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Tour de Suisse: Andreas Leknessund holds off the peloton to win stage 2

Norwegian DSM rider attacked from the breakaway inside the final 20 kilometers and held off the chase from the bunch. Stephen Williams holds onto his race lead.

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Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) claimed the biggest victory of his young career, riding solo to the victory in Aesch on stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse.

The Norwegian attacked with just under 20 kilometers to go from a group of six riders that emerged from the early breakaway. He held off a stern chase from the peloton behind to take the victory by 38 seconds.

There was some confusion behind as Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) appeared to believe he had claimed the stage victory, celebrating what was actually a second-place finish after taking the bunch sprint behind Leknessund.

Leknessund’s performance was enough to see him soar up the overall standings but it wasn’t quite enough to take over the GC lead with Stephen Williams (Bahrain-Victorious) holding onto the yellow jersey for another day.

“There’s not much to say, it’s unbelievable. I was full gas, but the hardest part was maybe the climb. There, I felt like if I could just get the gap then I should be able to go to the line. The last kilometer I was suffering but also enjoying it.

We’ll see about the GC. I came here to go for stages and the team wants to win stages here and now I’ve got one. For the rest of the days, I just want to try to follow, and then we’ll see but to still try to be aggressive and go for the breakaway, that would be nice.”

How it happened

The second stage of the Tour de Suisse brought the riders 198km from Küsnacht to Aesch, taking in three classified climbs along the way. The last of the three climbs, the second category Challpass, would top out at less than 15 kilometers to the line.

With a sniff of a chance that the win could go to the breakaway, the fight to get into the day’s main move was hotly contested. A very fast pace made it difficult for a group to get away and nearly 40 kilometers were completed by the time an eight-rider break got up the road.

The lucky eight were Leknessund, Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), Michael Schär (AG2R-Citroën), Matteo Badilatti (Groupama-FDJ), Jonas Rutsch (EF Education-EasyPost), Leonardo Basso (Astana-Qazaqstan), Joel Suter (UAE Team Emirates), and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies). Claudio Imhof and Simon Vitzthum of the Swiss national squad missed the initial attack but chased their way into the group.

As the race began closing in on the first climb of the day, with around 85 kilometers to go, the once cooperative breakaway began splitting up with Suter and Rutsch making an attack. They took a small gap on the rest of the breakaway and their efforts saw Imhof distanced off the back, leaving just seven riders to do the chasing.

After Suter claimed the mountains points, he and Rutsch sat up and were brought back by the chasers, which would soon lose Basso — who would subsequently abandon the race — and Vitzthum from their number. While all of this was going on, the peloton allowed the escapees to extend their advantage to over six minutes.

That lead would not be allowed to hold, and the peloton started to close the gap as the distance to go ticked under 50 kilometers.

The rolling terrain would take its toll on the breakaway and with the numbers dwindling and the gap at just 1:30 inside the final 20 kilometers, Leknessund decided to go it alone. The Norwegian’s attack extended the lead over the peloton, adding 25 seconds to his advantage, and forced the bunch behind to step its efforts up.

Alpecin-Fenix took to the front to push the pace, which would see Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) distanced off the back. It was a tough challenge for the bunch with Leknessund crossing the top of the final climb with a 1:38 of an advantage over it.

With Leknessund starting the day at just over one minute behind the race leader Williams, this was not just a race for the stage win but for the overall lead. Pushing it on the descent, Leknessund lost only a few seconds to the peloton and his stage win began looking more like a certainty.

Team DSM did its best to frustrate the speed of the chase, putting a rider near to the front of the peloton. The effort worked and Leknessund took just over a minute into the final two kilometers.

By the time he was in sight of the finish line, the gap was less than 40 seconds, which meant that the race lead was no longer a possibility. However, Leknessund had plenty of time to celebrate the first WorldTour victory of his career. Meanwhile, Bettiol took the mistaken celebration in his stride.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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