The Moment The Race Was Won – Tour de Suisse

Monday, 23 June 2014

Mathias Frank, Bauke Mollema and Rui Costa are on the attack knowing they have to put time into Tony Martin in order to get on the podium. This was the moment the race was won.

Like the Dauphiné the final stage of the Tour de Suisse saw a reversal of fortunes although this time the script was more predictable with Rui Costa riding away to win the stage while lower down the mountain Tony Martin was left to pace himself in a private mountain time trial.

Winning three times in a row is a big deal but this was a steady ride, a lesson in consistency over panache although with a flourish to leave no doubts on the final climb.

Having written a piece suggesting uncertain times for many in the pro peloton the longer this race went on the more certainty imposed itself on events. None more so than Tony Martin’s consistent performances in the time trials: two stages and a week in the yellow jersey, a punctuality to rival Swiss trains. What next for the German? Three weeks of riding as a diesel engine in Mark Cavendish’s sprint train with a day off for the Bergerac time trial, the penultimate stage and only time trial of the race.


The next certainty was Rui Costa with his third straight win in this race. A stage winner in the mountains and third in the Stage 7 time trial, he was there when it mattered but despite or perhaps because of the rainbow jersey he seemed a more subdued and marked rider this time. L’Equipe called him a cuckoo, sitting on the wheels all week and then nesting on the podium after hitting the front of the race for only the last 2,700m of the race. He was as discreet as a Swiss banker but like Andrew Talansky last week Rui Costa was only in a position to ride for the overall because he’d been impressive all week, matching the moves and then taking third in the mid-week time trial. On Sunday’s final stage he could have ridden with Mathias Frank to the finish knowing victory was assured anyway but responded with a late attack to win the stage. No wonder given his frustration all year, his string of near misses suggested he wasn’t going to cut a “you take the stage, I’m winning the GC” deal with Frank. Call it pride or panache, he’s got it.


Peter Sagan was the third certainty. He only won one stage this time compared to three in 2012 and two last year but this time it looked as if he didn’t have much to prove and one day tried a bullying attack in the finish to go solo over the final climb before the finish and then showed some wild descending. At times it’s like watching a computer game where Sagan has infinite lives, he can do what he wants because the others can’t touch him. That said he was beaten in the sprints by Sacha Modolo and Mark Cavendish, the green jersey competition could become more interesting in the Tour with Michael Matthews as well as the other pure sprinters.

It’s not been a certainty but it has been a theme: if something can go wrong for Team Sky this year it will. It’s as if BB Albert King was playing on the team bus – “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” – with Bradley Wiggins leaving the race after a crash but he was never in it to win. More worrying Sergio Henao had a crash warming up for the time trial and broke his kneecap, a return for the Vuelta a Espana might be too much. Peter Kennaugh abandoned, ill, and maybe there’s time for him to recover if he’s needed for the Tour de France. Another slight under-performance was Roman Kreuziger but don’t count him out for the Tour where he should be a solid ally for Alberto Contador.

The race provided several revelations and confirmations. Tony Martin’s defence got some help from Giant-Shimano. The Dutch team knew they couldn’t win the race with Tom Dumoulin but they could defend his second place by controlling the pace and riding tempo. Tom Dumoulin won his first race this year in the Critérium International but his performances were better this week, a confirmation of ability, second in the Eneco Tour last year, ninth in the Mont St. Michel time trial of the Tour de France last year. He’s only 23 and time trialling is something that can be improved on. Just in case, despite the French name he’s Dutch and no relation to Samuel Dumoulin. Esteban Chaves took the almost obligatory Colombian-wins-mountain-stage opportunity. A clever signing by Orica-Greenedge. You might not have noticed but Cannondale’s Davide Formolo was seventh overall, he’s a 21 year old first year pro and people have been saying only good things about him for some time, now we get the confirmation.

L’Extrapolation
So what of the Tour de France? The shorthand says if Tony Martin comes close to winning a stage race then there’s little to learn because the German will be dropped like a stone in the high mountains. But there are some points to note. First Rui Costa’s said he wants to aim for overall success in the Tour de France so let’s see what July brings. It’s still uncertain if he can climb with the best nor time trial with the fastest over a 50km course… so should he lose time accidentally he could revert to stage wins.

