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Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) won stage 5 at the Tour de Suisse on Wednesday.
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took second and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) placed third in the 184-kilometer stage from Ossingen to Büren an der Aare.
Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) stayed in the race lead and will wear the yellow jersey for another day. Tom Dumoulin (Giant) is 6 seconds behind in second and Sagan is 10 ticks back in third.
The stage ended in a sprint finish marred by a crash around a sharp right turn in the final 400 meters that took out Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma) and others. As the speeding bunch rounded the corner, it appeared that Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) bumped into Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge). Goss slid out and knocked into Cavendish, who was on his right.
Cavendish seemed to get the worst of it, as he went over his handlebars and crashed along the fencing. Goss fell off his bike and rolled, tucking in his arms to minimize the damage. Both got back on their bikes and finished the stage.
The crash completely disrupted the front group, and the paired-down pack of sprinters had no trouble navigating the final turn with 200 meters left.
“The man to beat was Peter Sagan,” said Modolo. “It’s the biggest victory of my career.”
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) abandoned the race prior to the start after crashing during Tuesday’s stage 4. Wiggins, who admitted he is suffering from a chest infection, told Sky’s website he has swelling on the inside of his right knee.
“I probably could have started today but it’s best to play it safe and come home now,” Wiggins said. “I really want to try to be ready for the Nationals next Thursday so I didn’t want to jeopardize that for the sake of pushing on and potentially doing more damage.”
Team doctor Steve Baynes further described Wiggins’ injuries: “He’s suffered some pretty bad bruising on the left side of his right thigh muscle which is restricting his movement on the bike and obviously causing him discomfort. That’s going to require some treatment so, having spoken to Brad, we felt the best plan of action would be to withdraw him from the race and fly him back to the UK.”
Wiggins said he was riding at the back of the peloton with 28km left in stage 4 when everyone in front of him hit their brakes hard. Wiggins slowed down but a rider behind him collided with him at top speed and they both crashed.
“The plan is to get home today, have 24 hours off the bike and then I’ll be good to go again and finalize my preparations for Wales next week,” Wiggins said.
With a lumpy profile consisting of two Cat. 3 climbs and two Cat. 4s, it was a good day for an escape group to form. And that’s exactly what happened, as three riders — Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Jaroslaw Marycz (CCC Polsat Polkowice), and Sander Armée (Lotto-Belisol) — went off early in the stage. They built a lead of 5:00 at one point before the gap to the peloton started coming down in the final third of the stage.
The buffer fell to 2:00 with under 40km remaining, and at the peak of the final climb with 21km left, it was chopped in half.
The peloton, meanwhile, was riding at a furious pace as it tried to catch the leaders and also to position the top GC riders and sprinters at the front of the race and out of trouble. Omega Pharma drove the bunch and was largely responsible for the escapees getting caught with about 10km left.
From there, several teams — including Omega Pharma, Katusha, Lotto-Belisol, and Ag2r-La Mondiale — spent time out front as the race approached the finish line. The sprinters’ leadout trains were formed and with 3km to go, Giant was strung out on the left side of the road and Omega Pharma owned the right side. At speeds of more than 60 kph, the pack was steaming ahead as it passed under the flamme rouge.
The technical finish, however, caused everyone to slow down and led to the crash shortly before the line.
Cav crashes hard
Cavendish was sitting third wheel going into the final kilometer, but drifted back as the battle for final sprint position became hectic prior to a very technical final few hundred meters. Despite his efforts to stay safe, a rider went down on a sharp turn before the finish. Cavendish was directly behind him and had nowhere to go but over the top of the fallen rider.
“I should be OK, which is a good thing considering it could have been much worse given the nature of the crash,” Cavendish said. “We’ll see what happens tonight, but I should be there at the start. As for the crash, I can’t really say how it happened from my point of view. All I know is the guys did a really good job. They kept me there, especially Mark Renshaw, in the final. It was perfect. So we went into the last kilometer with good position. But there was chaos on both sides going into the end. It was a bit of a dangerous finish. I backed off Mark’s wheel a bit because I wanted to avoid a crash in the last corner. I knew a few guys would overshoot it so I stayed back a bit hoping I would miss a crash. Unfortunately I was still behind the crash of a complicated final. There wasn’t much I could do to avoid it as far as I know. At the end of the day, it’s never good to hit the ground, but I am not as bad off as I could have been considering. So, we’ll see day-by-day how I feel. I will try to recover as best as possible and be ready for tomorrow.”
The Tour de Suisse resumes with Thursday’s stage 6, which stretches 184km from Büren an der Aare to French-speaking Delémont.