Robert Gesink (Rabobank) won the sixth and toughest stage of the Tour de Suisse between Meiringen and La Punt in a solo breakaway. The Dutchman escaped on the final, long, hors category Albulapass and descended alone to the finish. Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d’Epargne) led a chase group home 42 seconds later, with Oliver Zaugg (Liquigas-Doimo) taking third.
With three major climbs and a total of 4761 metres to climb in the 213km, this was the Queen stage of this year’s Tour de Suisse. The parcours began the climb to the 2224m high Sustenpass almost immediately, so it was no surprise when a group of 13 riders broke clear.
The breakaway group was made up of: Edouard Vorganov (Katusha), Alessandro Vanotti (Liquigas-Doimo), Philip Deignan (Cervélo TestTeam), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d’Epargne), Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-Farnese Vini), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank), Juan José Oroz and Amets Txurruka (both Euskaltel-Euskadi), Brice Feillu, Marco Marcato and Wouter Poels (all Vacansoleil), Jeremy Roy (Française des Jeux) and Mattias Frank (BMC Racing).
Of the 13 riders Gavazzi was the best placed overall, just 26 seconds behind race leader Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia); Frank and Poels were both highly placed in the mountains classification.
Despite Gavazzi’s proximity to Martin the break was allowed to build a considerable; by the time they crossed the cobbled summit of the Sustenpass the 13 riders led the peloton by 11’45”. As they crossed the top of the 1st category Oberalppass with 145km still to race the gap had reduced to 5’30” though, and it stabilised to around 6 minutes as they traversed the rolling section before the final climb. The group began to break up, with Deignan, Vorganov and Gavazzi the first to be dropped.
As the group crossed the two intermediate sprints at the base of the Albulapass the peloton, led by HTC-Columbia and Saxo Bank was just 4 minutes behind.
As the climb began the breakaway group was reduced to Garate, Vanotti, Frank, Poels, Lastras, Roy and Feillu; Lastras was now the virtual leader on the road but the peloton was now just coming to life.
Feillu attacked the others with Roy trying to go with him; meanwhile behind them Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) accelerated with Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo). The pair was chased and joined from the peloton by Gesink, Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil). The five riders were joined by Jacob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) and began picking their way past the straggling breakaway riders.
Back in the main peloton Martin was unable to respond to his rivals and before long another group pulled clear, including Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank), Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden (all RadioShack), and joined up with the riders ahead.
Andy Schleck attacked once more, taking Gesink with him again, and the two young riders steadily reeled in the remains of the breakaway. Suddenly though, the Luxembourg champion seemed to crack and was unable to go with the Dutchman as he accelerated towards the top of the climb.
Gesink was now the leader on the road and crossed the top of the climb with 9km to go more than a minute clear of the Armstrong group. With Andy Schleck caught and passed, elder brother Andy attempted to get clear, but the group was altogether over the top with just Gesink ahead.
The Dutchman flew down the descent towards La Punt, but took few risks on some of the damp roads. He took the victory alone with the group, having descended slightly faster, coming in 42 seconds behind him. Andy Schleck finished a little further back in a small group with Fuglsang and Klöden.
Martin finished in a group 2’36” behind the Dutchman; as he started the day just 27 seconds behind the HTC-Columbia rider, Gesink takes the lead in the overall standings.
Result stage 6 1. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne @ 42s
3. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Liquigas-Doimo
4. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha
5. Lance Armstrong (USA) Team RadioShack
6. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil
7. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
8. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo
10. Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank @ 1’20”
Standings after stage 6 1. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne @ 29s
3. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team @ 36s
4. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank @ 38s
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha @ 42s