Bauke Mollema was third and proving everything is going to plan for the Belkin rider to improve on a successful Tour last year. Never the most elegant of riders, he twists his head to the side like Fernando Escartin or “Jeff” Bernard, he’s looking efficient.

Mathias Frank is climbing well and IAM’s best signing could crack the top-10 in Paris given the mountainous course and a stage win is there if he and the team take some risks. Don’t write off Thibaut Pinot, he did well to finish in the top-10 of the time trial but fell ill before the final weekend. If he shakes the cold and recovers he should be in the mix during July. Note he’s a climber but hasn’t finished lower than 24th in a time trial this year.


On Your Bike
France and Italy are famous cycle touring destinations largely thanks to the psychogeographical combo of mountains and famous races. Cyclists flock like pilgrims to Mont Ventoux, the Tourmalet, the Stelvio and so on. But what of Switzerland? It hasn’t the prestige but look at the views, the equal if not the better of many celebrated Tour and Giro roads and all with the kind of road surface you’d expect from the Swiss. The home of BMC and IAM Cycling as well as the UCI, it’s got a thriving cycling culture. So many benefits, is there a cost? The Swiss Franc is one of the world’s last hard currencies and if a visit has you sweating on a mountain pass, you’ll perspire again when it comes to opening your wallet to pay for a snack.

Elsewhere
We had the Route du Sud, the Ster ZLM Tour and the Tour of Slovenia over the weekend too. Alejandro Valverde looked comfortable in the Pyrenees while Tiago Machado set up an important win for NetApp-Endura ahead of the Tour de France. The Ster ZLM Tour saw wins for Marcel Kittel and André Greipel while Philippe Gilbert took two stages and the overall – guess who is going to be Belgian champion next Sunday? – and it’s a shame he won’t ride the Tour given the hilly opening week where the arrivals in Sheffield and Gérardmer suit him perfectly.

The Verdict
A little less suspense than the Dauphiné but the French race enjoyed a vintage edition. A week of variety rather than Peter Sagan repeats provided sprinting stories although often these were not stages to watch from start to finish. We shouldn’t forget Cameron Meyer’s early stage win, he’s been groomed as Orica-Greenedge’s GC candidate but might have to settle for a different role now. The final stage reversal with Tony Martin left to himself was a predictable scenario but watching it provided suspense and scenery alike and it was good to see the rewards go to riders willing to attack over the penultimate climb rather than leave it late to and snipe for the stage win only.

We now enter a quiet period. The biggest race of the year is less than two weeks away and there’s a preceding lull with only the Giro dell’Appennino and Halle-Ingooigem this week before the various national championships in Europe and beyond.

Bundle June 23, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Nice summary.
Good race overall, in spite of worse-than-deserved participation and rider attitudes. Felt sorry for Tony Martin. The main point is that stage races get so much better when the big heavy TT specialist is inyellow and has to fight (alone if possible) to limit losses when he gets dropped on the climbs. That’s the scenario most stage races, big or small, should aim for.
Minor pedantic note: “Born Under a Bad Sign” was Albert King’s signature hit song, more than B.B. King’s.

The Inner Ring June 23, 2014 at 1:18 pm

I’ll fix the blues reference for the next reader, thanks.

UHJ June 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm

“Majestic” reference, nevertheless… well played INRNG – pun intended.

BarkingOwl June 23, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Great summary. Both the Dauphine and Swisse have thrown up some great last day drama. Let’s hope it continues at the biggest race of the year.

I don’t think Orica-Greenedge should throw their money at a big-name grand tour candidate. Maybe a young Kelderman is worth it, but with the Yates twins and Chaves they now have some mountain goats to develop for the future. I reckon they should continue chasing opportunist stage wins and the odd classic and be patient while the young riders continue to improve.

