree turns in the final kilometre opened gaps in the peloton and saw Pinot concede 7 seconds to stage winner Peter Sagan - and, more importantly, lose 5 seconds to GC rivals Geraint Thomas and Jakob Fuglsang. "It was nervous," Pinot said afterwards.

118km remaining from 152km

Pinot was hoping for a rather quieter time of it this afternoon, and so far he has his wish. After a fast start, the peloton is happy to chug along some four minutes down on the Kwiatkowski-led break.

This period of relative détente in the peloton is all the more understandable, of course, when one considers that the average speed for the first hour of racing was a leg-stinging 47.7kph.


110km remaining from 152km

Yet there is already an infusion of urgency in the main peloton, as Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Alpecin up the pace and slice 30 seconds or so off the break's advantage in a matter of kilometres. Sagan and John Degenkolb will both be very confident of surviving the climbs of the Freiburgstrasse and Hauptstrasse in the finale and contesting the sprint.

Indeed, the relatively benign route of this year's Tour de Suisse - the likes of which has not been seen, perhaps, since Fabian Cancellara was presented with a rare chance to win overall honours in 2009 - has encouraged a number of sprinters to fine-tune their Tour de France preparation in Switzerland this year. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) went home after landing his win on stage 4, but Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) are all on hand this afternoon.

Etixx-QuickStep did much of the heavy lifting in setting up the bunch sprint yesterday but those two sharp bends in the finale unravelled Cavendish's chances and the honours fell to Sagan instead, thanks in no small part to the adroit piloting of Daniele Bennati on rain-soaked roads. By sending Kwiatkowski up the road early today, however, Etixx-QuickStep have passed the burden of controlling the race onto the shoulders of Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Alpecin.

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Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Alpecin's combined pace-setting, incidentally, has pared the Kwiatkowski group's lead back to 2:51 with 100 kilometres to race.

Sagan's stage win yesterday was his second on this Tour de Suisse and his 11th in total at the race, which equalled the longstanding record held jointly by the two giants of Swiss cycling, Ferdi Kübler and Hugo Koblet. As Sagan waited to mount the podium, a Swiss television reporter hopefully asked if the names Kübler and Koblet meant anything to him. "No," Sagan shrugged... This morning's L’Équipe recounted the scene, with a footnote listing their achievments playfully addressed to "all the Sagans who might be reading us."

So different in style, Koblet and Kübler's stories seem inextricably linked. Indeed, when Koblet became the first foreigner to win the Giro d'Italia in 1950, Kübler responded by becoming the first Swiss Tour de France winner two months later. Koblet duly followed him on the Tour's roll of honour the folowing year, thanks largely to a daring solo raid on the road from Brive to Agen that Vélo Magazine would later deem the most beautiful stage in the history of the Tour. Not to be outdone, Kübler claimed the 1951 Worlds. In their home tour, too, it was honours even, as each man claimed three wins apiece. Koblet died tragically in 1964, at the age of just 39. At 95 years of age, Kübler is the oldest living winner of the Tour de France.

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The 2015 Tour de Suisse peloton, meanwhile, has passed through the delightfully named village of Misery. The break's lead remains locked at 2:50.

82km remaining from 152km

BMC riders Ben Hermans and Manuel Senni are both caught up in a crash in the main peloton, which has reduced its deficit on Kwiatkowski, Domont, Impey and Dillier to 2:15.

Senni and Hermans have both remounted and are safely back in the main peloton. The break is still 2:15 clear and approaching the first passage through the finish line at Düdingen. Two laps of a 36.8km finishing circuit will follow.

71km remaining from 152km

After two hours of racing, the average speed was still a brisk 44kph. Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), meanwhile, has abandoned the Tour de Suisse.

The Tour de Suisse follows a later time schedule than just about any other European race. There's still some distance to go here, but elsewhere Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) has won another stage at the Ster ZLM Toer, while Bryan Coquard (Europcar) got his lines right after yesterday's miscue and claimed stage 2 of the Route du Sud.

