The Tour of Switzerland is arguably the fourth biggest stage race on the calendar. Prestigious, historic, challenging and at the height of the season this is an important event on the calendar. The 2012 race was won by Rui Costa (Movistar).
He staked his claim on Stage 2, the first road stage of the race with a summit finish in the upmarket ski resort of Verbier. The race passed over the Simplon Pass, plenty to tire the legs. As they approached the foot of the final climb the pace was fierce and a select group formed on the final climb. From this Frank Schleck attacked with six kilometres to go, a man who can now carry the adjective “aggressive” after several sharp moves during the week. It was a strong move but the group began to close in and Rui Costa jumped out. He passed Schleck in the final moments of the stage, overhauling him by just four seconds and taking the overall lead by eight seconds. This late move to catch and pass Schleck was the moment the race was won.
Much of the week turned into a Sagan festival as he won four stages; and on one day his Liquihas-Cannondale team placed a team mate Daniel Oss into a breakaway and it was almost expected that Oss would win as the Italian has a good sprint. As I quipped on Twitter, he’s not a Slovak, he’s a Fastvak. As ever his versatility, power and skills impress. On Stage 3 he unclipped his foot in a corner with 300 metres to go but he calmly got his foot back in the pedal and blasted past the fearless Baden Cooke to win the stage. Is it boring if he keeps winning? Well a rider can only respond to the course that is presented so it’s clearly not Sagan’s fault.
It was also a rewarding race for lesser known riders. Astana’s Tanel Kangert won the final stage today whilst Vladimir Isaichev of Katusha won a stage; both have been pros for years but neither has ever won a pro-level race before. Michael Albasini has already won two stages in this race in the past but his stage win is another satisfaction; he was one of the last riders from the HTC-Columbia squad to find a spot. I think he’s repaid Greenedge’s faith many times over this year, note he has more UCI points than Fabian Cancellara this year.
The time trial stage was notable. You look at these things for clues about form ahead of the Tour de France. Robert Gesink did well, he was strong in the Tour of California too. Rui Costa was eighth and put time into the others. If I can pick another winning moment, this stage helped him cement the lead.
But good things come in threes and Rui Costa could not have kept his lead without the help of teammate Alejandro Valverde earlier today. On the approach to the final climb a move went away with Rabobank’s Steven Kruijswijk. The Dutchman was in eighth place overall, a minute down and the gap started to grow. Valverde was pulling on the front of the group; it wasn’t enough to bring the move back but he did most of the work to cap the lead and contain Kruijswijk. He eventually cracked and Rui Costa took up the defensive duties and the escape was hauled back. I don’t think Rui Costa would have won the race without this teamwork and it neutralised Rabobank who could have struck with Gesink on the final climb. It wasn’t the race winning move but it was the race saving move.
- Overall: Rui Costa
- Points: Peter Sagan
- Mountains: Matteo Montaguti (Ag2r La Mondiale)
- Best Swiss Rider: Mathias Frank (BMC Racing)
Yes, they had a jersey for the best local rider. Under UCI rules a race can offer no more than four jerseys and the Swiss race decided to use one classification to reward a home rider.
The season goes into a bit of a lull. There’s Halle-Ingooigem in Belgium on Wednesday and then various European countries have their national championships, the time trial towards the end of the week and then the road race on Sunday. Then the Tour starts. The prologue is now less than two weeks away but the race is so big that the Tour’s activities begin in Liège on the Wednesday with the media accreditation.