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Tour de Suisse stage 8 & 9: Sagan and Cancellara doubles, Cunego has his Fignon moment

Stage 8: Tübach to Schaffhouse, 167.3km

Liquigas‘s Peter Sagan claimed his second sprint victory of the Tour de Suisse, beating Matt Goss and Ben Swift on an uphill finish in Schaffhouse. Race leader Damiano Cunego finished safely in the front group, but Bauke Mollema dropped from second to fifth ahead of Sunday’s decisive individual time trial.

The day’s breakaway comprised Francisco Ventoso (Movistar), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Jaroslaw Marycz (Saxo Bank-Sungard) and Jan Barta (Net App). They escaped in the opening kilometres and established a lead of seven minutes before the peloton started to bring them back in. Paolini and Marycz dropped the other two with 30km remaining, but were nonetheless caught 11km from the finish.

Sagan claimed his second win of the week (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Movistar’s high tempo on the third-category Hallauerberg climb 22km from the end split the peloton, with the pace proving too much for several sprinters, including Mark Cavendish and André Greipel, who would both have been hopeful of victory here. And after Mollema punctured with 15km remaining Leopard-Trek moved to the front to drive the pace in an effort to promote Fränk Schleck in the general classification, leading to not unreasonable accusations of poor sportsmanship from Rabobank.

Vacansoleil‘s Wouter Poels took a speculative flier with 2.3km to go, but was swamped as he passed under the flamme rouge. On a slightly uphill finish, Sagan was led out by Daniel Oss but found himself boxed in. However, he calmly worked his way out of trouble as Sky‘s Swift opened up the sprint with 200 metres to go. That proved to be too soon, though, as the incline sapped his effort and Sagan was easily able to sweep around him to take victory by two lengths. Goss also caught Swift before the line to steal second.

Despite a big effort, Mollema was unable to bridge the gap and slipped down to fifth overall after losing 48 seconds to the front group, which contained yellow jersey Cunego, Steven Kruijswijk, Fränk Schleck and Levi Leipheimer.

Sagan was delighted with his second win, which also guaranteed him victory in the points competition:

I’m really happy with this win, mainly because I’m capitalising on all the opportunities presented by the race. Today’s stage was a tricky one to judge due to the profile in the finale. I was expecting an attack that would split the group, and that’s what happened. Many of the riders, including some of the sprinters, lost contact.

It was a really hard finale but thankfully in the final kilometre I had Daniel Oss leading me out. I’m very satisfied with this second win and the points jersey. It’s been a huge success for me this week.

Cunego maintained his 1:36 advantage over Kruijswijk. Not the greatest of time-trialists, his greatest threat for overall victory is likely to come from Leipheimer who is fourth, 1:59 behind. However, he was hopeful of defending the yellow jersey for one last day:

I’ve got quite a good lead and I’m in great form at the moment so it’s up to the guys behind me to catch me.

Stage 8 result:

1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 3:52:00

2. Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) same time

3. Ben Swift (Sky) s.t.

4. Koldo Fernández (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s.t.

5. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) s.t.

Stage 9: Schaffhouse, 32.1km individual time trial

Fabian Cancellara book-ended the Tour de Suisse with his second time trial victory, although he was run mighty close by Andreas Klöden. However, it was Klöden’s RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer who stole the glory. The American set an outstanding time just 13 seconds slower than Cancellara, then had to wait for eight agonising minutes for Damiano Cunego to come in. The race leader, who had been in possession of the yellow jersey since stage three, had started the day with an advantage of 1:59 over fourth-placed Leipheimer. But in a finish reminiscent of the concluding time trial of the 1989 Tour de France, where yellow jersey Laurent Fignon capitulated in the concluding time trial to lose to Greg Lemond by eight seconds, Cunego lost time throughout the 32.1km course to concede top spot by the slender margin of four seconds.

Cancellara added the final time trial stage to his stage one prologue win (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

All eyes were on the Swiss world time trial champion to set the benchmark and Cancellara duly obliged with a best of 41:01, during the course of which he overtook the three riders in front of him. However, his time was seriously threatened by Klöden, who was five seconds faster at the first checkpoint at 9km, and seven quicker at the second at 22.9km, at the top of the big climb of the day. But he faded on the descent and final flat section, ending up nine seconds slower – which would still be good enough for second.

But the real battle was between Leipheimer, who started fourth-last, and final man Cunego. Although not the best of time-trialists, Cunego’s lead – one second shy of two minutes over the American – was widely thought to be more than sufficient over the course. The fact that he lost 28 seconds to Leipheimer over the first, only moderately rising section was little more than a minor concern. But at the second checkpoint – after the steepest section of climbing, which should have suited him best – Cunego’s advantage was down to just 33 seconds. And any thoughts that Leipheimer might have burnt himself out early on in trying to put pressure on the Italian were dispelled by his time at the finish – 41:14, just 13 seconds down on Cancellara.

