The Moment The Race Was Won: Tour de Suisse

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Rui Costa Tour de Suisse Verbier

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.

Rui Costa Valverde

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.

What next?
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.

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{ 18 comments }

Adrian Holman June 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Now its time to try and work out which Tour GC contenders riding in the Tour de Suisse were pushing to their limit, and who was saving their legs for France!

Duncan June 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Sagan was on another level to the rest in the sprints. The race felt mixed. Midweek stages you can forget but some good racing on each weekend.

Frank June 17, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Really can’t wait to see Sagan vs Cav at the tour- Sagan unbeatable at the moment, Cav usually ‘almost unbeatable’ in July. Plus Kittel, Greipel etc going well. Going to be one hell of a show!

DNAtsol June 21, 2012 at 5:23 am

I have to agree but for slightly different reason. I think we’re beyond the idea of a rider being a pure sprinter. Greipel tends to win on certain types of profiles, Sagan others, Cav others. I’m going to predict winners based on final k run ins. Cav on straight forward flats, Greipel for the slightly twisty grades And Sagan for the full on twistys. Plus Cav may be losing some top end speed as he pares down to vie for the London course so that will be something to watch for as well.

Osmo June 18, 2012 at 12:46 am

This young men filled with pride every portuguese cycling fan. It’s the most important victory of a portuguese rider ever. The one who saw the mountains stages in this race can see that HC are not Rui favorite terrain, but if you remember the victory on TdF and Montreal last year, you can see that he is a very intelligent rider who certainly knows how to read a race. I hope he continues to make an impact, and promote our cycling that has tradition and talent, only lacks money. :(

Michal June 18, 2012 at 2:16 am

I agree that Rui Costa sealed his win in the time trial and strong last stage too. Gesink looks like a contender for TdF now.

Kevin G June 18, 2012 at 8:40 am

The race has beautiful scenery too.
Interesting comment by Tom Danielson on Twitter last night saying he wanted to cooperate with Schleck on the last stage, but Schleck said no. Danielson thought they both had a chance. Did Schleck attack to soon, but may be he had no option as the final climb was not particularly steep.

Bundle June 18, 2012 at 11:54 am

I also thought it was weird from Fränk not to ride away together with Danielson and Nieve. The 3 of them could have destroyed the race. But Fränk chose to accelerate once more, go figure why.

le_roi June 18, 2012 at 11:11 am

Albasini had found an agreement with greenedge quite early in 2011, he wasn’t one of the last htc-guys to find a new team.
Also I found the fact interesting, that Gesink was pulling for Costa after Schleck rode had ridden away. Why was he doing that? Some kind of a dutch-luxemburg-rivalry?

Bundle June 18, 2012 at 11:52 am

The pre-Tour races being completed, Team Sky and Movistar emerge as the two super-powers. I daresay they’re equal in climbing skills, but Sky has plenty of TTists and Movistar is weak in that respect. That could set the narrative for the TdF. Rabobank appears as the 3rd element, and as we saw yesterday, it could tip the balance either way (but they need Gesink a notch faster in the climbs).
RadioMess is still a force to be reckoned with, but more as a set of individualities (is Klöden going to be in-form soon?) than as a collective force. Liquigas is another collective super-power, Nibali+Basso+the rest of the climbers+Sagan-help-in-the-descents, they are very dangerous too. Katiusha, Astana, Lotto, Euskaltel and OPQ (what happened to Leipheimer in the Swiss TT?) can surely also play a role in GC action.
And on top of it, Chairman Evans trying to benefit from it all, and from the absence of the two main climbers of these times.

Steve June 18, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Bundle,

Good commentary and observations on all the teams and the preverbal TDF chips as they may fall.

As far as your question regarding Levi in the TT! I would probably guess that he knew that he needed to meter ( 95%) of his output during the TT. I observed in the later mountain stages, notable absent from the 10-20 man peloton were any OPQ to protect LL. All the contending GC teams had two or three guys in the last 10K uphill finishing stages but OPQ.

Wiggo/Sky seem on top of their game.

Rooie June 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

All the SKY-fans seem eager to point to the strength of the SKY-team. Of course having a strong team is important, but Evans won last year without a strong team. To me it seems, you first need to have a GC-man that is in form. On the other hand, if SKY wants to show that they are indeed strong and thus take whole the weight of the race upon them. That’s fine by me… Evans could be the one benefiting from it.

AK June 18, 2012 at 1:25 pm

You can’t call me a Sky fan but it certainly looks like they have both a GC-man in form and a strong team to help him.

Ronan June 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Did anyone find out what discussions Schleck and Costa were having at the base of the last climb? Seemed pretty animated.

2Wheels June 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Yes this is very interesting! I think as a consequence of this discussion Schleck sacrificed his chance of winning the GC. Movistar have previously been a ‘stage wins’ team, but given Radioshack-Nissan’s disorganisation as a team this year, I speculate that Frank has gained a valuable ally for Le Tour during this conversation, and we may see some kind of collaboration between the two teams to temper Sky’s strength.

Bosko June 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Congrats to Rui Costa, clever race, but I really think that Frank/Radioshack messed up massively. In the first mountain stage Frank attacks from too far out (but ok this can happen), I find RS tactics in last 2 mountain stages more worrying. They twice allow a breakaway too make it till the end (and lose out on bonifications), but more importantly, although the strongest uphill Schleck manages just to finish 4th on Saturday (no bonif.) and then attacks from too far out on Sunday. I do realize that the final climb wasn’t too difficult, still it would have made sense for Schleck to have allowed Nieve, Leipheimer, and Danielson to follow him uphill instead of going ‘cavalier seule’, to get some help in descent…. if Frank really wanted to go alone then RS could have anticipated this by having 1 or 2 RS guys in a breakaway, who could have waited for Frank at the top of the penultimate climb…. All theory ofcourse, but anyway how on earth did he not win it?…..

Jason June 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Movistar could have backed AV for this race but cleverly backed Costa as they needed the points and I think as an extra AV is out of the limelight for the TDF.

Matt June 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I’d say Costa won the race at the time trial. Yea, he took the jersey on stage 2, but he increased his lead enough that FS’s attack didn’t pull back enough time to get the jersey. RE: Sagan vs Cav..I don’t think it’s a contest in big field sprints…Sagan has shown a knack for winning from the front of small groups or in hectic finishes with turns…but I don’t think he has the straight line speed of Cav (yet)! The green jersey may be an option though….

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