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Having made it into a very strong 19-rider breakaway, Lutsenko escaped with Bakelants in the finale before winning the two-rider sprint at the end of stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse; Pinot lost another 3 seconds but retained the lead

Photo: Feltet.dk

ALEXEY LUTSENKO

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ASTANA - PREMIER TECH

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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JAN BAKELANTS

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THIBAUT PINOT

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TOUR DE SUISSE

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WARREN BARGUIL

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20.06.2015 @ 18:38 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) took the biggest win of his professional career when he emerged as the strongest from a formidable 19-rider breakaway in stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse. Having escaped with Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) in the finale, he did almost all the work to keep the chasers at bay before easily winning the sprint. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was dropped in the finale and lost another 3 seconds to Geraint Thomas (Sky) but retained the overall lead on the eve of the final time trial.

 

Three years ago Alexey Lutsenko proved that he is destined for a big future when he won the U23 World Championships in a sprint from a reduced group in Valkenburg. He immediately turned pro with the Astana team and since then he has constantly improved.

 

Last year he took his first professional victories when he won the time trial at the Tour of Denmark and his big home race Tour of Almaty. Furthermore, he impressed in the Vuelta a Espana where he rode very aggressively and finished second in a big mountain stage.

 

However, the 2015 season has been a bad one for the talented Kazakh who missed most of the spring due to injury. Hence, he flew under the radar when he went into the Tour de Suisse but he proved right from the start of the race that he is already in very good condition.

 

Lutsenko has been riding strongly on the climbs, staying with the best in some of the hardest stages, and he has been very aggressive throughout the race, testing himself with attacks and in the sprints. Today he efforts finally paid off when he took the biggest win of his professional career in stage 8 of the Swiss event.

 

Lutsenko joined forces with Stijn Devolder (Trek), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL), Marco Haller, Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Michael Albasini, Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Jan Bakelants, Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r), Davide Rebellin (CCC) and Marco Marcato (Wanty) to form a very strong 19-rider breakaway that escaped after a very hectic and fast start to the hilly circuit race around Bern. Most of the big teams had a rider in the group and so it was left to Cannondale and Sky to try to bring it back.

 

Sky quickly threw in the towel and with 28km to go, Cannondale also gave up. The gap quickly went out from 1.50 to 2.10 as Giant-Alpecin, Sky, LottoNL-Jumo and FDJ were just patrolling the front to keep their captains in a good position.

 

It was now clear that the break would stay away and the attacking started on the first of the two categorized climbs on the hilly circuit. Turgot launched the first move but Kwiatkowski brought it back together and set the pace for most of the climb before Anacona attacked over the top, taking maximum points ahead of Kwiatkowski and Albasini.

 

Turgot and Roelandts were the first to get dropped while Anacona was brought back. The game of cat and mouse had now started and as FDJ were riding in the peloto with Arthur Vichot and Jeremy Roy, the gap came down to 1.35 before Sky hit the front with Christian Knees. The pace was too fast for many of the sprinters, with Mark Cavendish being among the many riders to get dropped.

 

Lutsenko knew that something had to be done and he made an attack on a small climb with 19km to go. He immediately got a big advantage before Haller started to ride strongly on the front, splitting the group as Kwiatkowski and Marcato were the first to get dropped.

 

Bakelants took off and managed to bridge the gap while Rebellin, Trentin, Bennati, Haller, Wyss, Albasini and Barguil were the nearest chasers. Devolder, Anacona, Fumeaux and Meyer managed to rejoin them before Barguil attacked. Meyer, Trentin, Anacona joined him and later Albasini, Bennati, Haller, Wyss, Devolder also made it back while Fumeaux and Rebellin were dropped.

 

Knees was still setting the pace in the peloton which was 2.10 behind with 12km to go where Turgot was caught. Meanwhile, Lutsenko did almost all the work in the front dup which had extended their advantage to 20 seconds with 10km to go.

 

There was no great cooperation in the break which prompted Trentin to attack. Barguil, Wyss, Haller and Albasini were immediately on his wheel and later the chase group came back together.

 

Meyer now sacrificed himself for Albasini and he kept the gap stable at around 15 seconds until they hit the short 500m climb with 3km to go. Here he swung off an left it to Albasini and Bennati to set the pace before Haller and Barguil attacked.

 

The chase group came back together while Lutsenko just set the pace all the way up the climb, taking maximum points ahead of Bakelants and Trentin. The gap had now gone out to 20 seconds and as the chasers failed to cooperate, it was clear that the break would stay away.

