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In a very tough finale, Sagan made it into a group mostly made up of GC riders before beating Moreno and Pinot in a technical uphill sprint on stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse; Dumoulin finished fifth and retained the overall lead

Photo: Tinkoff - Saxo












15.06.2015 @ 19:02 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After yesterday’s frustrating near-miss, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) confirmed that he is back at his best level when he won a very tough third stage of the Tour de Suisse. After excellent work by his teammate Rafal Majka, he made it into a small group mostly made up of GC riders before powering clear in the technical uphill sprint to hold off Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) finished fifth and defended his overall lead with a 5-second advantage over Moreno and Sagan.


Two years ago Peter Sagan climbed better than ever when he won a tough mountain stage in the Tour de Suisse. That performance marked a highlight for the Slovakian as he has been far from his best level since that marvelous race.


After he joined Tinkoff-Saxo, Sagan was expected to get back to his best but nothing worked out for him in the first part of the season. He came up short in the classics and faced harsh criticism from team owner Oleg Tinkov.


Whether those words have made the difference is hard to know but apparently Sagan has turned things around. It all started in the Tour of California where he defied all expectations by winning the race overall after producing a splendid climbing performance on the Mount Baldy.


That made people curious for the Tour de Suisse who lumpy stages have always been a happy hunting ground for the Slovakian. This was a race where the Slovakian had the chance to confirm his return to the top level and after three days it is fair to say that he is back to his best.


He delivered a fine performance to finish fourth in the prologue and yesterday he nearly won a very tough stage that was decided by the GC riders. Today he finally turned his many near-misses into a win when he won the very tough third stage of the race.


In the final 20km, the riders would tackle a tough combination of a category 2 and a category 3 climb, with the latter summiting just 6km from the finish. To make things even harder, there final 5km were all slightly ascending to make it a deceptively brutal finale.


At the bottom of the first climb, the early break of Stefan Denifl (IAM), Marco Marcato (Wanty) and Branislau Samoilau (CCC) were just 1.35 ahead of a peloton that was in fierce pursuit due to a huge fight for position. LottoNL-Jumbo and Sky went head to head but it was Danilo Wyss (BMC) who led the bunch onto the lower slopes before Lars Petter Nordhaug (Sky) took a short turn.


While Marcato was dropped from the front group and the peloton exploded to pieces, Tinkoff-Saxo decided to take control. Matti Breschel set the early pace which was too much for Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) who was dropped.


Rafal Majka took over the pace-setting with 17km to go and he would turn out to be the star of the day. He brought Marcato back and whittled the peloton down to 40 riders while keeping the gap at 1.10 for a while.


As he approached the summit, Majka upped the pace and this made several riders lose contact with the group. After Denifl had led Samoilau over the top, Majka, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and Tom Dumoulin were first from a 25-rider bunch just 30 seconds later.


In addition to Sagan, sprinters Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) had both made the selection but it was Majka who had to control the race. However, he didn’t like the technical descent on wet roads and so he had to let Bakelants, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) and Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) go clear.


As they hit flat roads, Geraint Thomas (Sky) realized the danger and he quickly bridged the gap. Daniel Moreno and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) also made it across but Majka managed to bring the move back just as they hit the bottom of the second climb.


Albasini made an immediate attack and after Bakelants had joined him, they flew past Denifl and Samilau. Brambilla tried to join them and Denifl tried to keep up with them but they were both caught by the peloton in which Majka set a furious pace.


The gap went out to 10 seconds while several riders were dropped, including Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana). Moments later the attacking started and after Kanstantsin Siutsou (Sky) had made a first attempt, it was Sergio Henao (Sky) who flew past the two leaders.


Bakelants managed to join Henao while Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Julian Arredondo (Trek) tried to bridge the gap. It was the Colombian who made it across but just as he made the junction it was all back together.


Bakelants led Henao, Fuglsang and Arredondo over the top of the climb and Majka went straight to the front to set the pace. Matthews had been distanced but managed to rejoin the peloton after a sjort chase.


Winner Anacona (Movistar) launched a brief attack but a very strong Majka brought him back and set a fast pace until Albasini attacked with less than 4km to go. Anacona tried to bridge the gap but Siutsou and Simon Spilak (Katusha) managed to bring it all back together.