55km remaining from 152km

Impey led the break over the categorised climb at Fribourg with a lead of almost two minutes, but that dropped to just 55 seconds by the climb at St. Antoni, where Domont took the prime.

Domont, Impey, Kwiatkowski and Dillier are continuing to collaborate smoothly but they have been granted precious little leeway by the peloton, which is led by Tinkoff-Saxo.

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The average speed is still touching 45kph and while it's not exactly Eddy Merckx driving the peloton to Marseille over an hour ahead of schedule in the 1971 Tour, the stage is on course to finish well up on the fastest estimate.

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Domont leads the break through the intermediate sprint at Schmitten. They hoover up the bonus seconds. Tinkoff-Saxo lead the bunch through a little over a minute later.

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Thibaut Pinot is surrounded by a delegation of his FDJ teammates towards the front end of the peloton, tucked in behind Sagan's platoon of Tinkoff-Saxo comrades. The Frenchman, remember, is 42 seconds clear of Geraint Thomas (Sky), 50 up on Simon Spilak (Katusha) and 55 ahead of Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale).

43km remaining from 152km

Dillier, Kwiatkowski, Domont and Impey are putting up decent resistance despite the speed of the chasing peloton. They're still clutching a lead of 1:15 over the bunch.

In the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse, Switzerland boasts two stage races on the WorldTour calendar, but since the demise of the Züri-Metzgete in 2006, the country has been without a top-level one-day race. The GP Lugano, currently a 1.1 race, reportedly has ambitions of moving up to WorldTour level in the next couple of years - though much will depend, of course, on how the UCI decides to reform the cycling calendar from 2017 onwards.

40km remaining from 152km

Geraint Thomas is shepherded up towards the front end of the peloton by a Sky teammate. A line of Sagan's Tinkoff-Saxo teammates continue to lead the bunch, 1:10 down on the break.

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Dillier leads the break through the finish area for the penultimate time. They remain a little over a minute clear of a stretched peloton.

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It was something of a surprise when Kwiatkowski dropped out of the GC battle as early as Sunday's opening road stage, but the world champion is pedalling smoothly as part of the leading quartet here, which is still 1:11 clear of the bunch.

Jakob Fulgsang (Astana) has joined Thomas and Pinot towards the front on this final lap. The terrain hardly seems conducive to attacks from the GC contenders, but there is certainly a risk that the peloton could split, particularly given the soaring speed.

32km remaining from 152km

Tinkoff-Saxo have done all of the work at the head of the peloton since live television pictures began. Giant-Alpecin maintain a watching brief for John Degenkolb, while Etixx-QuickStep and Mark Cavendish sit a little further back - Kwiatkowski's cameo in the break has relieved them of the responsibility to chase this afternoon.

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Kwiatkowski puts in a long, long turn at the head of the break. Their lead stands at 50 seconds as they enter the final 30 kilometres.

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Tinkoff-Saxo's forcing slices the break's lead to 39 seconds, but they surely won't want to peg back Kwiatkowski et al too soon.

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Giant-Alpecin are now contributing alongside Tinkoff-Saxo to the chase effort at the head of the bunch.

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Kwiatkowski leads the break up the St. Antoni climb, with a lead of 37 seconds over the peloton.

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And then there were three. Domont lost contact with the break on the climb, while Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) led the bunch over the top, some 27 seconds down.

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Wanty-Groupe Gobert join the chase effort at the front of the peloton alongside Tinkoff-Saxo.

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A determined delegation of five Katusha riders takes over at the front. The bunch lies 25 seconds down on the break, where Kwiatkowski seems the most comfortable.

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Sagan has sunk back a little in the peloton though he is still within sight of the front. Mark Cavendish rides alongside him.

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The bunch is strung out in a long line, and Thibaut Pinot is a lot further back than he ought to be at this point. A phalanx of his FDJ teammates are attempting to pace him back towards the front.

10km remaining from 152km

With ten kilometres remaining, the three leaders Impey, Dillier and Kwiatkowski hold a buffer of 27 seconds on a peloton led by the Katusha team of Alexander Kristoff.

