Yves Lampaert (Decuninck-Quick-Step) won stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse on Saturday, a short flat time trial around Ulrichen. The victory was the Belgian’s first of the season. It was a successful day for Quick-Step, with Kasper Asgreen finishing in second place, five seconds slower than his teammate.
“We still have the jersey, tomorrow’s the last day and we’ll fight all the way,” said Bernal after the stage.
The 19.2km time trial around Ulrichen was almost entirely flat and on a very fast, narrow course.
Bernal, having moved into a 41-second lead over his GC rival and reigning world time trial champion Dennis in his stage victory on stage 7, faced a stiff challenge defending his yellow jersey against a specialist against the clock. However, the Colombian rode a strong race to finish 11th on the day, 38 seconds behind the stage winner and only 19 seconds behind the Australian.
Tom Scully (EF-Education First) was first to take the hot seat, setting the time of 22:11. The New Zealander sat there a long time until he was unseated by Lampaert, who set the winning time of 21:58. Asgreen came over the line shortly after Lampaert, posting the second-fastest time of the day, 22:03.
Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb), who finished third on the day, moved onto the provisional podium spot soon after the Quick-Step pair has set the two fastest times of the day.
Dennis was one of the favorites for the stage, however, he only managed sixth, 19 seconds back on Lampaert.
Bernal started shortly after Dennis, and all eyes were on his splits against the Australian.
The Ineos man went through the halfway checkpoint only 19 seconds down on his GC rival, and held that gap despite a scare in the second half when taking a hard left-hander too hot, with his rear wheel skidding beneath him. He managed to retain his composure to take a time of 22:34, just 38 seconds down on Lampaert and 19 behind Dennis.
The race will be decided Sunday in a punchy mountain stage, with the peloton taking on three hors categorie passes – the Nufenen, San Gottardo, and Furka – in just 101km. The stage finishes after a descent and short, flat run in to the line in Ulrichen. The race takes in the same side of San Gottardo as Friday’s stage 7 after a late route change due to safety reasons – the impact of a heavy winter in the area.
Although Bernal has proven himself as the best climber in the race, if not the world, overall victory is not assured for the Colombian. He has a 22-second buffer over Dennis, though the Australian has also been showing strong climbing legs, placing third in the queen stage on Friday.
“I can’t be unhappy I’m still second,” said Dennis. Let’s see if it stays that way after Sunday’s decider.