Tour de Suisse stage 7: Thibaut Pinot scores mountaintop victory, Sergio Higuita grabs GC lead
Pinot climbs to biggest win since 2019 Tour de France, Higuita and Geraint Thomas sit in pole position for GC ahead of final TT.
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Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) chased down breakaway rival Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) and took solo victory in the Tour de Suisse.
The victory was Pinot’s first WorldTour win since the 2019 Tour de France and a timely booster ahead of this year’s French tour.
Óscar Rodríguez (Movistar) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) took the next steps on the Suisse podium after Izagirre’s push for the stage lost steam.
Pinot is set to return to his home grand tour this summer for the first time since his crash-blighted 2020 challenge.
“This is great for me. I wanted that win and went to get it myself. By finishing with the best Friday, I knew I was in good form,” he said.
Pinot rides toward a Tour de France co-captaincy role with teammate David Gaudu and looks back at his best after finally shaking the injuries that torpedoed his 2o21. The 32-year-old also savored an emotional comeback victory at Tour of the Alps this spring.
“This confirms all the work I have done since the start of the season. This is good in view of the Tour de France,” Pinot said. “The goal is to win stages there too.”
Behind Pinot, a flurry of attacks from the GC group in the final summit saw Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) take a slender lead over Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) in the classification.
Overnight yellow jersey Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) struggled to hold the wheels in the final and dropped to third at 19 seconds.
Neilson Powless (EF Education EasyPost) was resilient in what has been another standout week for the young American. After being left with just one teammate after a swathe of abandons Friday, Powless did enough to hold on to his fourth place overall ahead of the closing TT.
The peloton likely breathed a sigh of relief Saturday morning when there were just three non-starters after the COVID chaos that contributed to nearly 30 DNSs on Friday.
Pinot and Clément Berthet (Ag2r Citroën) were two of the oversized breakaway group that got away in the fast downhill start to the stage.
The two Frenchmen went clear on the towering Lukmanierpass and edged a small gap over a handful of chase groups on the marathon-distance descent.
The day’s decisive 14-rider move eventually came together at around 100km to go as breakaway riders caught across to Pinot and Berthet.
Top talents like Lutsenko, Izagirre, Clément Champoussin (Ag2r-Citroën), Fausto Masnada (Quick-Step) and the points-hunting Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) were among the escape.
The bunch of GC favorites gave the break plenty of space in anticipation of the severe summit finish to come. The lead group toyed with five to seven minutes for much of the middle of the race.
Pinot makes hay on Malbun summit
Israel Premier Tech did most of the work keeping things in control for Fuglsang. The gap to the break reduced through the closing hours, but the 14 riders still enjoyed more than three minutes when they arrived at the 13km climb to Malbun.
Izagirre and Lutsenko followed the initial moves in the break and the two kicked away, but Pinot made a hot pursuit.
Pinot caught and dropped Lutsenko after Izagirre kicked clear and went on a mission to bridge a 40-second gap to the solo Spaniard.
The Groupama captain caught Izagirre at 2km, sat on the wheel for the briefest of moments, then flew solo for the victory in a pre-Tour de France statement of intent.
Higuita makes GC move
Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) tried to crack the GC deadlock in the bunch at around 8km to go after being a casualty of the “queen stage” Friday. The Belgian didn’t get far as Daniel Martínez set the pace for Ineos teammate Thomas.
Martínez kept pulling all the way through to the final kilometers of the steep ascent and only a small bunch of favorites could hang on.
Higuita pounced as soon as Martínez pulled off, and the group blew to bits.
Thomas sat on Fuglsang’s wheel and left the Dane to chase after Higuita. The Welshman finally pounced inside the final kilometer to drop his GC rival and went motoring after Higuita.
Higuita didn’t let off all the way to the line as he hunted the GC lead. The Colombian climber started the stage 10 seconds down on Fuglsang and did just enough to gain the time he needed to take a two-second race lead with his fourth-place finish.
The final yellow jersey of the race will be awarded after a flat 25km TT on Sunday’s stage 8. All eyes will be on Thomas to go faster than Higuita and Fuglsang and claim the Suisse trophy for the first time in his career.
From there, the road leads to the Tour de France and the more famous yellow garment.
Results will be available once stage has completed.