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Tour de Suisse stage 6 - live coverage

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Hello and welcome to the live coverage of stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse

Today is the Queen stage of the race, a 177.5 kilometre run from Locarno to Moosalp featuring two major Hors Categorie climbs and a summit finish at Moosalp. However...

The race is currently being hit by a wave of COVID-19 cases, with leader Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) just one of numerous riders forced to withdraw this morning. And we're waiting to see what happens to the race under these extremely difficult circumstances. Rollout, in any case, is set for 1130.

For the latest updates on who has had to quit the Tour de Suisse overnight, Cyclingnews has an updated story here.

Here is the complete list of riders withdrawn from Tour de Suisse stage 6 that we know of to date. 25 in total, although we're expecting more.

Olivier Senn, Tour de Suisse director, said in an interview with multiple media a few minutes ago that following a meeting with teams representatives, commissaires, the UCI (by phone), riders representatives the race will go ahead. He also said that four teams have decided to withdraw including Jumbo-Visma yesterday, the others are Alpecin-Fenix, UAE Team Emirates and Bahrain Victorious.

More none-starters reported today, although tbc: Alex Aramburu (Movistar), Thomas Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Materiaux) and Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo). Four minutes to the neutralised start.

And the Tour de Suisse stage 6 is underway. 

A brief neutralised section now follows before racing proper starts at 1138. 

Stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse is 177.5 kilometres long from Locarno to Moosalp, and with 4,208 metres of vertical gain, is the toughest of the entire race. On the menu are two Hors Categorie ascents, the only two classified climbs of the day. The first, the Nufenenpass, peaks out at km 93 after 21 kilometres of climbing. The final climb to the finish is 18 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 8 percent.

At the moment the Tour de Suisse peloton is reported to contain 94 riders. Though this total could be altered shortly.

And stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse is underway and the first attacks have already started.

Following the DNS for overnight leader Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe), Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) inherits Vlasov's place at the head of the general classification.

Just a reminder of the list of non-starters today. 

And here's a photo of the stage 6 startline with Jakob Fuglsang in the leader's jersey. No changes in the other secondary classifications: Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Andrea Leknessund (DSM) in the points and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal) in the BYR jersey.

155 kilometres to go

145 kilometres left to race

And now the two lead groups have fused. So we have Fausto Masnada (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Jose Herrada (Cofidis), Clement Champoussin (AG2R-Citröen), Roland Thalmann (Switzerland), Dion Smith (BikeExchange-Jayco), Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal) and King of the Mountains leader Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) in one group. Nico Denz (DSM) is fast closing on these 10 and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) has counterattacked from the bunch.

143 kilometres to go.

It's been a ferociously fast start. Average speed so far 51.4kmh. Just as well it's a really flat stage today. Oh hang on...

137 kilometres to go

Michael Matthews (BikeExchance-Jayco) remains out there in no-mans land between the 11-rider break and the peloton, about a minute back. Meanwhile, the bunch appears to be easing up considerably.

And what was a gap of 1:20 between the 11 riders ahead and the bunch just a few kilometres has now more than doubled to over 3 minutes. 

134 kilometres to go

A report from my colleague Stephen Farrand on how the Tour de Suisse will continue for now with constant re-evaluations of the COVID-19 situation in the race is available on this link here.
Albeit with some major differences, the current scenario is unpleasantly reminiscent of what happened prior to the first outbreak of the COVID pandemic, with a major race battling to continue even as a large number of riders quit.

130 kilometres to go

127 kilometres to go

120 kilometres to go

And here's a picture of the break. Yet another sunny day in the Tour de Suisse, with temperatures already at 27 degrees, though things should cool downwards as the race heads upwards.

110 kilometres to go

The leaders of the Tour de Suisse s6 have now reached the bottom of the Nufenen pass, the first of the two Hors Categorie climbs on today's stage and the first major mountain challenge of the race.

