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A superior Sagan opens his 2014 Tour de Suisse account by holding off Albasini in the uphill sprint at the end of the third stage; Martin loses a few seconds but defends his lead

Photo: Sirotti












16.06.2014 @ 18:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) continued his love story with the Tour de Suisse when he won his first stage in this year’s edition of the race in impressive fashion. When it all came down to an uphill sprint on the 3km climb to the finish, he easily passed Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) on the short finishing straight to take the win while Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) lost a few seconds in the finale but defended his overall lead.


One year ago Peter Sagan showed amazing climbing skills to win the very mountainous third stage of the Tour de Suisse. Today he made use of those same skills to win the third stage of the 2014 edition of the Swiss race.


With the stage ending on a 3km climb with an average gradient of around 5%, the finale as tailor-made for the Slovakian and he was always regarded as the man to beat if it came down to an uphill sprint. The main question was whether his Cannondale team would be strong enough to keep things together on the many hills in the second half but Sagan had no reason to worry.


Hard work by Garmin-Sharp, FDJ and Giant-Shimano made sure that the many attacks were all neutralized and so it all came down to the legs on the final climb. Apparently at ease, Sagan moved from wheel to wheel as new riders moved to the front and never seemed to be in any kind of trouble.


When Cadel Evans accelerated with 300m to go, Sagan was straight on his wheel and moved passed the Australian when Michael Albasini took over after the penultimate corner. Sagan tried to pass the Swiss as they went into the final turn less than 100m from the line but briefly seemed to be out of the running when he was boxed towards the barrier.


Albasini swerved slightly to the right to make room for Sagan and the Slovakian was quick to make use of the situation. Pushing a bit harder on the pedals for a few seconds, he easily passed the local hero before sitting up, pointing to his thighs as he crossed the line.


Tony Martin had taken the initiate to string things out on the final climb but paid the prize for his efforts in the end as he ended on the wrong side of a split in the finale. As a consequence, he lost 5 seconds to most of the GC contenders but as his main rival Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano) was in the same group, he defended his 6-second lead while Sagan moved into third.


For one of the pre-race favourites, it ended as a very bad day as Bradley Wiggins (Sky) is clearly out of form and rolled across the line with a time loss of more than 2 minutes. However, Sky still have a good card to play as a very strong Sergio Henao finished third on the stage.


Martin should have an easier task on hand tomorrow when the race continues with its fourth stage. It is a mostly flat run from Heiden to Osssingen and the two category 4 climbs in the second half should do nothing to prevent the first bunch sprint of the race.


First uphill finish

After yesterday’s massive amount of climbing, there were no big mountains in today’s third stage of the Tour de Suisse but this didn’t mean that the 206.2km from Sarnen to Heiden were a flat affair. On the contrary, it had a very hilly end. A flat start led to a category 2 climb at the 80km mark and from there it was up or down all the way to the finish. Another two ascents were categorized – both in the second category – and it all came to an end with a 3km climb to the finish whose 5% average gradient made it one suited to puncheurs.


170 riders took the start under beautiful sunny condition as only one rider failed to continue the race. Frank Schleck (Trek) crashed on the descent from the Grimselpass and even though he suffered no broken bones, a severe concussion made it impossible for him to continue his most important preparation race for the Tour de France.


A fast start

Even though the start was flat, the hilly course invited to attacks and many expected that a breakaway would have a chance for a second consecutive day. Hence, it was a very fast start to the stage, with several riders launching early attacks.


Julian Kern (Ag2r) seemed to have made the right move when he opened up a 30-second gap. Jerome Baugnies (Wanty) took off in pursuit but both riders were caught a little further down the road.


A duo takes off

After 20km of aggressive racing, things were still together but soon after Steven Kruijswijk (Belkin) and Martin Kohler (BMC) took off. At the 25km mark, they were 18 seconds ahead and when the peloton decided that they had had enough of the early aggression, the gap started to grow.


After 54km of racing, the duo were 4.45 ahead but they were kept under tight control. When they started the first climb of the day, their advantage had been brought down to 3.45 and when Kohler beat Kruijswijk in the sprint for the points, they were only 2.52 ahead. KOM leader Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) won the sprint for the minor points to solidify his lead in the competition.


