French phenom Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) put his climbing legs on display, riding to victory in Tour de Suisse stage 5 at a lofty altitude of 8,757 feet, at the foot of the Rettenbach glacier, on Wednesday.
On the final, above-category climb of a 237.3km day that started in Sölden, Pinot attacked out of a select group, winning solo in Rettenbachferner. With that performance, he took the yellow leader’s jersey from Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who finished 10th, 1:37 behind.
Geraint Thomas (Sky) now sits second overall, 47 seconds behind, while Simon Spilak (Katusha) is third, 50 seconds back.
“Switzerland has been good to me; this stage was my aim,” Pinot told Swiss channel RTS. “But there are still four stages, including a time trial on Sunday where I’ll have to watch out for the ‘rouleurs’ [more powerful riders].”
Coming into the final 10km of the stage, Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling) had a 4:18 gap.
Denifl was wearing the blue and white jersey as leader of the mountains classification. He was the lone survivor of an early break that included: Stefan Schumacher (CCC Sprandi-Polkowice), Benjamin King (Cannondale-Garmin), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling), Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Przemyslaw Niemiec (CCC Sprandi-Polkowice), and Gregory Rast (Trek Factory Racing).
Spilak attacked the bunch just outside of 8km to go and slowly reeled in the remnants of the breakaway as the climb ground upward. Team Sky kept him in sight, riding tempo on the front.
With five kilometers to go, Spilak was about 2:30 behind Denifl. A group of eight was another 40 seconds behind.
With three kilometers to go, the lone leader’s advantage was under two minutes. Spilak had been brought back to the main chase group as well. That group included Pinot, Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale), Miguel Ángel López (Astana), Thomas, and Jan Hirt (CCC Sprandi-Polkowice).
Spilak went again, and he was marked by Pinot. Denifl’s gap continued to fall — he was one minute ahead with two kilometers left.
Pinot soon dropped Spilak, riding on alone with the solo leader less than 30 seconds up the road.
With 1.5km to go, the catch was made, and Denifl could do nothing but watch as the FDJ climber sped by.
“We talked about getting into this break at the team meeting before the start,” Denifl said. “And we managed to find just the right group to go with. … I just climbed at my own pace, giving my maximum. To have won the stage, we would have had to have a larger gap from the base. But I am very happy about spending this much time at the head of the race.”
Pinot, 25, rode to victory alone as Pozzovivo finished second and Spilak took third.
On Thursday, the Tour de Suisse peloton will ride a 193.1km stage from Wil to Biel, a lumpy stage, albeit one that has only a single categorized climb.