Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Leopard) won the sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse on Thursday.
Four riders — Mathew Hayman (Sky), Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha), Bert Grabsch (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Rast — jumped ahead of the peloton early in the stage and stayed out front all day, at one point holding a lead of over 14 minutes.
The peloton never challenged the foursome and they finished almost 11 minutes ahead of the main pack.
Over the last four kilometers of the 186km route from Leuggern to Meilen, Grabsch launched a few mini-attacks that were matched by his breakaway companions each time, Nobody seemed to want to take control of the group until right before the 1km banner, when Rast sprinted through a gap and immediately opened up a lead.
“I was overwhelmed when I saw I had a gap,” Rast said in a RadioShack press release. “I felt fantastic! But that last kilometer was endless. When I saw the 500m to go mark I was surprised. I thought I was much closer to the finish.”
Once Rast was able to pick up a few seconds over the others, the stage was all but over. He rode hard to the finish, keeping his head down and peeking behind him for a pending attack. It never came and he coasted across the line. Hayman was second (+25 seconds) and Kolobnev placed third (+35).
“It was hard out there today,” Rast said. There was no real sprinter in our group, just strong guys with motivation to win. Team Director Luc Meersman gave me good advice and it worked out well.
“I figured Hayman was the fastest in the sprint and that Grabsch wouldn’t wait for the sprint. I didn’t let myself think of my sprint defeats in Tour de Suisse. Luc had told me to wait for 1k to go. I knew when to go.”
Mathias Frank (BMC Racing) finished in the main field and kept his overall lead, as he has a 23-second advantage over Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) and a 35-second buffer over Rui Costa (Movistar).
The peloton finished in its own sprint, with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finishing just ahead of John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) 10:43 behind Rast.
The race resumes with Friday’s big mountain stage, a 206km route that has four rated climbs — including an HC climb that peaks with just over 3km left.