Damiano Caruso successfully defended his overall race lead on Tour de Suisse stage 5 after a strong display of teamwork from BMC Racing Team saw him finish safely in the chaotic bunch sprint.
At 222km long, stage 5 was the longest of the race and, unsurprisingly, it was a battle to get into the breakaway with attempt after attempt being pulled back by the peloton.
Eventually, after 70km of racing, six riders were able to go clear with their advantage rising to around six minutes as BMC Racing Team set the pace behind.
It wasn’t long after the breakaway formed that the race reached the main feature of the stage, the Simplonpass, a 20km hors categorie climb which peaked with 102km to go.
The gradient of the climb took its toll on the advantage of the breakaway, and as the peloton charged down the descent, it began to fall quickly before settling at around three minutes on the second categorized climb of the day to Druogno.
Over the top of the climb, the five remaining leaders were holding onto their advantage before the chase began to heat up once again with a possible bunch sprint up for grabs.
Just one minute stood between the two groups with 30km to go before finally, as the rain began to fall heavily on the road, only two riders were left out in front.
The pace of the peloton calmed slightly allowing the duo’s lead to edge over 30 seconds with 15km remaining. However, with a motivated chase resumed behind, they were ultimately caught with 5km to go.
BMC Racing Team kept Caruso in a good position as the race entered its closing kilometers and with clearer skies welcoming the peloton going under the flamme rouge, riders prepared for a bunch sprint in Cevio.
With the peloton going at full-speed and battling for position, Peter Sagan (Bora – Hansgrohe) jumped clear with 200m to go and was able to hold onto his advantage to take the stage win.
Daniel Oss negotiated a chaotic finale with Caruso tucked safely into his wheel before the race leader crossed the line 14th to keep the yellow jersey going into stage 6.
After taking a bonus second at the last intermediate sprint, Caruso now leads the General Classification by 16 seconds.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“The start was really fast, and many riders tried to make it into the breakaway so, it took over 70km for the final breakaway to form. The pace was really high. I think we were going at around 50km/h for the first two hours. We were then setting a good tempo on the long climb before the second part of the race which was pretty technical especially the descent. The guys did a really amazing job to keep me in a good position and in the end, I finished safe. For me, that was the most important thing.”
“I think I was able to manage how I used my energy today. It was important for me to stay focussed and stay safe but, even though it was a long stage, I don’t think I expended too much unnecessary energy.”
“Tomorrow is the second test for us and for me in particular. It is another hard stage, another summit finish. We will see what happens, but I feel good.”