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One year after his horrific crash, Chaves beats all the Tour de France stars by launching a well-timed attack to hold off Kreuziger and Mollema by 3 seconds; Martin stays with his main rivals and defends his lead

Photo: Delmati

BAUKE MOLLEMA

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DECEUNINCK - QUICK-STEP

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ESTEBAN CHAVES

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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ROMAN KREUZIGER

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TONY MARTIN

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TOUR DE SUISSE

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21.06.2014 @ 17:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) marked that he is back to his best after last year’s horrific crash in the Trofeo Laigueglia when he took the biggest win of his career in today’s first mountaintop finish in the Tour de Suisse. The Colombian launched a perfectly timed attack on the final climb and managed to hold off a fierce chase by Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) by 3 seconds while Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) stayed with main rivals Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Mathias Frank (IAM) and so defended his overall lead.

 

In February 2013, Johan Esteban Chaves had a horrific crash in the Trofeo Laigueglia and saw his career come under threat at a time when he had started to mix it up with the very best in the mountains. He didn’t do any racing for the rest of the year but managed to make a full recovery from his injuries.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE believed in the talents of the former Tour de l’Avenir winner and offered him a WorldTour contract and today he paid them back for their confidence when the won the first big mountaintop finish in the Tour de Suisse in solo fashion, holding off plenty of Tour de France contenders close to their top form. The victory comes just a month after his first big win for his new team on the queen stage of the Tour of California.

 

While Belkin’s Laurens Ten Dam did a lot of damage on the final climb to Verbier, Chaves was always riding comfortably near the front positions and when the favourites Mathias Frank and Roman Kreuziger started to attack, he was always up there. Finally, he launched a well-timed attack and only another youngster Davide Formolo (Cannondale) could follow him.

 

Chaves continued to ride hard and quickly got rid of Formolo while further behind, the peloton was splintering to pieces. Bauke Mollema and Roman Kreuziger emerged as the strongest and passed Formolo.

 

However, they never managed to regain contact with the impressive Chaves who maintained his speed all the way to the top of the climb. From there, 1.8km remained and even though the chasing pair got close he held on to take the win, 3 seconds ahead of Kreuziger who beat Mollema in the sprint for second.

 

Behind those three riders, the battle for the overall victory was on but neither Rui Costa nor Mathias Frank managed to get rid of race leader Tony Martin. In fact, the world champion seemed to be hurting a lot more than the race leader and they crested the summit as part of a 5-rider group that soon caught Formolo.

 

Eros Capecchi (Movistar) won the sprint for fourth, 16 seconds behind Chaves, while the three main contenders finished one second later. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) lost a bit of ground but limited his losses and remains in second on GC, 51 seconds behind Martin.

 

Martin just faces one final challenge but it is the hardest of the entire race. The tour ends with another big mountain stage with three big climbs before it all comes to a dramatic conclusion on the 20km ascent to the finish in Saas-Fee and so a lot can change right until the end of the race.

 

The first mountaintop finish

After yesterday’s first big GC battle in the time trial, it was finally time for the climbers to come to the fore in the longest stage of the race that brought the riders over 219.2km from Delemont to a mountaintop finish in Verbier. The first part of the stage consisted of an almost completely flat run along the valley but with 30km to go, the riders started to climb. First they went up a category 3 climb and after a very short flat section, they hit the bottom of the 8km climb to Verbier. The summit was located just 1.8km from the line and then it was 800m of flat before the final kilometre ramped up at an average gradient of 6.6%.

 

As it has been the case for most of the race, the riders took the start under beautiful sunshine and as there was very little wind, it was the perfect day for a bike race. There were no non-starters, meaning that the 153 riders that finished the time trial were still in the race.

 

The break takes off

The neutral zone provided a bit of drama as Heinrich Haussler (IAM) hit the deck but the Australian was able to rejoin the group before the flag was waved to signal the official start of the race. There was a bit of attacking at the beginning but the break took off pretty early.

 

After less than 10km of racing, Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Christian Knees (Sky), Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Gregory Rast (Trek) initiated the move and they were joined by Sebastien Minard (Ag2r), Laurens De Vreese (Wanty) and Nathan Brown (Garmin-Sharp) to form a 7-rider group that soon got a decent gap. After 15km of racing, they were already 1.40 ahead while Mateuz Taciak (CCC) had taken off in pursuit but was trailing the leaders by 32 seconds.

 

Taciak makes the junction

While Taciak continued his battle, Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) hit the deck and unfortunately the Eritrean was forced to abandon. After 38km of racing, Taciak had still not made the junction but the gap from the leaders to the peloton had grown to 4.18.