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Kwiatkowski tucks low into an aerodynamic position and drives on the front of the break. A roadside speedometer clocks the speed of the bunch at 78kph, however. Staying away will be all but impossible.

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Kwiatkowski still leads into the final 8 kilometres. He and his two comrades hve a lead of 20 seconds on the bunch.

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Six Katusha riders in a line at the front as the bunch hits the last 7 kilometres. 24 seconds the gap.

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Tinkoff-Saxo are happy to leave the pace-making to Katusha at this point. Etixx-QuickStep's hands are tied by Kwiatkowski's presence in the break. The gap is still 22 seconds.

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The kilometres are ticking by more and more quickly. Katusha peg the deficit back to 18 seconds.

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Pinot and FDJ have down well to navigate their way right back up to the very front of the peloton in these final kilometres. The break is stll 14 seconds ahead.

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The bunch is almost within touching distance of the break. Seven seconds the gap.

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Dillier complements Kwiatkowski's efforts wih a long turn, as Katusha continue to claw back their advantage.

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Impey struggles to come through when Kwiatkowski asks him to do a turn. The road rises gently here and these will prove fatal to the break's hopes.

1km remaining from 152km

First Impey and then Dillier are swept up. Kwiatkowski accelerates and opens his gap out slightly once again on this brief rise. He won't last long.

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Kwiatkowski leads into the final kilometre, as Katusha lead the bunch just behind.

Remarkable resistance from Kwiatkowski but he is finally caught with 500 metres to go.

Daniele Bennati leads out the sprint with Alexander Kristoff on his wheel...

When Bennati swings off, Kristoff opens his sprint. Sagan is in fourth wheel...

Kristoff opens a gap, Sagan tries to get back on terms...

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) wins stage 7 of the Tour de Suisse.

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) made a dramatic fightback and almost caught up but Kristoff kicked again and did just enough to win.

Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) took third, but Kristoff and Sagan were in a race of their own.

Sagan lost Bennati's wheel on the final bend, and Kristoff and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) moved in ahead of him. Bennati was probably oblivious to Sagan's plight - certainly,he provided an inadvertently pitch perfect lead-out for Kristoff.

Sagan was hindered, too, by the fact that Rojas allowed a gap to open up to Kristoff. The Slovak was simply left with too much ground to make up - and yet he came mightily close to recouping it. He may have had a difficult spring and he may not know his cycling history, but Sagan looks on course for the Tour de France despite his defeat today.


1 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Team Katusha
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
3 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
5 Arnaud Demare (Fra)
6 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Team LottoNL-Jumbo
8 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica GreenEdge
9 Marco Marcato (Ita) Wanty - Groupe Gobert
10 Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) retains the overall lead but the Frenchman appears to have conceded another five seconds to Thomas in that frantic finale. It seems that he was again on the wrong side of the split. If the flash results are confirmed, then Pinot's lead is down to 37 seconds.

General classification after stage 7:

1 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) 1:55:03
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:37
3 Simon Spilak (Slo) Team Katusha 0:00:50
4 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:50
5 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team 0:01:07
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:22
7 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:27
8 Steve Morabito (Swi) 0:02:29
9 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:02:43
10 Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:02:46

Be it through negligence of simple bad luck, Pinot has lost ten seconds of his overall lead on Thomas on what were - on paper at least - the two most manageable days he faced before the end of the race and Sunday's concluding time trial.

For Kristoff, it's the 18th win of a startling season. “It was a hard day, I haven’t felt super in this Tour de Suisse but I did a good sprint today,” Kristoff says. “I got ahead of Sagan and I was able to go again at the end to hold off his run. I felt I had him but it was hard with the uphill run to the line. The team did an awesome job and I’m happy with how I finished it off in the end.”


Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews this afternoon. We'll be back with more over the weekend as the Tour de Suisse reaches its climax, and in the meantime a full report, results and pictures will follow here.

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