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Another race, another win for Alexander Kristoff, who notched his 17th victory of the 2015 season in stage 7 of Tour de Suisse on Friday in Düdingen, Switzerland.
Kristoff’s Katusha team handily hunted down a powerful three-man breakaway at the end of a 164.6km day. Then, the Norwegian strongman infiltrated the Tinkoff-Saxo lead-out, jumping early from second wheel to win a long-range sprint.
Try as he might, Tinkoff’s Peter Sagan could not close the gap to Kristoff in the final few hundred meters and had to settle for second place.
“I could see I had him [Sagan] from a distance but doing it was tough as it was quite technical, and slightly uphill,” Kristoff said.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) kept his overall race lead, 37 seconds ahead of Geraint Thomas (Sky), and 50 seconds in front of Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale).
With five kilometers to go, the lead trio of Sylvain Dilier (BMC), Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step), and Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) clung to a gap of about 15 seconds as Katusha cued up for the sprint.
The three-man break looked to be caught with two kilometers to go. However, Kwiatkowski carried on alone with the final kilometer in sight.
With just a few hundred meters remaining, the world champion was caught, and Tinkoff-Saxo took over the lead-out.
“At a certain point I tried an action alone, but the peloton caught me just a few hundred meters from the finish line,” Kwiatkowski said in a team statement. “But that’s part of the job. If you don’t try, you can’t win. So, sometimes it is a question of gambling a bit to see what can happen.”
Kristoff was positioned second wheel, behind Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo), and jumped early.
Sagan found himself fourth wheel when the fireworks kicked off, and though he closed on the Norwegian in the final hundred meters, Kristoff won the bike-throw at the line.
Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) finished third in the sprint.
“Everything was there for me to win today, but you still need the legs to finish it off, and I’m happy I had them today,” Kristoff said. “I’ve won a stage here before and it was also uphill. I have very good memories of my first win here, and today was quite similar to that. I’m happy to win here again.”
On Saturday, the race takes on a hilly, four-lap circuit around Bern, which includes three category 3 climbs.