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Having joined a big 24-rider break early in the stage, Atapuma surged clear on the final climb and narrowly held off Barguil to win the first mountain stage at the Tour de Suisse; Latour finished third and took the overall lead

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport








15.06.2016 @ 17:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Darwin Atapuma (BMC) finally got the victory that so narrowly eluded him on several occasions at the Giro d’Italia when he successfully completed a long-distance attack on stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse. Having joined a 24-rider group, he dropped his final companions with a big attack on the last climb and narrowly held off a fast-finishing Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) who attacked out of the group of favourites to take second. Pierre Latour (Ag2r) won the sprint for third and moves into the race lead.


One of the most heart-breaking experiences at the Giro d’Italia was to witness how Darwin Atapuma so narrowly missed on a stage win. The Colombian was a constant presence in all the attacks in the final mountain stages but he always came up short. In the queen stage in the Dolomites, he was caught close to the finish and he failed to follow Rein Taaramae on the final big mountain stage, crossing the line in second.


The many attacks were rewarded with a ninth place on GC but it was the stage win that had been his big goal. Hoping to capitalize on his post-Giro form, Atapuma headed to this week’s Tour de Suisse with the hope of breaking the drought that had lasted since the 2013 Tour de Pologne. He deliberately lost a bit of time in the early stages and then he was ready to give it a go when the race hit the mountains for today’s fifth stage.


Atapuma joined a big 24-rider break that escaped almost right from the start and then made the gradual selection. When the many attacks were launched on the final climb, he was the only rider to stay calm before launching one big attack with 6km to go.


As his rivals cracked and were brought back, he had to dig extremely dig to hold off the favourites who had started to attack each other. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) emerged as the strongest and for a moment it looked like it would be another near-miss for the Colombian. However, he just held on to take the win by a tiny 4-second margin.


Atapuma, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) and the Dimension Data pair of Kanstantsin Siutsou and Natnael Berhane hit the final 11.5km climb with an advantage of one minute and Wellens attacked right from the bottom. He failed to get clear and instead Berhane gave it a go. Wellens countered again and then started to ride tempo on the front, sending Siutsou and Polanc out the back door.


Michal Golas set the pace for Sky on the lower slopes as race leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) got dropped immediately. He didn’t respond when Christopher Juul (Orica-GreenEDGE) launched the first attack and so the Dane could build a small advantage.


Wellens and Berhane kept attacking in the front group and this was too much for Dupont who was the next to get dropped. It was Anacona’s first attack that seemed to work as only the Eritrean could follow but the quartet found back together.


In the peloton, Leopold König took over the pace-setting for Sky and quickly brought Juul, Polanc and Siutsou back. However, he was losing ground as the gap had gone out to 1.20 with 8km to go.


Anacona and Berhane again surged clear but as they failed to cooperate, Wellens and Atapuma slowly made it back. For the first time, they started to trade pulls as David Lopez and the Vasil Kiryienka took over for Sky in the peloton. The Belarusian upped the pace significantly and created a big selection, with riders like Frank Schleck, Sam Oomen and Tiago Machado getting dropped.


Atapuma was the only rider not to have launched an attack but when he went full gas with 6km to go, he made a difference. Berhane briefly tried to follow but the Eritrean soon had to let the Colombian go.


With 5.5km to go, Atapuma was 20 seconds ahead of Berhane and Wellens while the peloton was 50 seconds further adrift. Kiryienka was still setting the pace, having whittled the group down to just Spilak, Chernetskii, van Garderen, Thomas, Kiryienka, Boswell, Kelderman, Costa, Polanc, Barguil, Talansky, Frank, Pantano, Lopez, Scarponi, Latour, Izagirre, Izagirre, De La Parte and Cieslik and slowly reeling Dupont in.


Wellens dropped Berhane and it became a battle between Wellens and Atapuma, with the gap staying stable at around 20 seconds. Meanwhile, the GC battle started when Barguil and Pantano took off but as Boswell took over from Kiryienka, the pair never got a gap.


Boswell went straight to the front to set the pace but dropped when Pantano launched the next attack. Costa responded immediately and went straight to the front to create a selection. Only Thomas, van Garderen and Pantano could hang on but Spilak, Lopez and Kelderman slowly made it back. Moments later, Latour, Scarponi, Barguil and Talansky also got back in contention.


As the pace went down, Lopez launched a strong attack that briefly seemed to work but as Kelderman made his first move, the Colombian was passed. Van Garderen countered that move and got a small advantage.


Kelderman, Thomas and Costa made it back to van Garderen and as the pace went down, Lopez, Scarponi, Barguil, Talansky and Latour also made it back. Spilak and Pantano were just about to regain contact when van Garderen tried another failed move as he went under the KOM sprint banner with 1400m to go.


It was uphill all the way to the line and Atapuma was now suffering. Barguiil launched a strong attack just as they passed the flamme rouge and as no one responded, he immediately got a big gap. It became a big battle between the Atapuma and Barguil, with the latter approaching rapidly but the Colombian just had enough to hold off the Frenchman by four seconds.


Van Garderen got a small gap in the final 400m but a powerful surge from Latour around the Frenchman to come around and even out two seconds into the American who was caught by Kelderman. The Frenchman took third, followed by van Garderen and Kelderman while Thomas and Talansky were three seconds further adrift.


