Tour de Suisse: Rui Costa takes stage and lead on the climb to Verbier
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tour de Suisse: Rui Costa takes stage and lead on the climb to Verbier

by Ben Atkins at 12:15 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour de Suisse
 
Portuguese rider reels in lone attack from Fränk Schleck in the finishing straight

rui costaRui Costa (Movistar) won the second stage of the Tour de Suisse, between Verbania, Italy, and the Swiss ski station of Verbier, after catching and passing a lone attack from Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) in the final 200 metres. The Portuguese rider escaped the chasing group in the final kilometre in pursuit of Schleck and reeled him in as the Luxembourg champion visibly tired.

Schleck hung on to take second place, just four seconds behind Costa, with Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) taking third at twelve seconds.

"I hadn't raced anything since [the Tour de] Romandie, and these situations always generate you some doubts," admitted Costa afterwards. "That's why I attacked so many times on the climb: to see how my rivals were doing, but above all, to know how my feelings were. The fact that [team captain] Alejandro [Valverde] was behind also made me more free to move, because I knew that, if I couldn't go away, there was still him.

"When I attacked for the last time, I saw Schleck was really far and wasn't really thinking about winning, but my move was strong, I saw myself doing well and getting closer and closer," he explained. "When I reached him, I took a short breath and attacked because I saw he was really short of energy. This brings massive happiness to me, because this year, winning was being more difficult to me than in previous seasons, and I'm the kind that needs to notch up victories to gain confidence.

"For the first time in my life I spent some weekends training in high altitude before the Tour, and for the time being, things seem to go well, although the main goal is July," he continued. "However, this is not exact science, and sometimes you feel stronger when you don't expect it and vice versa."

With stage one winner Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) dropped at the very bottom of the climb, his yellow jersey was passed over to Costa, thanks to the time bonus on the line, who was eight seconds ahead of Schleck.

"For me, getting the leader jersey in Switzerland is amazing, but there's still a long way to go and we must go day by day," said Costa. "I want to dedicate this to my family, my friends and my wife, always at my side, and of course in a day like today, to [injured teammate] Mauricio Soler, who won a stage this day in 2011."

The 218.3km stage was dominated by a two-man breakaway from Alessandro Bazzana (Team Type 1-Sanofi) and Ryan Anderson (Spidertech p/b C10), who escaped before the race had even left the town of Verbania, on the banks of Lago Maggiore. They were ten minutes clear after just eight kilometres but, after leading the race over the 2005 metre Simplonpass, they were steadily pulled back, and finally caught just before the intermediate sprint in Martigny with 27km to go.

Several teams fought for control of the peloton on the final climb to the finish, but Schleck’s was the first real attack to stick. The Luxembourg champion jumped clear just after the six kilometres to go banner, and opened up a lead of 32 seconds as the peloton failed to react.

Eventually however, riders began to jump ahead in pursuit of the lone leader, with Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda) and John Gadret (AG2R La Mondiale) managing to briefly get clear of the others. It was Costa however, that was strongest in the final kilometre, and he managed to close down the exhausted Schleck.

Two ProConti teams make their mark from the very start

Bazzana jumped away almost as soon as the race had rolled out of the start and, evidently keen to impress in Spidertech p/b C10’s debut in the race, Anderson quickly joined him. The two riders were already 1’45” ahead before they had even left Verbania and, as they passed through Mergozzo after just eight kilometres, had opened up a gap of ten minutes.

As the peloton began to organise itself however, the duo’s lead began to come down, dropping it to 6’40” in the following eight kilometres. Across the line at the intermediate sprint in Domodossola, after 46.8km, they were 5’26” clear and, as they crossed the border into Switzerland it was still 5’06”.

Anderson led the duo over the Simplonpass, after 87.8km, and Michael Mørkøv (Saxo Bank) led the peloton over four minutes behind them. As the bunch relaxed on the descent though, they began to open their lead again and, with 80km to go, had opened it up to 7’51” again. At this point Gaetan Bille (Lotto-Belisol) launched a brief Chasse Patate, but he was soon back in the fold.

