6/17/2012 12:00:00 AM - TEAM NEWS!
Costa wins Tour de Suisse overall
Kangert victorious in final stage
Rui Costa (Movistar) secured overall victory at the Tour de Suisse after successfully containing the attacks of his rivals on the final day to Sörenberg, while Estonia’s Tanel Kangert (Astana) took stage honours.
After seeing his overall lead slashed to a slender 14-second margin over Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) on Saturday, Rui Costa’s grip on the yellow jersey had appeared somewhat tenuous as the stage began, but the Portuguese rider showed considerable tactical acumen and resolve to defend his lead on a day that saw the peloton tackle two hors categorie climbs and the tricky haul to the finish at Sörenberg.
The biggest challenge to Costa’s lead came from Schleck himself, who launched a bold attack on the penultimate climb, the Glaubenberg. Crossing the summit, the Luxembourger had almost a minute in hand on the fragmented yellow jersey group and although there were still 40 kilometres to go, Schleck appeared on course to move up to top spot on the podium.
The long, open descent took its toll on his chances, however, and when there was a general regrouping behind, Schleck opted to sit up and play his hand on the final climb rather than continue alone. With Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) all alongside Schleck and Rui Costa in the yellow jersey group, the stage appeared set for a battle royale on the final climb.
Instead, Rui Costa’s overall lead never came under the kind of threat he might have anticipated in the closing kilometres, thanks in no small part to the work of his teammate Alejandro Valverde, who returned from suspension for his part in Operacion Puerto at the beginning of his season.
When Steven Kruijswijk (Rabobank) powered off the front at the base of the final climb in a dangerous move that included Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) and Mathias Frank (BMC), it was Valverde who hit the front to set the tempo for Rui Costa and ensure that the Dutch talent’s lead never stretched much beyond 30 seconds and never seriously threatened the overall lead.
Valverde’s pace-setting then had another, equally important residual effect – it kept an even pace in the yellow jersey group and discouraged attacks from the likes of Schleck and Nieve, much to the relief of Rui Costa, who had floundered in the face of their accelerations the previous day.
The attack from Nieve finally came when Valverde finally swung over in the closing kilometres, but with the road flattening out, it was too little, too late from the Euskaltel rider. Rui Costa proved equal to the task of following the pace in the group of favourites, and he came across the finish line alongside Schleck, Leipheimer and Gesink to confirm his overall victory.
How it unfolded
With 218 kilometres and three major climbs on the agenda, it was perhaps not surprising that no fewer than 52 riders opted to withdraw from the race on what was a long and arduous final stage. The fast opening to affairs can hardly have helped their morale, either – it took almost an hour of attacking before the day’s break was finally rubber-stamped and Jeremy Roy (FDJ-BigMat), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM), Tanel Kangert (Astana) and Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r-La Mondiale) went clear.
They soon built up a lead of over 12 minutes – enough to put Kangert briefly into the virtual overall lead – but with RadioShack-Nissan springing into life as the roads climbed in the second half of the stage, that advantage steadily began to tumble.
Gregory Rast and Linus Gerdemann’s work on the Glaubenbielen significantly reduced the size of the peloton, and on the following climb, it was their leader Fränk Schleck who put the hammer down. The Luxembourger responded to an attack from Nieve with 45 kilometres to go, and opted to continue alone when he saw the carnage that had been caused behind.
Climbing seated, Schleck tapped out a fine rhythm en route to the summit, while Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda), Nieve, Gesink and Rui Costa scrambled behind. By the top, Schleck had a minute and it momentarily appeared as though he might carry that lead all the way to the finish, but once the chase organised itself on the descent, it soon became clear that he would be swallowed up sooner or later.
And so to a final ascent high on tension, but ultimately low on aggression from those closest to Rui Costa’s lead, thanks in no small part to his teammate Valverde’s efforts.
Up the road, meanwhile, the group of early leaders had fragmented as the climbing took its toll. Only Roy, Kangert and Montaguti remained on the final ascent, and Roy’ looked to go clear alone with two kilometres to go. Kangert matched him pedal stroke for pedal stroke, however, and when another Roy acceleration 800 metres from home failed to rid him of the Estonian, there was an air of inevitability about the two-up sprint.
Read more on: cyclingnews.com
Rui Costa (Movistar) finishes up the final stage in the Tour de Suisse
Photo: © Sirotti