Latour’s big attack in the finale was rewarded as he took over the race lead on a countback as he is equal on time with Kelderman. However, there will be no room to rest on the laurels as stage 6 is another brutal mountain stage. After a flat first half, it features the mighty Klausenpass at the midpoint and then another flat section leads to the final climb which averages a massive 10.7% over 6.9km and which will be the scene of another big battle between the climbers.


A big mountain stage

After yesterday’s flat stage, it was time for the first big mountain stage on the fifth day which brought the riders over 126.4km from Brig-Gils to a summit finish in Cari. The first 60km were virtually all uphill and led to the top of the might HC climb of Furkapass and then a short descent brought the peloton to the bottom of the category 1 Gotthardpass. Finally a long descent led to the bottom of the final climb which was very regular and averaged 7.5% over 11.5km.


This forecasted rain had not yet materialized when the riders gathered for the start. Only Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) was absent as the peloton headed towards some of Switzerland's highest peaks under a cloudy sky.


24 riders get clear

On such a stage, attacks are guaranteed and it was also the case today where there were tons of attempts right from the start. While it started to rain, a large group of 24 riders managed to get clear after 16km of fast riding and they quickly got a lead of 50 seconds. The group consisted of Matvey Mamykin (Katusha), Ricardo Zoidl (Trek - Segafredo), Michael Matthews, amets txurruka (Orica-GreenEdge), Darwin Atapuma, Silvan Dillier (BMC), Ian Boswell, David Lopez (Team Sky), Bram Tankink ( LottoNL - Jumbo), Kristijan Durasek, Jan Polanc (Lampre - Merida), Laurens Ten Dam (Giant - Alpecin), Joe Dombrowski, Davide Villella (Cannondale), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Kanstantin Siutsou, Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data) Laurent Pichon (FDJ), Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling), Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Pieter Weening, Antwan Tolhoek and Michel Kreder (Roompot - Oranje) and they managed to increase their lead to 1.30.


Obviously, the peloton could not let such a big group get too much of an advantage so they reduced the gap to 40 seconds before a crash with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) slowed them down. While world champion easily rejoined the bunch, the gap grew to 1.40 after 37km of racing. Moments later, Rodrigo Contreras (Team Quick Step), Cheng Ji and Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin) race left the race.


Astana take control

At the bottom of Furkapass, the gap had gone out to 2.06 and it had gone out to 2.30 when Tolhoek strengthened his grip on the mountains jersey by beating Weening, Atapuma, Polanc and Matthews in the KOM sprint. Having missed the break, Astana took control in the peloton with Gatis Smukulis and Alessandro Vanotti as they wanted to set Miguel Angel Lopez or Michele Scaråponi up for stage win. Unfortunately, a crash forced Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier (FDJ) and Karel Hnik (Verva) were involved in a crash and forced to leave the race.


The front group hit the Gotthardpass with an advantage of 2.50 over the peloton which was still led by Astana. That was the signal for Katusha to come to the fore as Sven Erik Bystrøm took over the pace-setting duties from the Kazakh team.


The front group splits up

The strong headwind discouraged the break which was not cooperating at all and so the gap quickly dropped to 1.55. This prompted Villlella to launch an attack but he failed to get clear. Instead, he decided to sacrifice himself for Dombrowski by riding tempo on the front. Dillier and Devenyns were the first to get dropped.


Dombrowski launched his attack with 46km to go and initially only Atapuma, Berhane, Anacona and Dupont could follow. As Berhane made a failed counterattack, Boswell rejoined from behind and quickly a lot more riders got back. Meanwhile, Bystrøm swung off in the peloton and left it to Lagutin to create a big selection as Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Maximilano Richeze (Etixx-QuickStep), Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) were among the many riders to get dropped. Moments later, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) also had to surrender.


Atapuma wins the KOM sprint

The attacking continued in the front group and it was Anacona, Berhane, Atapuma Dombrowski, Dupont, Siutsou and Wellens wjo surged clear. Weening, Zoidl, Boswell, Durasek, Polanc and Lopez formed a chase group further back. Weening and Lopez were the first to bridge across and finally the rest of the group also made it back


Weening and Atapuma sprinted for the KOM points and it was an easy affair for the Colombian to beat the Dutchman. Dupont, Anacona and Berhane were next. Lagutin led the group to the top 1.40 later.


Three riders get clear

Wellens, Atapuma, Weening, Dupont, Anacona and Berhane got a small gap in the KOM sprint and decided to press on with their attack. It was the Belgian who did the damage and only the Colombian could follow before Polanc rejoined from behind to make it a front trio.


Poland and Wellens rode very aggressively on the descent while Atapuma just hung on. Meanwhile, Lagutin and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) briefly distanced the rest of the peloton but they soon decided to wait for the rest of the group. Further back, Sagan rejoined the peloton which was 1.30 behind the leaders with 30km to go.


A septet gathers in the front

Siutsou, Berhane, Anacona and Dupont rejoined the leaders just as they finished the descent. At the same time, Sky took control in the peloton as Christian Knees hit the front for the British team.


The front septet worked well together to maintain a 1.30 advantage before Wellens sprinted to win the first intermediate sprint ahead of Siutsou and Atapuma. Further back, the chase group of Dombrowski, Weening, Lopez, Boswell and Durasek decided to wait for the peloton and were brought back with 18km to go.


Knees and Michal Golas chased hard for Sky and so the gap had come down to just 1.10 at this point. In fact, the German was riding so fast that he briefly distanced the rest of the group. Further up the road, Wellens won the final sprint uncontested, with Siutsou and Polanc being next across the line, and moments later they hit the climb where the final action unfolded.



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