Orica-GreenEDGE shuts it down

The gap was down to 2.45 at the 94km mark but then the peloton again stepped off the gas. After 117km of racing, the gap had grown back up to 4.12.


That was the signal for Orica-GreenEDGE to kick into action and in one short acceleration, they brought the two escapees back. With a little more than 70km to go, it was all back together and the attacking could start again.


Schurter on the attack

It was Nino Schurter (Orica-GreenEDGE) that kicked off the action when he attacked on the penultimate climb. Laurent Didier (Trek) took off in pursuit while Gert Steegmans took over the pace-setting for OPQS.


Didier bridged the gap and just before the top Thurau started his quest to score more points. The Europcar rider crossed the line in third position while Didier led Schurter over the top.


Wyss and Thurau join the break

Danilo Wyss (BMC) attacked on the descent and he picked up Thurau before joining the front duo to turn it into a quartet. Meanwhile, OPQS completely slowed down, allowing the gap to grow to a minute.


Daniele Ratto (Cannondale) made a short-lived attack before Tom Boonen and Steegmans went to work for OPQS. For a little while, they kept the gap stable at around a minute before they gradually accelerated and with 45km to go, they had it down to 30 seconds.


Agnoli and van der Sande bridge across

Thurau decided that he had had enough and dropped back to the peloton that had again stepped off the gas. When the gap was up to 50 seconds, Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Beliol) attacked and he opened a small gap.


As they hit a hard uncategorized climb, Valerio Agnoli (Astana) took off and he picked up van der Sande before bridging across to the leader to make it a 5-rider front group. With the situation becoming more dangerous, it was now Boonen and Niki Terpstra riding hard on the front for OPQS as riders started to drop off.


Garmin set a brutal pace

With 31km to go, Garmin-Sharp decided that they wanted to make the race hard. Johan Vansummeren, Benjamin King and Nathan Brown took over the pace-setting and the peloton blew to pieces, with Fabian Cancellara, Sacha Modolo and Philip Deignan being some of the riders to get dropped.


As they hit the final categorized climb of the day, Didier fell off the pace and he was soon back in the peloton that had now dropped Mark Cavendish, Matt Goss and Ben Swift. As they neared the summit, Warren Barguil (Giant) attacked but he was soon brought back.


Barguil attacks again

Wyss led Schurter and van der Sande over the top while Barguil made another attack on the descent. He was soon back in the fold and instead Danny Van Poppel (Trek) made a move.


The escapees had now started to attack each other. Agnoli was the first to give it a go and when he was brought back Wyss tried. When van der Sande attacked, Agnoli joined him and later Schurter also bridged the gap by Wyss decided to wait for the peloton.


FDJ take over

FDJ had now taken control to keep Thibaut Pinot safe on the descent and it was Jeremy Roy and later Anthony Roux who set a fast pace on the front. Up ahead, van der Sande attacked again and this time he got clear.


Unfortunately, Agnoli crashed on the descent but luckily got back on his bike Schurter was brought back ad with 7km to go, FDJ had also brought van der Sande back.


Degenkolb sets the pace

Giant-Shimano now took control with John Degenkolb and Koen De Kort setting the pace until they hit the bottom of the climb. Niki Terpstra took a brief turn for OPQS but it was his teammate Matteo Trentin who set the pace on the lower slopes.


2km from the finish Peter Kennaugh (Sky) attacked and was joined by Georg Preidler (Giant-Shimano). Arnold Jeannesson shut it down for FDJ and instead Kennaugh decided to ride hard on the front, working for Henao.


Ten Dam attacks

Rafael Valls took over for Lampre-Merida to set up world champion Rui Costa and led the group under the flamme rouge. Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin) launched the next attack but Sagan’s teammate Davide Formolo shut it down.


Martin made a surprising acceleration until Evans took over. The Australian led the peloton into the penultimate turn but was passed by Albasini and Sagan before they got to the final decisive corner.


Going through the turn, Sagan tried to pass Albasini but instead ended up almost getting boxed in. When the door opened, he accelerated past Albasini to take his 9th stage win in the Swiss race.



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