Tour De Suisse - Stage 3
Sagan wins stage 3/Costa retains lead
Liquigas-Cannondale's Peter Sagan continued his excellent run of form in recent months by sprinting to victory in stage three of the Tour de Suisse in Aarberg.
It was Sagan's second victory in three days after he secured the individual time trial win on Saturday. He pipped Australia's Baden Cooke (Orica-GreenEdge) into second place, with Sky's Ben Swift coming home in third. There were no big changes to the overall general classification, with Movistar’s Rui Costa retaining his eight second advantage over Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan).
In addition to his two wins already in this race, Sagan scored an amazing five wins at last month’s Amgen Tour of California, tearing up the record books in the process. In a superbly consistent season, he has also enjoyed top five finishes at Gent-Wevlegem, Milan-San Remo, the Amstel Gold Race and the Tour of Flanders. He’s certainly elevated himself to become one of the most talked-about road cyclists on the planet as we approach the twin totems that are the Tour de France and the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Today’s stage measured just under 195km, from the town of Martigny in the south west of the country to Aarberg. The stage’s fairly flat opening half lent itself to a sizeable breakaway and after 100km a trio of riders had opened up a gap of ten minutes on the rest of the peloton. Guillaume Bonnafond (AG2R-LaMondiale), Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank) and Jonas Van Genechten (Lotto-Belisol) were the three men to break free, and they would stay there for the majority of the afternoon.
There was very little drama and very little change in proceedings until the riders started up the first real climb of significance, the category 3 Frienisberg. By this stage the roads were coated in a smattering of rainwater, making the descent on the other side of he climb a lot trickier than it had looked on paper at the start line this morning.
With none of the leading trio realistic threats to those at the top of the general classification, the chasing peloton appeared relaxed and were happy to claw back the three leaders at their own pace. If there was any donkey work being done, and it a phrase used in the loosest sense, it was being mainly done by Team Sky and by Liquigas – clearly mindful that in Swift and Sagan respectively, they each possessed a weapon for the predicted sprint finish.
As the leaders started to climb, the writing on the wall became apparent very quickly for Van Genechten and he was dropped by Bonnafond and Morkov.
The gap between the two leaders and those in behind began to tumble rapidly, but the escapees managed to consolidate it as they descended down the other side. They maintained it in unlikely fashion all the way up and over the category four climb that came just a few kilometres from the finish, before eventually being swallowed by the main peloton with less than 1km left to race.
It was Cooke who got first run on the twisty last few hundred metres to the line, and for a few months it looked as if the Australian had stolen a big enough march on acrh-sprinters Sagan and Swift. Cooke’s move had indeed been decisive enough to repel the finishing burst of the latter, but Sagan had too much power allied to a sense of instinctive timing and he did enough to pass Cooke by the narrowest of margins just as the winning line came.