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Gauging his effort perfectly on the brutally steep Rettenbachferner, Pinot finally distanced Spilak, passed early escapee Denifl and soloed across the line to win stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse; the Frenchman also took the overall lead

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/B.Bade










17.06.2015 @ 18:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) confirmed that he is fully ready for the Tour de France when he took a very impressive solo victory in the Tour de Suisse queen stage. Despite suffering on the lower slopes of the brutally steep Rettenbachferner climb in Austria, he avoided going into the red zone and made it back to the main group from which he launched a late attack before dropping Simon Spilak (Katusha), passing lone escapee Stefan Denigl (IAM) and soloing across the line to take his second win of the year. The Frenchman also moves into the overall lead with a 47-second advantage over Geraint Thomas (Sky).


Last month Thibaut Pinot broke a long victory drought when he beat the likes of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali in the Tour de Romandie queen stage. Going into the Tour de Suisse, he was the favourite to repeat that performance in the second big Swiss stage race and he continued his love affair with the Alpine country as he lived up to expectations by taking a hugely impressive solo victory in stage 5.


The stage finished at the top of the Rettenbachferner climb whose average gradient of 10.7% makes it one of the hardest mountains in Europe. That made it important not to go into the red zone too early and Pinot showed that he knows how to gauge his effort perfectly on such a tough ascent.


On the lower slopes, Pinot was briefly distanced from the main group and relied on his teammate Steve Morabito to keep him in contention. He made it back to the other favourites but was unable to follow the first attacks.


However, Pinot stayed within himself and inside the final 3km, he finally showed his true strength. As he launched a big attack only Simon Spilak could keep up with him for a short while before eventually surrendering.


As the peloton hit the lower slopes of the final climb, Stefan Denifl (IAM) had distanced the rest of an early 8-rider breakaway and he was soloing towards the top of the brutally steep ascent with an advantage of 4.30. In the main group, Valerio Agnoli had hit the front for Astana and his fast pace made the main group explode to pieces.


Igor Anton (Movistar) launched the first attack just as Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty) had been brought back as the first rider from the early break and this forces Alexey Lutsenko to take over for the Kazakh team. While Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Soudal) lost contact, he gradually reeled Anton in.


With 9km to go, race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) but the Dutchman did an impressive job to time trial his way to the tough. While Matthias Brändle (IAM) was the next attacker to be brought back, he gradually started to pass riders that had been dropped.


Lutsenko swung off and instead his teammate Miguel Angel Lopez took over. Julian Arredondo (Trek) was one of many riders to get distanced and as Jakob Fuglsang took a turn himself, Pinot found himself being briefly distanced before rejoining the group.


Fuglsang, Lopez, Morabito, Pinot, Sergio Henao, Geraint Thomas (Sky), Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Simon Spilak, Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE), Sebastien Reichenbach, Jerome Coppel (IAM), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Domenico Pozzovivo, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida) and Laurens Ten Dam (LottoNL) were the only riders left in the main group but as no one wanted to take the initiative, Robert Gesink (LottoNL) and the Trek pair of Frank Schleck and Bob Jungels also regained contact. Moments later, Tom Danielson (Cannondale), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky), Syylwester Szmyd (CCC), Anton and Dumoulin also made it back to the main group.


Just as this happened, Spilak launched an attack, and this forced Henao to initiate the chase. While they brought Gregory Rast (Trek) back, the Colombian, Thomas, Lopez and Majka got a gap before Hirt, Pozzovivo and Reichenbach rejoined them. Fuglsang was the next to regain contact while Morabito and Pinot were far back and getting passed by several riders.


For a long time, Spilak dangled a few metres ahead of the main group, passing early escapees Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Stefan Schumacher (CCC). However, he gradually started to extend his advantage while Chaves, Reichenbach, Barguil and Pinot rejoined the main group.


Denifl was still 4 minutes ahead of the main group in which Henao was doing all the work. Barguil was the first to crack, dropping back to Morabito, Ten Dam and Dombrowski who were the nearest chasers. Gesink and Dumoulin were further back, followed by Durasek, Moreno, Schleck and Jungels.


With 5km to go, Denifl was 3 minutes ahead of Spilak who was 35 seconds ahead of the main group while Dumoulin was another 35 seconds back. At this point, Majka and Reichenbach were dropped.


While he caught Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) from the early break, Spilak increased his advantage to 40 seconds over the main group from which Chaves was dropped. Later he passed Benjamin King (Cannondale), meaning that Denifl was now the only rider ahead of him, the Austrian having an advantage of 2.15 with 4km to go.