 

Lutsenko set the pace until just 800m remained when he asked Bakelants to come through. The Belgian hit the front while Barguil took off in pursuit of the duo.

 

Bakelants seemed to have almost given up and set the pace until 200m to go. Here he tried to launch a long sprint but when he was easily passed by Lutsenko, he sat up, allowing the Kazakh to take the win. Barguil took third while Haller won the sprint for fourth.

 

In the peloton, the GC battle raged on the final climb which made the group explode to pieces. Geraint Thomas (Sky), Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and the Katusha pair of Daniel Moreno and Simon Spilak got an advantage while race leader Thibaut Pinot and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) were desperately leading the chase in the second group. The quintet managed to gain 3 seconds on their chasers that were led to the finish by Bob Jungels Trek.

 

Hence, Pinot saw his lead over Thomas being reduced to just 34 seconds as he goes into the final time trial. The 38.4km stage is held on today’s circuit and so includes numerous ups and downs in rolling terrain, making it one for the versatile riders.

 

A lumpy circuit

After yesterday’s hilly stage, the terrain got even harder in stage 8 which brought the riders over 152.5km in the lumpy terrain around the capital of Bern. It was made up of four laps of the same 38.7km circuit that will be used for tomorrow’s time trial and it was a testing affair with lots of ups and downs and two category 3 climbs. The second half of the circuit was mostly descending but the final climb was a nasty sting in the tail as it summited just 2.5km from the finish and from there it was flat and technical in the final section that led to the line.

 

It was a nice, sunny day when the riders gathered for the start in Bern. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out through the neutral zone.

 

A strong break

This stage was probably the one with the biggest chance for a break to make it to the finish and so it was no surprise that it got off to a very fast start with lots of attacks. A very strong 12-rider group with Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Ben King (Cannondale), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Laurent Didier (Trek), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE), Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep), Mike Teunissen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Gregory Rast (Trek), Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Moreno Moser (Cannondale) and Frank Schleck (Trek) managed to build an advantage of 16 seconds but they were brought back In the hectic opening phase.

 

While Jasper Stuyven (Trek) abandoned due to back problems and Mario Costa (Lampre-Merida), Tom Leezer (LottoNL), Bakhtyar Kozhaytaev (Astana), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Soudal), Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) and Guillaume Bonnafond (Ag2r) also left the race during the first lap, the attacking continued. In three waves, a 19-rider group finally got clear and they had an advantage of 47 seconds after 27km of racing.

 

A 19-rider break gets clear

Stijn Devolder (Trek), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Nikolay Trusov (Tinkoff-Saxo), Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL), Marco Haller, Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Katusha), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Michael Albasini, Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE), Winner Anacona (Movistar), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Michal Kwiatkowski, Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Jan Bakelants, Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r), Davide Rebellin (CCC) and Marco Marcato (Wanty) were the riders who had made it into the move and they had extended their advantage to 52 seconds at the end of the first lap. Cannondale-Garmin had missed the move and were leading the chase but they quickly left it to FDJ to set the pace.

 

With 100km to go, the gap was 1.20 and it was still growing. 5km later it was 2.05 and with 78km to go, it had gone out to 2.13. Moments later, Bakelants led Kuznetsov and Lutsenko across the line in the first intermediate sprint.

 

Fuglsang abandons

Bakelants led Barguil, Anacona and Meyer over the top in the first KOM sprint while Sky, FDJ and Cannondale-Garmin were now leading the chase 2.20 behind the escapees. Arnaud Demare, Danny Pate, Bernhard Eisel and Tom Danielson traded pulls and when FDJ stopped their work with 50km to go, Matej Mohoric also started to work for Cannondale.

 

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) was suffering from stomach problems and he was dropped with 45km to go. Valerio Agnoli tried to bring him back to the peloton but as they hit the second climb on the circuit, he gave up and left the race.

 

Cannondale chase hard

Sky had now also stopped their work and it was the Cannondale trio of Ben King, Mohoric and Danielson that set the pace 2.05 behind the escapees. Roelandts briefly accelerated to lead Wyss across the line in the second intermediate sprint.

 

The front group rode slowly up the final climb where Turgot led Rebellin and Kuznetsov over the line at the top. Moments later, Wyss led them across the finish line to start the final lap of the circuit.

 

Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) crashed out of the race while Cannondale’s fast pace made the peloton split and brought the gap down to 1.40 with 30km to go. Moments later, they gave up though and from there it was evident that the break would decide the stage.

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