There then followed an eight-minute wait as Leipheimer watched Fränk Schleck and Steven Kruijswijk – neither a threat – finish, before a labouring Cunego finally came into view down the closing straight. Seconds ticked agonisingly by, but Cunego’s target time passed with him still 50 metres from the line. Four seconds passed before he finally crossed the finish – the four seconds which provided Leipheimer with his overall margin of victory.

It was not so much that Cunego’s ride had been awful – 39th overall, 2:16 down on Cancellara was perhaps only marginally down on where he would have expected to finish – more that Leipheimer’s had been superb. The American had ridden a quiet and conservative race throughout the week, always there or thereabouts but hardly ever attacking. But on the one occasion when he did show some aggression, in the final few hundred metres of stage six after Cunego had had to give everything chasing down that day’s winner Kruijswijk, he took nine seconds out of the yellow jersey – a seemingly inconsequential amount at the time, but critical in the final analysis.

Leipheimer produced one of his best-ever time trials to snatch victory from Cunego by just four seconds (image courtesy of Graham Watson)

In the high drama of the finish, it is easy to overlook that in Klöden, Leipheimer and Nelson Oliveira, RadioShack placed second, third and fourth on the stage. And while Leopard-Trek had three of the final top ten on general classification, their highest placed finisher was not defending champion Schleck, but one of his senior foot-soldiers, Jakob Fuglsang, who was fourth overall.

Leipheimer was delighted with his morale-boosting win:

What a race. I really didn’t know how close it was with Cunego. All I heard was my director yelling at me in the last corner “Sprint! Sprint!” and I could hear in his voice that it really was a question of seconds.

“This Tour de Suisse has really been tough this year. Very mountainous, very hard. I had some good days, but also bad days, but without Team RadioShack there was no way I could win today. I am very happy I did not disappoint. Now it’s time to take some rest and start in the Tour de France.

Cunego said that he had suspected the course might not suit him, but also praised Leipheimer’s performance:

I’m really sorry I lost but that’s sport, you have to learn to lose before you can enjoy victory.

This morning I watched the path of the chrono and immediately I realized that was not suitable to my characteristics with the long straight into the wind. We must give credit to the big performance today of Leipheimer, who has once again demonstrated his strength in this speciality.

Stage winner Cancellara was delighted with his week’s efforts, which confirmed his as favourite for the Tour’s sole individual time trial on its penultimate day:

What can I say? It’s a time trial, I gave it 100 percent as I usually do and I won. To start and finish the race the way I have done, with two victories, makes it a perfect Tour of Switzerland for me.

So, who is in good form ahead of the Tour de France? Klöden showed well in both time trials and can be expected to form a formidable one-two punch with Leipheimer. Andy Schleck was anonymous for much of the week, but had two good workouts on mountain stages that suggested his best form is not that far away. Rabobank showed they will be a team to reckon with in the mountains, although their highest-placed finisher Kruijswijk is unlikely to race in the Tour having already ridden the Giro. And Peter Sagan showed that he will be a contender on the uphill sprints and lumpy stages scattered throughout the first week of the Tour which may favour the strong-man sprinters over the pure speedsters. Many have chosen not to show the true strength of their hand this week, but we have seen enough to know that there will be plenty of contenders for the various jerseys when the Tour kicks off in two weeks’ time. We will find out soon enough.

Stage 9 result:

1. Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) 41:01

2. Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) +0:09

3. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) +0:13

4. Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack) +0:25

5. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) +0:38

General classification:

1. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) 31:45:02

2. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) +0:04

3. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank)+1:02

4. Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard-Trek) +1:10

5. Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) +2:05

6. Mathias Frank (BMC) +2:24

7. Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) +2:35

8. Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) +3:11

9. Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) +3:17

10. Maxime Monfort (Leopard-Trek) +4:12

Sprint classification:

1. Lloyd Mondory (Ag2R La Mondiale) 27 pts

2. Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) 12

3. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Syep) 11

4. Luca Paolini (Katusha) 10

5. José Iván Gutiérrez (Movistar) 10

Mountains classification:

1. Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) 44 pts

2. Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) 35

3. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) 30

4. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) 21

5. Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) 20

Points classification:

1. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 86 pts

2. José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) 50

3. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) 44

4. Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) 39

5. Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervélo) 36

Links: Tour de Suisse official website (French/German), Steephill.tv

Tour de Suisse recaps

Stage 1: No surprise as Cancellara wins opening time trial

Stage 2 & 3: Soler and Sagan win on up-and-down days

Stage 4 & 5: Hushovd and Božič triumph in uphill sprints

Stage 6 & 7: Soler crash overshadows Kruijswijk and De Gendt wins

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

9 Responses to Tour de Suisse stage 8 & 9: Sagan and Cancellara doubles, Cunego has his Fignon moment

  1. Kitty Fondue says:

    Hey Tim – Was at the TT on Sunday in Schaffhausen. The wall of sound that just got louder and louder as they were counting Cancellara down in the starthouse was incredible – I’d climbed onto a four foot window ledge to make sure I could see him as it was absolute mayhem on that first stretch of cobbles. It made me wonder what he thinks when he hears that kind of, well, adulation is the only word for it.