Jerome Coppel (IAM) launched the next attack and after he had been joined by Lopez and Steve Morabito (FDJ), it looked like a promising move. However, a very impressive Majka managed to bring it all back together with 2km to go.


The attacking continued and it was Laurens Ten Dam (LottoNL) who made the next move. Fuglsang joined him and now Sagan had to react himself. The Slovakian shut it down and quickly reacted when Lopez tried again.


Sagan patrolled the front until Chaves attacked just before the flamme rouge. Brambilla and Ten Dam joined him but were unable to keep up with the Colombian in the uphill finale.


Spilak was now doing a full lead-out for Moreno and as he sent his captain off, the Spaniard passed the fading Chaves. However, Sagan was glued to his wheel and made use of his excellent bike-handling skills to pass him as they went through a turn, crossing the line as a superior winner with Moreno and Thibaut Pinot completing the podium.


Tom Dumoulin stayed attentive in the tricky finale and crossed the line in fifth position. That was eough to defend the lead but he saw his advantage reduced to 5 seconds as Moreno and Sagan are equal on time in second and third position.


The latter has a chance to take the jersey in tomorrow’s fourth stage which should be one for the strongest sprinters. A tough finishing circuit with a category 4 climb ends with a final kilometre that is uphill with an average gradient of 3-4%.


A tough stage

After yesterday’s firdt battle between the GC riders, the main contenders again had to be on their toes in stage 3 which brought the riders over just 117.3km from Quinto to Olivone. Right from the beginning, they went up the big category HC mountain Gotthardpass whose summit was located after 18.8km of racing. From there, they tackled a long descent and a short flat section before they got to the difficult finale that included two climbs. First they went up a category 2 climb which summited just 14.4km from the line before they tackled a category 3 climb just 6.2km from the finish. The final part of the stage was on slightly rising roads.


The riders were again lucky to have dry conditions when they took the start in Quinto and all riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out on their neutral ride. Moments later they were on their way up the Gotthardpass and the attacking started.


The break takes off

Many had expected an aggressive start but the early break took off surprisingly early. Marco Marcato (Wanty) and Stefan Denifl (IAM) were quickly allowed to build an advantage of 1 minute and at the 10km mark, they had extended the gap to 1.33.


As the gap had gone out to more than 2 minutes, Branislau Samoliau (CCC) took off in pursuit. At the top of the climb he was 50 seconds behind the two leaders after Denifl had taken maximum points in the KOM sprint. The peloton crossed the line 3.20 behind the escapees, led by Matthias Brändle (IAM) and KOM leader Luka Pibernik (Lampre-Merida).


Giant-Alpecin in control

On the descent, Samoilau made the junction, meaning that a front trio headed down towards flatter terrain. The peloton was in no hurry and while Giant-Alpecin set a modest pace with Carter Jones and Johannes Fröhlinger, the gap continued to grow.


As they entered the final 55km, the peloton had been distanced by 5.50 and for a moment it seemed that the peloton had decided to take a rest day. The gap even went out to 6.30 before Giant-Alpecin started to ride a bit faster, keeping the gap stable at 6.15 for a while.


Tinkoff-Saxo start to chase

With 35km to go, the situation finally changed when Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front. Pavel Brutt, Nikolay Trusov, Michael Mørkøv and Daniele Bennati traded pulls and when Marcato led Samoilau and Denifl across the line in the first intermediate sprint with 31km to go, the gap was already down to 4 minutes.


The fourt Tinkoff-Saxo riders continued to work well together and even got some assistance from Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE). With 25km to go, they had reduced their deficit to just 3.05 and now the fight for position had started.


A fight for position

The GC swamped Tinkoff-Saxo and Orica-GreenEDGE with 21km to go when Sky, Astana, FDJ and Lotto Soudal lined out their trains on the front. Meanwhile, Marcato led Denigl and Samoilau across the line in the second intermediate sprint, with the peloton following 1.50 later.


Sky, Katusha, FDJ and LottoNL were now on the front before the latter team took control. However, it was Wyss who led the group onto the climb to start the dramatic finale.



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