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With a powerful solo attack 4.5km from the top of the brutal Rettenbachferner climb, van Garderen won the Tour de Suisse queen stage; Lopez beat Barguil in the sprint for second and the Frenchman took the yellow jersey

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TEJAY VAN GARDEREN

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TOUR DE SUISSE

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WARREN BARGUIL

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17.06.2016 @ 18:09 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) bounced back from yesterday’s huge disappointment by riding to a dominant solo win in the Tour de Suisse queen stage. Attacking 4.5km from the top of the brutal Rettenbachferner, one of the hardest climbs in Europe, he dropped an elite group of climbers and held off Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin). Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) lost more than two minutes and so Barguil takes over the lead, with Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) now looking like th big favourite as he is just 24 seconds behind in third place.

 

Yesterday was one of the most disappointing days of Tejay van Garderen’s career. The American had started the Tour de Suisse as arguably the biggest favourite for the overall win but a dramatic collapse in the cold saw him drop out of winning contention.

 

Van Garderen was adamant that there was nothing wrong with the condition and it is indeed true that he had looked like the strongest rider in stage 5. Hence, he aimed at proving his critics wrong in today’s queen stage which finished at the top of the brutal Rettenbachferner climb which is known as one of the hardest climbs in Europe.

 

Right from the lower slopes, it was evident that van Garderen was back at his best as he looked comfortable in the group. When he hit out 4.5km from home, no one even tried to respond and from there the outcome was never in doubt. Van Garderen showed no signs of weakness and had plenty of time to celebrate one of the most important wins of his career.

 

Further back, the battle for the GC was on and it was race leader Wilco Kelderman who cracked first. While he slipped out of contention, Warren Barguil launched an attack to try to gain time of Andrew Talansky ahead of the time trial. The Frenchman did well to cross the line in third behind Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) but Talansky gauged his effort perfectly. Having lost contact on the lower slopes, the American finished strongly to take fifth and move into third overall, just 24 seconds behind new leader Barguil.

 

The real race started on the final 11.5km climb which Matthias Brändle (IAM) and Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) hit with an advantage of 7.15. Brändle left Keisse behind immediately. In the peloton, Kiel Reijnen and Jasper Stuyven (Trek) led the group onto the ascent but it was Johannes Fröhlinger (Giant-Alpecin) who created the first big selection, sending riders like Peter Sagan, Philippe Gilbert and Pieter Weening out the back door.

 

Disaster struck for Dimension Data captain Natnael Berhane who punctured just as the climb started. He got a wheel from teammate Reinardt van Rensburg but faced a long solo chase.

 

Bram Tankink briefly hit the front for LottoNL-Jumbo but it was a huge work by Laurens Ten Dam (Giant-Alpecin) who really made the peloton explode before Simon Geschke took over. He whittled the group down to 20 riders but was dropped when Michele Scarponi (Astana) upped the pace even further. At this point, Brändle was only 4.45 ahead.

 

Scarponi dropped Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Sergei Chernetskii (Katusha), Hubert Dupont (Ag2r), Pawel Cieslik (Verva) and whittled the group down to 15 riders before he swung off. Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) attacked but as Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) took over the pace-setting, he was brought back immediately.

 

Kiryienka’s brutal pace whittled the group down to Simon Spilak (Katusha), Mamykin, Darwin Atapuma, van Garderen (BMC), Geraint Thomas, Kiryienka (Sky), Kelderman (LottoNL), Rui Costa, Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida), Barguil (Giant), Talansky, Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM), Lopez (Astana), Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Jan Hirt and Victor De La Parte (CCC) and as he continued to ride on the front, Kelderman and Talansky started to suffer. Alongside, Dombrowski, Polanc and Atapuma, they lost contact and it was Dombrowski who tried to keep Talansky in contention by setting the pace.

 

Kelderman was clearly suffering a lot and he was unable to keep up with the Cannondale pair who made it back to the leaders. Meanwhile, Kiryienka continued to press on, bringing Keisse back in the process.

 

While Atapuma rejoined the peloton, Kiryienka’s brutal pace ended the day for Dombrowski as the Cannondale rider fell off. Mamykin also briefly lost contact but he slowly made it back.

 

In a short flat section with 6km to go, the gap had dropped to just one minute but as Brädnle could barely keep the bike going when he again hit steep roads, his advantage melted away. With 5.5km to go, it was over for the Austrian. Meanwhile, Atapuma was dropped and moments later Mamykin’s yo-yoing ended as he was distanced. At this point, Kelderman had already lost 50 seconds.

 

With 4.5km to go, van Garderen launched his big attack and as he was no immediate GC threat, he immediately got an advantage. In just 500m, he distanced his rivals by 20 seconds as Kiryienka just continued to pace the group.