 

Taciak finally bridged the gap to make it a leading octet that continued to build its advantage. After 82km of racing, they were 5.40 ahead and in the feed zone at the 106km mark, they had extended it to 6.37. At this point, Sky lost the final of their three GC riders when Peter Kennaugh abandoned the race.

 

The chase gets earnest

The gap reached a maximum of 7.18 after 122km of racing but then the peloton started to chase in earnest. 30km further up the road, the advantage had already been reduced to 4.50. Since then it grew a bit and with 47km to go, it was 5.05.

 

The peloton was now in full chase mode as FDJ and Lampre-Merida were riding as hard as they could, with Laurent Mangel, Geoffrey Soupe and Maximiliano Richeze doing the work. However, the escapees were still 4.20 ahead with 26km to go.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo take control

Thibaut Pinot had a mechanical which forced FDJ to stop their chase and instead IAM joined Lampre Nelson Oliveira did a lot of work but when they started to climb, they stopped their chase, leaving it to Gert Steegmans to set a steady pace for OPQS.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo didn’t want to let the opportunity slip away and so the Danish team took over. Matti Breschel, Michael Mørkøv, Daniele Bennati and Chris Anker Sørensen did a lot of work and now the gap was melting away.

 

The peloton splits to pieces

Lampre-Merida again hit the front with Nelso Oliveira, Sacha Mdolo and Richeze and led the peloton onto the category 3 climb. Up ahead, Rast fell off the pace and moments later Taciak was the next to surrender.

 

The peloton was exploding to pieces, with Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan being some of the first to get dropped. Up ahead, Wyss launched an attack and was joined by Rojas and those two riders crested the summit with a 1.25 advantage over the peloton that was now led by Georg Preidler (Giant-Shimano).

 

IAM in control

De Vreese managed to rejoin the leaders after the top while Knees, Minard and Brown were together a bit further back. At the bottom of the final climb they were still 1.25 ahead as Tinkoff-Saxo had now joined Preidler on the front, with Matteo Tosatto and Manuele Boaro contributing to the pace-setting.

 

Linus Gerdemann (MTN) tried to attack but as IAM took over he got nowhere. Up ahead, Knees bridged to the leaders and tried to get straight past them. He failed and instead Brown also got back to make it a 5-rider front group.

 

Wyss the lone leader

Brown launched an immediate attack but was joined by Wyss who dropped him soon after. Behind Reto Hollenstein was doing a lot of work for IAM until Warren Barguil took over for Giant-Shimano.

 

Wyss did a great job to extend his advantage to 1.00 and also gained ground on Rojas and Brown who were his nearest chasers. Meanwhile, the peloton slowed completely down which prompted Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) to attack.

 

Meintjes attacks

Jonathan Fumeaux again upped the pace for IAM and he brought most of the early escapees back. Later Steven Kruijswijk took over for Belkin but the pace was not fast enough to prevent Louis Meintjes (MTN) from launching an attack.

 

Kevin Seeldraeyers (Wanty) tried to join him but never managed to do so and instead Meintjes bridged the gap to Thurau. They were now the nearest chasers of Wyss but were only 10 seconds ahead of the Belkin-led peloton.

 

Ten Dam drops the hammer

As Laurens Ten Dam took over the pace-setting, the peloton exploded to pieces, with Tom-Jelte Slagte being the first notable victim. Moments later, Andy Schleck (Trek) and Ion Izagirre (Movistar) were some of the next to get dropped.

 

Ten Dam brought Meintjes and Thurau back and soon after it was also over for Wyss. That was the signal for Oliver Zaugg to up the pace for Tinkoff-Saxo which was too much for Pinot who fell off.

 

Frank attacks

With 3km to go, Frank laucnehd the first attack but Kreuziger easily shut it down. The Czech tried to get clear but as he failed to get a gap, he continued to set a hard pace with Frank, Mollema, Rafael Valls, Costa, Formolo and Martin on his wheel.

 

Steve Morabito, Capecchi and Sergio Pardilla (MTN) joined them before Chaves launched his attack. Formolo joined him while Mollema led the chase.

 

Formolo gets dropped

The nearest chasers were now Mollema, Kreuizger, Frank, Valls, Costa and Martin but the former three soon got a gap. While Formolo fell off Chaves’ pace, Frank was dropped by Mollema and Kreuziger.

 

The pair of Tour contenders passed Formolo but they didn’t get any close to Chaves. Behind, Valls did all the work in a 5-rider group that contained his teammate Costa, Capecchi, Frank and Martin.

 

That was the situation at the top of the climb and it was now clear that Chaves would hold onto the win. He lost a bit of ground in the flat section but had a 3-second advantage when he crossed the line. Philip Deignan (Sky) and Janier Acevedo (Garmin) joined the chase group that finished the stage with a time loss of 17 secons.

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