Going into the race with the record number of stage wins, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, has taken a victory at each of the past seven editions of the Tour de Suisse. Having been narrowly beaten in the earlier stages, the Slovak BORA-hansgrohe rider made it count today, leaving his rivals in his wake in a win that made it look easy, earning him the stage victory and the race’s black points jersey. Peter adds to his tally of wins, extending his own record, with his total now standing at fourteen.
After the first mountain stage of the Tour de Suisse, it was back to a hilly stage for today’s 222km route. However, only a race like the Tour de Suisse could include an Hors Catégorie climb on a stage classed as ‘hilly’. The Simplonpass dominated the stage profile, with 100km of the stage clocked up before the race even started to climb, and while teams would have a fast and furious descent to make up time before a relatively flat run to the finish, there would be no guarantee that the sprinters would be in a position – or a condition – to contest the flat finale.
As the Tour de Suisse’s longest stage, for a breakaway to last the entire distance, the group would have to be made up of the right sorts of riders. While attack after attack came, the breaks were reeled back as quickly as they were able to form. With 70km raced, a group finally made their escape, with six riders making their way up the road and rapidly building up a two minute advantage, before topping out at six minutes. This was before the major climb of the day, however, and while the break managed to hold the peloton at bay, it was less than four minutes slower to the summit of the Simplonpass, having reduced the gap by more than two minutes. Hitting the final 50km, the break shed one of its number – the relentless pace tiring them out. If the distance wasn’t draining enough, after four days of blazing sunshine the skies opened and drenched the riders to the bone in a demoralising torrent of rain. Three more of the break dropped away, leaving just two to push on ahead, but with the peloton upping the pace with the scent of the finish line in the air, a sprint looked increasingly likely.
With 6km remaining, it was all back together, with the BORA-hansgrohe riders having put in a huge effort to pull in the break’s thirty-second advantage in just a few minutes. The teams battling amongst themselves for position, the peloton was stretched out as riders struggled to hold on, with none of the sprinters able to keep their trains with them, such was the pace. 250m to go and the UCI World Champion went away in an incredible effort that left the bunch in his wake – a huge gap forming behind him, giving him enough time to check over his shoulder, before taking his first win of the 2017 Tour de Suisse and his 14th in the race, extending his record of stage wins.
Moments after the finish, Peter was doubling back to thank his BORA-hansgrohe teammates for their hard efforts today. He explained how important their role was from the finish. “I’m very happy for this victory because the BORA-hansgrohe riders really sacrificed themselves today. We went all in at the end of the stage and my teammates got me to the finish. I’m so happy with this win – it was very good for the team and I couldn’t have done it without them. It took a little while to get this win – the first road stage was a little mad, with attacks and a really hectic finish, then two days ago it was a good finish but I’d put in a big effort before to get up the final climb. Today was really good for me though. There was a bit of rain but I felt much better in the end and managed to keep my head in the finale.”
Today, the team did everything perfectly, observed Directeur Sportif, André Schulze. “It was a really fast stage today – the breakaway was able to distance themselves after 70km of racing. In the first hours, the pace was around 49km/h, so it was really fast out there. The team did a great job today and showed amazing teamwork. Jan was in the front of the peloton with Sunweb and Trek to catch the breakaway, and in the finale the team did everything perfectly. In the last 400m, I think everyone could see that Peter was the strongest and he took the win. We are all very happy with this victory. In the coming days we are working for Patrick, and on Saturday we’ll try it again in the sprint with Peter.”
It’s going to be an incredibly hard 167km of racing tomorrow. Two Hors Catégorie mountains dominate the stage profile, with the climbing starting from the drop of the flag. First comes the San Bernadino Pass, before a gruelling ascent of the Albulapass to the finish. There’s nowhere to hide on a stage like this, and this will be a day when the GC race really comes