Augie March June 23, 2014 at 6:54 pm

That would be the advantage of OGE signing Bradley Wiggins, give him a valedictory year as team leader for Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France, give the team some real experience riding for the GC as opposed to stages, and then by 2016 someone like Chaves or the Yates brothers (if they re-sign) will be ready to take up the leadership while Wiggins goes back to the track or retires.

Froogle Jimmy June 24, 2014 at 7:25 pm

i agree with Getting Wiggo. You need to learn as a team to ride for a GC in a grand tour. I think Wiggo could guide them to that then pass the torch to one of the up and comers in a few years.
I love watch OGE, they look like they enjoy racing. Not to mention Svein Tuft is a fellow Canuck!!

Eric June 23, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Small correction: The first stage was a time trial as well.

denominator June 23, 2014 at 1:35 pm

A little correction: Sagan won 4 stages in 2012. I think he could have won two this year, namely in stage 6 he chose wrong wheel – that of Modolo who could not follow T. Martin’s push. At least the stage was more impredictable and entertaining as it happened.
Speaking of what could have been – Omega should have sent at least one climber with Tony M. and his chances to keep yellow would double. But they decided to put all eggs in one basket of the sprinting train. Tony’s frustration was visible and OPQS could lose him one day.

Sam June 23, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Agreed. Tony Martin’s grit and determination, plus his unbeatable work ethic as a team mate, never fails to impress – and its a pity Lefevere couldnt have ensured more support for him to have given him a better chance yesterday.

Steppings June 23, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Agreed , Tony Martin should have won that race overall. He didn’t look fussed about it but he might be one day.

KB June 23, 2014 at 11:48 pm

“and its a pity Lefevere couldnt have ensured more support for him to have given him a better chance yesterday.”

he was on twitter lamenting the sight of Martin’s yellow jersey slowly dissolving without teammate support (!?). Does someone else pick the team then? Nice at least to see Jan Bakelants’ aggressive Dauphiné performance rewarded with a spot on the Tour squad.

Jason W June 24, 2014 at 5:52 am

that tweet was very surreal…as if lefevre doesn’t have veto power on team selection for a major race likeTdS!

Sam June 24, 2014 at 11:02 am

There’s much about Lefevere that’s on the surreal side

The Inner Ring June 24, 2014 at 11:07 am

I think he wanted riders to be there with Martin on the day.

His tweets are amusing, a finish is often too dangerous when someone from a rival team wins etc. He’s calmed down since his Giro outburst calling on Mauro Vegni to resign.

frgee June 23, 2014 at 2:21 pm

it’d be great to see inner ring do a nice write up on the various national championships…

Alex222 June 23, 2014 at 4:23 pm

The more write ups the better for all us fans

The Inner Ring June 23, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I’ve done a table of the winners in the past, otherwise it’s too much to cover them all. They’re odd races, for example in France you get 25 riders from FDJ and Ag2r each etc, or see the Netherlands with 25 Belkin riders… and Terpstra riding away to win ;-)

ZigaK June 24, 2014 at 11:59 am

That was a great race, Terpstra vs. Rabobank

denominator June 24, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Similar things happen elsewhere. Kreuziger usually doesn’t ride Czech Champ. as he dislikes the motivated Conti teams outnumbering him. But he had to ride in 2012, as it was obligatory for those who wanted to get to the Olympiad. He organized a coallition of Pro Tour riders – except Barta whom he doesn’t like :).
Let’s see what happens this year. It is a common race for Czech and Slovak cyclists, offering two sets of medals. Last year Omega had 4 riders (Stybar, Rabon, Velits bros) but Sagan won easily (having only his brother). This time he could make a deal with his good friend Kolar (Tinkoff-Saxo)…

hamncheeze June 23, 2014 at 6:34 pm

Great write up. Costa definitely profited from the work of IAM and Belkin in the final stage but as you point out he had to be there to make it count. He is a very crafty racer and has the uncanny ability to get into the right places to make it happen.

Tony Martin had a great race, even if things came undone on the final day. It’s all well and fine to say OPQS should have brought a team to help him but I doubt they or anyone else was honestly thinking he would contend for the GC given the final 2 stage profiles. I was very impressed with his climbing and to me he looked leaner than I’ve ever seen him. In end OPQS did alright, 4 stage wins and 4th on GC is not so bad.

