TOBEL-TAGERSCHEN, Switzerland (AFP) — Slovenian Borut Bozic, of the Vacansoleil team, won the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse, a 204.2 km ride between Huttwil and Tobel-Tagerschen on Wednesday.
Italy’s Damiano Cunego, of Lampre, retained the yellow jersey with a lead of over one minute on most of his major rivals head of Thursday’s foray back into the mountains.
Bozic’s last major win came at the Vuelta a España in 2009, a good enough reason for the Vacansoleil rider to break into tears at the finish line. But part of his joy was partly down to him getting the measure of some bigger name rivals, with only Spanish veteran Oscar Freire able to give the Slovenian a run for his money on the uphill finish.
Rabobank sprinter Oscar Freire finished second, half a bike length behind, with Slovakian Peter Sagan of Liquigas continuing his purple patch with a third consecutive top-three place.
“It’s a really important victory for me,” said Bozic, who last year won stages in the Tour of Britain and the Etoile de Besseges.
“I haven’t got a guaranteed place in the Tour de France, but maybe this will help,” he said. “Today I beat some big name sprinters, I won’t even mention their names. I won a stage in the Tour of Britain last year and stages elsewhere but this is my first win in a major race since the Vuelta in 2009.”
British sprint king Mark Cavendish was among the big names who failed to show up, the Isle of Man rider finishing 41st despite HTC-Highroad team driving hard at the front of the pack in the final 4km.
Three of Tom Boonen’s Quick Step team then took over, but with 1.1 km to race a right-hand bend in the road caused chaos.
Normally Boonen would be sheltered behind teammates before launching a final burst for the line but after cornering, the Belgian found himself out in front on his own for the 1km uphill finish.
He looked back, saw he had a gap and went for broke only to be caught by Italian Marco Marcato with 500 meters to the finish.
“It wasn’t planned, but you have to try something crazy every once in a while!” said Boonen, who eventually finished 81st at 32 seconds behind the winner.
Thanks to a small dip in the road Marcato had taken a convincing lead but he fell victim to a small bunch giving chase. Bozic then chose wisely in taking Freire’s wheel before surging past the Spaniard in the final dash to the line.
“You need luck and circumstances to come together at the right moment,” added Bozic. “You’re also fighting against teams such as HTC-Highroad who have Cavendish, who to me is still the fastest man in the world.”
With defending champion Frank Schleck of Leopard sixth overall at only 1:25 behind, Cunego expects fireworks on Thursday.
“Tomorrow is a crucial stage for the overall,” said the Italian. “Obviously I’ll be depending on my team to help me defend the jersey but I have several rivals to keep an eye on.
“Leopard has the strongest team here and they will be doing everything they can to prepare the terrain for the Schleck brothers. But if I have good legs, I will go on the attack.”
The race finishes Sunday with a 32.1 km time trial in Schaffhouse.
- 1. Borut Bozic (SLO), Vacansoleil-Dcm , at
- 2. Oscar Freire Gomez (ESP), Rabobank Cycling Team , 4:44:48
- 3. Peter Sagan (SVK), Liquigas-Cannondale, s.t.
- 4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA), HTC-Highroad, s.t.
- 5. Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (ESP), Movistar, s.t.
- 1. Damiano Cunego (Italy), Lampre-Isd , 17:14:11
- 2. Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Colombia), Movistar, at 0:54
- 3. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands), Rabobank Cycling Team, at 1:16
- 4. Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands), Rabobank Cycling Team, at 1:19
- 5. Tejay Van Garderen (United States), HTC-Highroad, at 1:21