6/12/2013 - NEWS!
Sagan prevails in Meiringen
June 10, Stage 3: Montreux - Meiringen 203.3km
Frank takes over Tour de Suisse leader's jersey
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won the third stage of the Tour de Suisse on another wet day in the mountains. Second place went to Rui Costa (Movistar) and third to Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff). The fourth man in the group, Mathias Frank (BMC), moved into the race lead.
The winning four-man escape formed on the descent of the final climb. Frank had come into the stage in third place overall, just five seconds out of first, and took the leader's jersey when previous leader Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) was unable to stay with the favourites on the final climb up the category one Hasliberg.
It was Sagan's 50th UCI win and his seventh Tour de Suisse stage win, an astonishing record for a man who is only 23 years old. He combined his climbing and sprinting strengths with clever riding to take the win.
Roman Kreuziger sits second at 23 seconds and Costa at 35 seconds. Meyer had lost contact with the leaders and fell out of the top ten, while previously second ranked Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) crashed out of the race.
Another rainy day in the mountains
The stage started out with a rapid unranked climb and approximately 120 kilometers of rolling terrain. It looked to be picture perfect for an escape group, and those expectations were quickly fulfilled. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Stefan Denifl (IAM) were the first to give it a try, but were soon caught.
Some 30 km into the day, the peloton split and stayed that way over the first climb of the day, the category 3 Chemin de Lorette at 60 km.
Shortly thereafter 18 riders took off from that group to form an extremely high-powered escape. Hayden Roulston (RadioShack), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp), Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Maxime Bouet (AG2R), Matteo Montaguti (AG2R), Wilco Kelderman (Blanco), Matti Breschel (Saxo Tinkoff), Michael Morkov (Saxo Tinkoff), Michael Albasini (ORICA), Jorge Azanza (Euskaltel), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Tom Dumoulin (Argos Shimano), Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling), Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun), Rémi Pauriol (Sojasun) built up a roughly three minute gap on the field.
The course flattened out from 120 to 160 kilometres, before the climbing started again. The peloton was not eager to let those dangerous riders get away, and while the gap held steady for a long time, it had dropped to one and a half minutes with 60 km to go. The group got smaller too, dropping half of its riders in the next 10 kilometers, leaving the group to consist of Hayden Roulston (RadioShack), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma QuickStep), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp), Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Wilco Kelderman (Blanco), Matti Breschel (Saxo Tinkoff), Michael Albasini (ORICA), and Martin Elmiger (IAM Cycling).
Garmin-Sharp's hopes for the Tour de France took a beating when Ryder Hesjedal crashed and had to leave the race. He had come into the stage leading the mountain rankings.
The smaller lead group was able to build the lead back up to the two minute mark. Astana led the chase, setting a high enough pace that riders were dropped off the back of the pack.
With nearly 31 km left in the stage, the climbing started again. First up was the category 4 Innertkirchen, which the lead group tackled together. No one attacked and in fact the top points went to Boonen.
After a short descent, there was the day's second intermediate sprint, with Terpstra taking the points – but again, the formalities didn't seem to interest the group.
The climbing started up again immediately, as the category 1 Hasliberg loomed. The 11.9 km climb had an average gradient of 6.9 per cent, but featured sections up to 20 percent. And immediately, the first riders fell back from the lead group – Boonen and Terpstra.
Both lead and chase groups grew increasingly smaller. Kelderman drove the break group, and world champion Gilbert was unable to follow. Lampre and Saxo-Tinkoff had by now moved to the front of the chasing field.
With 26 km to go, the lead group was reduced to four riders. Kelderman consistently was at the head of things, followed by Albasini, Breschel and Elmiger, as the gap dropped to under a minute. Soon Albasini was alone in the front.
He fought to maintain his 19 second lead, and further back, teammate Meyer lost his fight and dropped back. Soon Albasini was caught.
With Matthias Fränk moving into the virtual race lead, his BMC teammate Tejay van Garderen, usually a captain, moved to help, leading his Swiss teammate on the wet and foggy climb. But ominously clinging to Frank's wheel was the ever-dangerous Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) soon moved to the front, and subsequently led the 15 man group over the climb before they set off on the dangerously wet descent. That didn't stop Kreuzgier, Sagan, Rui Costa (Movistar) and Frank from breaking clear on the way down.
Bauke Mollema (Blanco) attacked out of the chase group, splintering the group. Meanwhile, the four leaders built up their lead, second by second.
The four leaders crossed under the flamme rouge together, but Sagan attacked immediately. Rui Costa gave chase and the other two were unable to catch up. Sagan waited for Rui Costa and let him lead the way to the finish line. As expected, Sagan came around the the Movistar rider to take the win.
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Photo credit © Bettini