Regarding Kreuziger and his performance, I too expected more from him. As for him being an ally to Contador, I’m not so sure. My perception of Kreuziger is that he has a strong ego and is not exactly a guy who is going to sell out 100% for his team leader. Time will tell.

STS June 23, 2014 at 7:29 pm

But that’s what Kreuziger did last year in the TdF, when he rode for Contador in a very selfless way. And of course you will need a strong ego if you want to make it to the top in that sport.

garuda June 24, 2014 at 3:25 am

I agree. His work has never been questionable in Liquigas, or at Astana. His performances have been inconsistent, but 3 top 10s in the TDF and 1 in the Giro say that in any other team he would have been outright leader for the grand tours, but instead toiling away in the service of Basso, Vino and Contador rather well. A new Kloden perhaps?

Anonymous June 24, 2014 at 11:03 am

Or, its all well and good thinking Tony Martin would just win the TT, but he nearly went on to win overall. OPQS backed the wrong horse.

STS June 23, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Rui Costa impresses me more and more with his cleverness. He rarely if ever wins because he or his team dominate the competition. While his way of winning is, while it happens, certainly less spectacular and aggressive than the styles of Contador, Froome, Valverde, Cancellara, Nibali, Sagan, Purito and other current greats of the sport it’s even more impressive – at least for me – how he seems to race as much with his brain as with his legs.
His win of the WC in Florence was so far the best display of this special ability but yesterday’s win in the TdS came close. I assume the end of the race panned out exactly as he had thought beforehand and I really doubt that he wanted to be in the leader’s jersey earlier than on the last podium.
Now I’m curious to find out how far he will come with that special formula and when the competition will notice and try to prevent him from being successful. It’s obvious that two or more racers of his format trying to copy this method can create some kind of chess on bikes which might not be entertaining to watch. But then it’s up to the most clever rider to find a way how to still win the race against equally clever competition.

Jason W June 24, 2014 at 6:40 am

Interesting that you include Valverde in your list as he is the rider Costa most reminds me of in terms of tactics. Though these days at least, Costa seems to have a higher percentage of success!

othersteve June 23, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Inrng, nice read, with the usual informative and insightful posts by the peloton posters.

” sweaty hands as you crack open your wallet” love it!

I was impressed by Azevedo, and Martins. Garmin seems well prepared for the Tdf with a bevy of climbers/goats and they always have a non traditional strategy to play. I just hope that they leave Tyler home to pick apples.

bobmac June 23, 2014 at 10:07 pm

I agree with your view on Garmin re TdF but was disappointed to see Ryder skipping out this year when he looked so good as Talansky’s mountain set-up man at the Dauphine. Hesjedal looked great in the mountain Giro stages as well but showed he’s not top level TT, where Talansky can show better. Maybe JV wants to wait a year before making a serious podium push for Talansky??

othersteve, I agree – I don’t see why JV keeps throwing Farrar into GT’s when so few results to show.

Jason W June 24, 2014 at 6:42 am

Farrar had 3x 2nd places at Ster ZLM this week against top-flight sprinters. He almost never wins these days, but he sure can rack up some World Tour points with all of those top 10s!

Birillo June 23, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Rui Costa’s tactics “as discreet as a Swiss banker” – sounds almost too good to be original. I savoured it.

PT June 24, 2014 at 5:55 am

Nice write-up; thanks. Really looking forward to Costa at TdF, especially if Horner rides as his road captain. Don’t particularly like Horner but he could do a good job for Costa and really shake up the GC.

Thesteve4761 June 24, 2014 at 7:03 am

Don’t forget DT Swiss and Assos are located in Switzerland as well! Certainly a strong cycling culture indeed.

Bibio June 24, 2014 at 7:08 am

Nice summary, as always… The more more I see Rui Costa the more he reminds me of Ben Stiller!!

TVR June 24, 2014 at 11:29 am

I bet he is funnier than Ben Stiller, and of course faster on a bike…

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