 

With 3.6km to go, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) took off in pursuit of van Garderen and nobody reacted to the strong Frenchman. However, he failed to get any closer to the American as he was still 20 seconds behind with 3km to go. At this point, the peloton was at 35 seconds.

 

Kiryienka continued to lose ground and as he started to fade, Pantano also took off. Talansky seemed to be feeling better as he moved towards the front end of the group. That turned out to be true as he took over the pace-setting when Kiryienka finally swing off with 2km to go.

 

Pantano rejoined Barguil who was stuck 20 seconds behind van Garderen. However, the pair started to lose ground and the gap had gone out to 30 seconds with 1.5km to go.

 

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) launched the next attack while Simon Spilak (Katusha) made a failed attempt to follow. The Colombian quickly approached Barguil and Pantano.

 

Talansky had ready found his best legs and only Spilak could follow as he left Thomas, Izagirre, De La Parte, Hirt and Costa behind. The Russian even lost contact and for a moment, it looked like the American would even make it back to Barguil and Pantano.

 

Inside the final kilometre, Barguil tried to get rid of Pantano. He failed but when Lopez sprinted past the pair, only the Frenchman could follow. However, it was too late and even though they halved the gap in the final kilometre, van Garderen could celebrate his win. Lopez beat Barguil in the sprint for second 16 seconds later while Talansky nearly caught Pantano, crossing the line in fifth with a loss of 33 seconds. Thomas exploded in the finale and didn’t even finish in the top 10.

 

The result saw Barguil move into the race lead with a 21-second advantage over Lopez, with Talansky sitting in third three seconds further back. However, there will be no room to rest and there’s another key stage on the menu on Saturday. Stage 8 is the 16.8km time trial in Davos and it’s a pretty mixed affair. The first half is mainly flat while the second part has a 2-3km climb before a descent leads to a flat finish.

 

The queen stage

After two tough days in the mountains, there was no chance to rest as stage 7 was the queen stage. It was a mammoth 224.3km course that brought the riders from Arbon to the top of the Rettenbachferner glacier near the Austrian city of Sölden. After a flat start, there was an early HC climb and then flat roads led to the bottom of the final climb which is known as one of the hardest climbs in Europe. The brutal climb averaged 11.0% over 10.9km and was expected to be the scene of a huge battle between the favourites.

 

A sick Dries Devenyns (IAM), Amets Txurruka (Orica-GreenEdge) who suffers from a knee injury and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal) who has back problems were all absent when the field gathered in Arbon under a dry and fairly sunny sky. Immediately from the start there were obviously a lot of attacks, but unlike the previous days it was a very small group that got away. After 20 km of racing, Matthias Brändle (IAM) and Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) got clear and they quickly got a lead of 1.05.

 

Tolhoek bridges across

Antwan Tolhoek (Roompot) could win the mountains jersey today, and he refused to give up. The tiny climber took off in pursuit of the two big engines but he stayed 40 seconds behind the front duo who had built a lead of more than 3 minutes. After 41km of racing, it had even grown to 7 minutes and Tolhoek had not made the junction yet.

 

Impressively, the stubborn Dutchman bridged the gap and thus a trio had gathered with a lead of nine minutes after 50 kilometers of racing. It even reached a massive 12.25 before the front trio hit the first climb. Here Tolhoek beat Brändle and Keisse in the KOM sprint while Sindre Lunke (FDJ) and Bram Tankink (LottoNL-Jumbo) led the peloton to the top 10.24 later.

 

Latour abandons

Kamil Gradek (Verva), Raymond Kreder, Berden De Vries (Roompot) and Oscar Gatto (Tinkoff) abandoned, but the big loss for the race came when a sick Pierre Latour (Ag2r) also had to throw in the towel. At the same time, the peloton slowly brought the break back. At the 116km mark, it was down to 9.25 and it was 9.00 30km later.

 

Tolhoek decided to wait for the peloton which surprisingly showed down and allowed the gap to go out to 11.30. Finally, a big alliance between the GC teams was formed when Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Twan Castelijns, Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), Sindre Lunke and Sam Oomen (Giant-Alpecin) started to chase. With 40km to go, they had reduced the gap to 10.30 and brought Tolhoek back.

 

Richeze scores points

Despite the hard work, the gap was only coming down slowly and it was still 9.00 when Keisse beat Brändle in the first intermediate sprint with 27km to go. With help from Etixx-QuickStep teammates Zdenek Stybar and Yves Lampaert, Maximilano Richeze was allowed to pick up the final climb uncontested.

 

As the fight for position slowly started, Catelijns, Van Asbroeck, Smukulis, Lunke and Oomen reduced the gap to 8.00 as they entered the final 15km. Moments later Keisse led Brändle across the line in the final intermediate sprint before Richeze again picked up the final point, crossing the 6.40 line later. It was now a big fight for position as Trek had taken control with Kiel Reijnen and Jasper Stuyven and moments later they hit the climb where the final action played out.

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