With 24.5 kilometres of ascending now to come, the Nufenen is a long old climb in anybody's book, even if according to the race live ticker, it averages a fairly gentlre 5.5 percent overall.
However, that's partly because the first 4 kilometres of the climb are fairly flat then the remainder is mostly about 7-9 percent, although the steepest segment  peaks out at 14 percent.  The Nufenen is also the highest paved mountain pass (though not the highest road) in Switzerland, at 2,478 metres above sea level, so perhaps not surprisingly  is 'the ceiling' of this year's Tour de Suisse.

97 kilometres to go

A striking image of the Tour de peloton heading through a tunnel on the ascent of the Nufenen pass.

Just a few updates on the new leader of the Tour de Suisse Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) and his race history. The Dane has been hitting the GC goalposts for over a decade in the Tour de Suisse, with a third place in 2010 behind Frank Schleck and Lance Armstrong, a fourth in 2011, second in 2018 behind Richie Porte, and third in 2021 behind Richard Carapaz and Rigoberto Urán, the latter one of the multiple DNS today. He's never taken a stage win, but with that kind of previous, history alone says he's a serious contender for keeping that lead all the way to Sunday.

90 kilometres to go

Roland Thalmann (Switzerland) is also struggling in the break, which is now down to 10 riders.

And we've just hit the point where there's less vertical climbing metres left to tackle (1,991 as I type) compared to those already covered (2,152) in today's stage. 

87 kilometres to go

84.5 kilometres to go

The first rider across the summit of the Nufenen was Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo),  considerably boosting his total number of points as  leader of the King of the Mountains classification. Smith has been caught by the bunch, who are still on their way up the climb roughly 6 minutes back.

80 kilometres to go

And a reminder of the 11 riders ahead:  Fausto Masnada (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Quentin Pacher (Groupama-FDJ), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Jose Herrada (Cofidis), Clement Champoussin (AG2R-Citröen), Roland Thalmann (Switzerland), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco), Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarché-Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Brent Van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), King of the Mountains leader Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Nico Denz (DSM).

72 kilometres to go

First abandon of the day: Kyle Murphy of Human Powered Health.

A shot of the Tour de Suisse peloton as it headed up the Nufenen, at 2,478 metres above sealevel Switzerland's highest paved mountain pass, a few minutes ago. 

62 kilometres to go

After the first of the two Hors Categorie climbs, the Nufenen, leader Fuglsang still has 3 teammates from Israel-Premier Tech to support him for the second and last.

53 kilometres to go

As the unspoken truce continues between break and peloton, there's an interesting piece by my colleague Stephen Farrand on Tadej Pogačar's thoughts on the current series of COVID-19 outbreaks here.

Pogačar has, of course, just won stage 3 of the Tour of Slovenia, and moved into the overall lead. You can read our report on that latest success for the UAE Team Emirates racer here.

41 kilometres to go

37 kilometres to go

If Matthews gets another first place in the second and last hot spot sprint  of today's stage at Visp, about 10 kilometres further on, he'll oust stage 2 winner Andreas Leknessund (DSM) as provisional leader of the points competition. And then, you'd suspect, it'll be mission accomplished for the Australian today.

30 kilometres to go

25 kilometres go

24 kilometres to go

A second abandon on stage 6: Claudio Imhof (Switzerland).

20 kilometres to go

And we're just about to start the second and last Hors Categorie ascent of stage 6, which has the finish at its summit. The Moosalp is 17.6 kilometres long with an average gradient of 7.5 percent. The first part is the steepest, while the last 5 3 kilometres ease back to around 5 percent.

The start of the Moosalp takes its time to steepen, and as it does so, Matthews begins to struggle in the front group.

15.5 kilometres to go

15 kilometres to go

Pacher is dropped from the lead group of four. That leaves us with Simmons, Masnada and Denz on the front, with Masnada, just as he did on the Nufenen pass, doing a lot of the pace-setting.

14 kilometres to go

13.5 kilometres to go

13 kilometres to go

12 kilometres to go

Unusually for Tour de Suisse mountain summit finishes, the Moosalp is not the usual broad highway but mostly a much narrower mountain road. Very well surfaced though.