    It was fun to be at a smaller race like that, with so many big names – as with any bike race, a little nous and some perseverance and you can get behind the scenes, but this was a particularly relaxed setting for fans (well, unless you wanted to get anywhere near Spartacus, then it was every fan for themselves). My favourite bit was the two 80-year-old women who had cunningly bagged themselves a prime spot at the front of the barricades about 10ft from the starthouse and who went wild when Fab showed up. That’ll be me, God willing, one day when I’m old and wise. I’ll be awaiting that generation’s Fabian Cancellara, with my flask of Irish coffee. 🙂

    Really exciting finish to that Tour – although to be honest, I didn’t know what had happened until I actually got to Geneva the next day…. I always forget about Levi Leipheimer. Probably because I don’t really rate him as much of a fighter. But it’ll be interesting to see how RadioShack do at the Tour.

    • Tim says:

      Very jealous. As you say, plenty of big names, a good atmosphere and a challenging course too. For a long while it looked like Kloden might just snatch the stage victory, but Cancellara prevailed as we all expected he would.

      Interestingly, RadioShack have named four co-leaders for the Tour – Leipheimer, Kloden, Horner and Brajkovic. The young Slovenian aside, I’m not particularly bothered about the others, but it should make for some convoluted tactical shenanigans within the team.

  2. Kitty Fondue says:

    Four leaders for the Tour? Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, especially as, let’s face it, Leipheimer and Kloden don’t really have much time left in their ‘contenders for the Tour’ career. (Although I would say they missed their chance years ago, I reckon *they* still think they can do it.) Didn’t they have that kind of thing at T-Mobile with Ullrich, Kloden and Vinokourov, who proceeded to just ride off on some rogue mission … Actually, it could really enliven the Tour with some backstabbing intra-team tactics.

    The thing about Kloden almost pipping Spartacus – the thing about Fab is that he often comes out (seemingly) slower (because others come out too fast) but maintains and then speeds up as he gets to the finish, so I’m never convinced someone’s beaten him until they cross the line, no matter what the splits say. He said on his Twitter that Kloden gave him a scare and he had to be on the bus for a long time waiting. Hell, if I’d known that, I would have stormed that bus!!!! What a missed opportunity! 🙂

    • Tim says:

      T-Mobile did indeed have an arrangement where everyone rode for Ullrich in (I think) 2004, with Kloden having to play second fiddle even though he was second on GC behind Armstrong. Vino did what Vino does, but Kloden was always the dutiful team man.

      Horner, Leipheimer and Kloden are 39, 37 and 36 respectively – it’s Kloden’s birthday today, incidentally – and form a genuine Golden Oldies trio. Brajkovic is the young gun with all the potential (he won last year’s Dauphine, of course), but I suspect he will be forced to do the leg-work for the others in the mountains. With Robbie Hunter not selected, I’m guessing they will ask McEwen to fend for himself in the sprints, and then focus everything else on those little hills in the back half of the race …

  3. Kitty Fondue says:

    You know – I get Horner and Hunter mixed up so I didn’t realise it was the old one! 🙂 As for Robbie, he’s pretty much always had to fend for himself in sprints (I wonder if the intermediate sprint points are going to help or hinder him) so nothing new there. I wonder what he could have achieved if he’d had a train like Cavendish’s in his prime – or even now?

    BTW, Cavendish on Sunday looked like he’d sucked on a whole bag of lemons when he was in the starthouse. Not sure why, but he looked absolutely miserable. On the other hand, I was around back of the starthouse by the time big Jens rocks up for his start and, honestly, he just radiates enthusiasm. So good-natured. LOVE Jens.

  4. Kitty Fondue says:

    Hmm, so Saxo Bank’s Tour team – five out of the nine riders (including Contador) rode the Giro. You’d think if they were putting their money on Bertie, they’d want him to have some fresh legs around him. Odd.

  5. Kitty Fondue says:

    OH NO! Robbie’s not riding in the TdF this year. Bugger!

  6. Tim says:

    McEwen’s not riding? That’s a real shame.

    I guess Saxo’s team selection highlights their lack of strength in depth and their uncertainty about whether Contador was going to ride the Tour when they selected their Giro squad.

    Cav was probably miserable because – as he had correctly pointed out before the race – the TdS didn’t have a single stage which suited the pure sprinters. Him and Greipel got a log of helpful climbing into their legs, but didn’t contest a single stage finish between them.

    I’m still not sure how the new sprint points scheme will pan out. I fear it may lead to the peloton clamping down more on early breaks, but it may also see the likes of Hushovd getting into lots of escapes on lumpy stages. We shall see!

  7. Kitty Fondue says:

    You can tell I’m not really concentrating on my day job with all these updates, really, can’t you, Tim. 🙂 Oh, and Wimbledon coverage starts on iPlayer any minute!!!! ha ha ha.

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