For day three of the Tour de Suisse, the race headed west towards Bern, on a route that took in three categorised climbs and some undulating terrain. While the finale was earmarked as a sprint, some hard climbs, as well as an uphill drag to the finish, would make the going tough for the pure sprinters. In spite of looking strong in the sprint, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was unable to find a gap in a close fought battle for the win, taking second and moving up to third in the GC.
Today’s route covered a 159km parcours – more undulating than the previous day’s stage, and with it came more strategic opportunities to go for the win. The stage saw three categorised climbs – the last being close to the finish in Bern, where there was every chance of a late attack. While the final kilometre was far from flat, the stage was classed as a sprint stage, and while not necessarily one for the out and out sprinters, it was one that the all-rounders would have no trouble contesting – as long as they kept their eye on any late attempts to break away, and were prepared for some pavé in the closing 10km.
As to be expected, a break made its way up the road early in the day, building up a significant advantage in a short time. Hitting the first climb, the escapees had almost nine minutes in hand over the peloton, but with only two riders in the break, it would be hard to hold that advantage to the finish. As the day went on, the gap steadily dropped, although the break made it clear they intended to hold out as long as they could. With 19km remaining, the first of the breakaway was caught, and 6km later, the last of the day’s break was brought in and it was all back together.
With things ramping up for the finish, the peloton made its way into Bern for the finale. While the UNESCO world heritage city had some beautiful buildings and stunning sights, the urban setting brought with it street furniture, roundabouts and some tight turns to negotiate. Allowing the other teams to drive the pace today, the BORA-hansgrohe riders were working to keep UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, safe in the run up to the finish, making sure he was well protected as the race hit the cobblestone streets in a circuit that rode like a criterium course. Well-placed in the bunch, Peter was keeping his eye on his rivals as the final kilometre brought with it some tough ascents, but sitting around five riders back, the Slovak rider could keep an eye on the other contenders, looking relaxed even as the race hit its final 500m. Kicking with 100m to go, his wheels squirming under the sheer power of his sprint, Peter was just outpaced by Sunweb’s Michael Matthews, having come close to the barriers in his push for the finish line.
From the finish in Bern, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was clear just how tough things were in the sprint for the line. “It was another tough stage at the Tour de Suisse, with a hectic finale on a hot day. The squad perfectly executed the plan we had in the morning. My sensations were good and I gave it my best, but unfortunately in the final sprint, I got closed and took second. We will try again in the coming days.”
BORA-hansgrohe’s Directeur Sportif, Jan Valach, was happy to see the team continue pulling together today. “The squad worked really well today. The plan was to let just a small group break away, and this is what took place. Juraj Sagan pulled at the front, together with BMC, then Maciej Bodnar put in a solid effort and we reeled in the escapees with less than 15km to go. They positioned Peter at the front in the final kilometre but he was pipped on the line by Matthews. Tomorrow we have a short stage for the climbers, with a climb and then a summit finish, and we will try our best with Patrick Konrad and Jay McCarthy.”
Billed as a mountain stage, much of tomorrow’s 143km parcours is a build-up to the climbs of the day. The first climb summits at 109km, where riders will contest the first category Col des Mosses, then a fast and furious descent before the climbing starts all over again for the Tour de Suisse’s first summit finish, and its first Hors Catégorie climb as well, from Aigle – the home of the UCI – to Villars-sur-Ollon, where the climbers and GC contenders will have to put their cards on the table.