Pozzovivo now launched the first attack from the main group and only Hirt, Lopez and Thomas could keep up with him. However, he managed to distance that trio with another acceleration while Pinot rejoined those three riders.


Pinot started to chase and with 3km to his group brought both Spilak and Pozzovivo back. Hence, a 6-rider group had now gathered, with Fuglsang and Henao following a little further back followed by a bigger grup with Dumoulin.


Pinot launched an immediate attack but Pozzovivo managed to shut it down. Instead the Frenchman briefly set the pace before Lopez took over. At this point, Denifl had started to tire while Dumoulin was still just 1.10 behind the main group.


With less than 3km to go, Spilak attacked again and this time only Pinot could match him. Thomas led the chase but the two riders were riding away from the Welshman, Pozzovivo, Lopez and Hirt.


Hirt cracked while Thomas asked for some help from Pozzovivo who started to work with the Sky rider. Meanwhile, Pinot tried to drop Spilak but the Slovenian responded well.


Denifl was now just 30 seconds ahead and as Pinot tried again, Spilak finally cracked. He flew past Denifl just before they got to the KOM sprint with 1.3km to go. Denifl managed to hold on to take second before being passed by the chasers.


From there, Pinot extended his advantage all the way to the line and sprinted to the finish to maximize his time gains. Pozzovivo made a late attack to take second, followed by Spilak who managed to distance Lopez and Thomas. Fuglsang, Hirt, Henao and Denifl were next before a very impressive Dumoulin crossed the line with a time loss of just 1.37.


Pinot now also takes the overall lead with a 47-second advantage over Thomas while Spilak is third at 50 seconds. However, Dumoulin is still only 1.32 behind in 7th and may be threat in the final time trial.


Tomorrow the GC riders will get an easier day as stage 6 is the easiest of the race. There is only a small category 3 climb at the midpoint and as the final 25km are completely flat, a bunch sprint is expeted.


The queen stage

After three days with smaller climbs, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over a massive 237.3km from Unterterzen to a summit finish on the Rettenbachferner climb in Sölden. After 80 flat kilometres, the riders tackled the category HC Bierlerhöhe climb whose summit was located at the 109.6km mark. From there the riders went down a long gradual descent before flat roads and a slightly rising section led to the bottom of the final 12km climb which had a brutal average gradient of 10.7%.


The riders had nice condition when they gathered for the start in Unterterzen but one big name was missing when they headed out for the neutral ride. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) had always made it clear that he was unlikely to finish the race and he decided not to take the start after yesterday’s stage win.


The break is formed

There were several attacks from the start of the race but the early break was established relatively early. Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty), Matthias Brändle, Stefan Denifl (IAM), Przemlyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida), Stefan Schumacher (CCC), Gregory Rast (Trek), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Benjamin King (Cannondale-Garmin) managed to get clear and as the peloton slowed completely down, they were allowed to get a big advantage.


After 41km of racing, the front octet had built a gap of 7.20 and the peloton was still in no hurry. At the 72km mark, the advantage had gone out to a massive 8.55 and it even reached a maximum of 9.20 after 100km of racing before the peloton started to slowly bring the escapees back as they went up the Bielerhöhe climb.


KOM poins for Denifl

At the top of the climb, Denifl beat De Gendt and Niemiec in the KOM sprint to extend his lead in the mountains classification. The peloton followed 7.45 later after the Astana team of Jakob Fuglsang had taken control.


The gap was allowed to grow a bit on the descent. When Ion Izagirre (Movistar) left the race at the 120km mark, it was 8.08 and with 75km to go, it had even gone out to 9.25 again.


The chase gets organized

Katusha and FDJ now also started to work with Astana and this had an effect on the gap which was down to 7.15 with 47km to go. Astana took a back seat and it was Viacheslav Kuznetsov, Sergey Lagutin, Marco Haller (Katusha) and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) who set the pace to gradually bring the break back.


As they entered the final 30km, the gap was only 5.45 but as Brändle sacrificed himself completely for Denifl, they managed to maintain that advantage as they passed the 20km to go banner. However, as the fight for position started, the escapees lost some ground.


The break splits up

Damien Gaudin hit the front for Ag2r while Brändle led Denifl and Rast across the line in the second intermediate sprint. Moments later, the escapees hit the climb and Brändle and Selvaggi were distanced immediately.


Denifl rode very fast and only King and De Gendt could keep up with him. The Belgian quickly cracked while Agnoli, Mohoric, Sagan and Leezer were on the front of the peloton in the brutal fight for position. Moments later, King was dropped while Agnoli led the peloton onto the climb, setting the scene for the final battle.





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