A rider each from Rabobank and RadioShack-Nissan were happily leading the peloton and, despite almost all of Anderson’s Spidertech p/b C10 team lined up behind them, they continued to steadily reel in the two fugitives. With 50km to go their lead had been slashed to 1’48”, and with 40km to go it was down to just 49 seconds. At this point the chase slowed, as the peloton allowed the two riders to dangle off the front just a little longer.

At this point a little rain began to fall on the race and, with the mountains shrouded in clouds, the peloton appeared to be heading for a wet finale.

As the pace eased in the peloton, it began to spread across the road, and BMC Racing pulled forward to take control. As they passed the 30km to go point on the pan flat, and completely straight road, the leaders still had 35 seconds, but were in plain view of their chasers.

As Liquigas-Cannondale began to move forward to try and take control away from BMC Racing, the pace suddenly shot up and the gap the the leaders suddenly closed. Anderson tried to jump away but, as the sprint in Martigny - with 26.3km to go - approached, the green and blue team launched yellow jersey Sagan past the two of them and the Slovakian champion took the line first.

Verbier approaches and and the favourites come forward

The road now began to rise gradually towards the foot of the final climb, and Lampre-ISD moved to the front for last year’s runner up Damiano Cunego, with Garmin-Barracuda and FDJ-BigMat line up behind. No one team was willing to commit too many riders at this point however, and the peloton was still spread out across the road as it approached the final twenty kilometres.

Sagan took the next intermediate sprint in Sembrancher, with 14.4km to go, shortly before the climb was about to begin, and the rain began to fall harder. AG2R La Mondiale hit the front as the roads began to rise, and the yellow jersey was among the first to be shelled out the back, but with nine kilometres left Garmin-Barracuda took over, with Heinrich Haussler leading the way.

With eight kilometres to go Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank) attacked, but the Dutchman was only able to get a few seconds clear before Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) led the peloton across to him. The German gave way to teammate Maxime Monfort, who had Jakob Fuglsang on his wheel, but it was too soon for the Luxembourg-registered team to fully commit itself and they soon eased up.

With six kilometres to go however, the peloton was reduced to less than fifty riders, as Ten Dam began to set the pace. Shortly afterwards however, Schleck launched himself away, and there was very little reaction.

By the five kilometre banner the Luxembourg champion had a 12-second gap, and was still accelerating. Lampre-ISD was leading the chase, along with Rabobank, but with four kilometres to go Schleck had increased his lead to 32 seconds. At this point Gadret launched an attack, but was quickly closed down by the ever-shrinking group.

As Astana was setting the pace, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) became the next rider to lose contact, but the Dutch Tour hope gritted his teeth and edged his way back on. Gradually, the gap to Schleck was beginning to close but, as he passed under the two kilometre banner it was still 26 seconds.

Tom Danielson then launched his own attack, and managed to get a few seconds ahead. He was caught by Gadret as he passed under the banner at the official top of the climb however, and they were just 22 seconds behind Schleck, but Costa pulled past both of them as the road continued to rise.

Into the final kilometre Schleck was visibly beginning to struggle, and Costa was gaining on him, with Gadret and Nieve just behind him. With just 200 metres to go the Portuguese rider made contact and, as he sprinted past, Schleck had no answer.

Costa crossed the line alone, punching the air with both fists, and Schleck dejectedly rolled over four seconds behind him.

Result stage 2
1. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar Team
2. Fränk Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan @ 4s
3. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 12s
4. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha Team @ 13s
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat
6. Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale @ 16s
7. Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Saxo Bank
8. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 18s
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana @ 22s

Standings after stage 2
1. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar Team
2. Fränk Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan @ 8s
3. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Astana @ 15s
4. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-BigMat 10
5. Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale @ 21s
6. Thomas Löfkvist (Swe) Team Sky
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 23s
8. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale @ 24s
9. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 26s
10. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Barracuda @ 29s

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