11.5 kilometres to go

11 kilometres to go

10.5 kilometres to go

9 kilometres to go

And Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Qazaqstan) attacks from the bunch. Overall, he's more than 10 minutes down on the race leader, so it doesn't provoke much reaction.

8.2 kilometres to go

7 kilometres to go

Denz or Masnada? Masnada looks to be the stronger of the two, with his previous win on a very hilly stage in the Tour of Oman this spring and his last WorldTour victory dating back from the 2019 Giro d'Italia, when he took a transition stage in the first week. He's also got a second place last year in Il Lombardia and a second place overall in Oman in his palmares. Denz' last victory dates from the Tour of Slovakia in 2020.

6 kilometres to go

And for all Masnada is still looking strong, the climb is taking its toll. The gap on the leaders is dropping fast now, to 3:30.

5 kilometres to go

4.5 kilometres to go

3.5 kilometres to go

Meanwhile back in the bunch, Fuglsang has been brought back and Martínez leads the string for Ineos Grenadiers and Geraint Thomas. 

3 kilometres to go

2.5 kilometres to go

2 kilometres to go

1.5 kilometres to go

Last kilometre!

Masnada is leading but the other three are staying easily on his wheel. And now Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) has got back on

Simmons makes a long drive with 200 metres to go but Clement Champoussin (AG2R-Citröen) accelerates past him, and so does Nico Denz (DSM).

Nico Denz (DSM) wins stage 6 of the 2022 Tour de Suisse.

Clément Champoussin (AG2R-Citroën) gets second and Jose Herrada (Cofidis) places third.

Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) reportedly tries an attack in the group of favourites but Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) clamps it down. 

Thomas leads in the favourites in eighth place, 2:14 back. Fuglsang, 10th, remains in the overall lead.

That was a spectacular final sprint. Simmons started the final charge for the line but Champoussin charged past one side of the American, Denz the other. The Frenchman and German then battled it out for the line, but Denz just got the call by the bare minimum.

Thomas late surge inside the barriers was chased down by Higuita, but Fuglsang wasn't far back. The GC, already pretty topsy-turvy after all the abandons this morning, will have been shaken up again.

And the GC as stands has Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) leading by just one second on Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and 10 on Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe). Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) has also moved up the GC ladder and is now fourth at  26 seconds. And quite apart from Thomas breathing down his neck, with 10 riders at less than 2 minutes on Fuglsang, the GC battle is far from over.

Simmons may have had to settle for fourth in the stage, but after claiming top sport over the first Hors Categorie of the day, the Nufenen, as well, the American's hold on the King of the Mountains classification is considerably strengthened.

Some words from the stage winner, Nico Denz of DSM, who claims his team's second victory of the 2022 Tour de Suisse:
"A lot of thanks to the team car and staff who managed to keep me cool with water and ice the whole day, I think that was really the key. The last climb I just hung on, I was fighting to stay with Masnada, he almost cracked me,  but he also obviously was on the limit."

And here's a picture of Denz just outpacing Champoussin at the finish of stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse.

And there's a full  2022 Tour de Suisse stage 6 report, results and photos from CN on this link here.

As for tomorrow's stage 7, it's maybe not quite as hard as stage 6, with just over 3,000 metres of vertical climbing, compared to 4,208 metres today, but it still promises to be a humdinger.
That's because stage 7 features the second major summit finish of the race, at the end of a 198 kilometre run from Ambri to Malbun, located in the neighbouring mini-state of Liechtenstein.
There's a  long first category ascent, the Lukmanier pass at km 77 but the real challenge will be the Malbun, a Hors Categorie climb of 12.8 kilometres at a gruelling 8.4 percent. This is the second straight day in the mountains, too, so the damage  inflicted could be considerable.
Sadly, of course, too, we'll be on tenterhooks in terms of what could happen overnight and whether the wave of COVID-19 cases that has done such damage to the Tour de Suisse line-up to date eases a little or if it continues to wreak havoc like today.

After stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse two new faces in the secondary classifications: Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) now leads the BYR competition, while Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) heads the points ranking.

Here are some more pictures from the day's racing. 

And that wraps it up for the live  coverage from stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse today. More tomorrow.

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