Australian Bradley McGee is the winner of Monday's third stage of the Tour de Suisse, covering some 160 km. between Abtwil/Säntispark and the Austrian town of Sankt Anton am Arlberg in the Tirol region. The Française des Jeux rider, giving his team their second win out of three stages after Austria's own Eisel scored in Saturday's opener, was the toughest in a small bunch sprint of a dozen riders, among whom was also Jan Ullrich, who didn't contest the sprint but comfortably had his mission of holding onto his yellow jersey accomplished. Italian Mirko Clestino of Domina Vacanze came in second, while Patrick Sinkewitz, Georg Totsching and Daniel Schnider made today's multinational top 5 complete.
McGee at today's start - it was raining very hard. Photo by
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A flurry of attacks came since early into the ride, with many protagonists, from Robbie McEwen - who had a go at breaking away straight after the flag was dropped - to David Loosli (Lampre Caffita), Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), Jürgen van den Broeck (Discovery Channel), Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), Alessandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze), Gregory Rast (Phonak), Carlos Barredo (Liberty Seguros Würth) and Matej Mugerli (Liquigas Bianchi). But with Jan Ullrich's T-Mobile chasing machine unwilling to let anyone go, all of them could stay away for a very short time. The only guy able to make a break of any significance was 2004 Tour of Italy KOM competition champion Wegmann, who attacked after 17 km. (first along with Bertolini, later continuing on his own) and could stay clear for some 18 km.. But also the "waterboy" was back into the bunch as the race made it to the shores of the Bodensee (also known as Lake Constance).
A small bunch of sprinters took a few meters out of the peloton after the sprint bonification at Bludenz (km. 119), but more than a true breakaway attempt, we could call it a "side effect" of the efforts they made at the sprint itself (won by Phonak's Aurélien Clerc ahead of Liquigas' Michael Albasini). So that Clerc, Albasini, Gregory Rast, Daniele Colli, Matej Mugerli, Markus Zberg and Bernhard Eisel were unsurprisingly back into the peloton, still led by the magenta men, a couple kilometres later. The next move came on the Arlberg, the only ascent of the day. Linus Gerdemann (CSC) and Jürgen van den Broeck - again - attacked with 24k remaining, and were joined by Charly Wegelius (Liquigas), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and David López García (Euskaltel). Needles to say, their adventure was over two or three kilometres later, right before the Sprint at Klosterle, won by Albasini from Phonak's Moos and Rast.
More of the same on the Arlberg's following slopes, while several guys trying to ride away, but none of them really succeeding. The fireworks were started by Swiss David Loosli (Lampre Caffita) and Spain's David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval); the couple turned a quintet as Euskaltel's Iker Flores and Illes Balears' Alejandro Valverde, as well as Quick Step's German Patrick Sinkewitz, closed down the gap. Valverde and Sinkewitz dropped the others with 17k to go, and took about 15 secs out of the bunch, where Italian veteran Giuseppe "Turbo" Guerini was the only Magentaman left to set the pace for Ullrich. All previous escapees were caught anyway, and so were the next attackers: Aitor González and Phonak's Tadej Valjavec, even if all aforementioned moves resulted in the bunch being down to 20-25 riders only with less than 10 km. from the line. Ulle was there, constantly in second wheel (first behind Guerini, later following Valverde as he moved to the front in order to ride tempo, and later on Totschning as the Austrian did the same), with Brad McGee always in third.
It looked like the right move came with 8k to go, as Koldo Gil Pérez of Liberty Seguros-Würth countered an attack started by Phonak's Daniel Schnider, and sped off on his own. The Spaniard managed to put a few hundred metres into the "Ullrich group" (that was losing more and more members) and won the Mountain Prime 7 km. from the finish. Even if the last, downhill part of the stage didn't suit a climber on a solo break, Koldo didn't give up the fight, and came down at a speed of more than 90 kph, hoping to hold onto his lead and repeat the winning performance he had in the Pistoia stage of the Giro about one month ago.
But unfortunately for him, there was a certain German wearing a certain yellow thingy around today. And "wearing" two great legs too, by the way: Jan Ullrich drove the chasing bunch into Sankt Anton, and poor Koldo was brought back with just 500m left. Then it was time for the sprint, and for Brad McGee to get proper reward for the perfect race he rode today.
So two wins now for the French equipe Fdjeux: Bradley McGee winning today after Bernhard Eisel's success in the opening stage.
Bernhard Eisel. Photo by
cyclingpictures.de. Click for larger image.
Jan Ullrich still in Yellow - Just!
T-Mobile star Jan Ullrich crossed the finishing line in the first group of pursuers, thus narrowly defending his yellow jersey. He now ranks two seconds ahead of winner McGee and his compatriot Michael Rogers (+0:18/Quick Step).
"It went well, I'm satisfied. It would have been okay, too, if I had lost my jersey to McGee," Ullrich explained post-race. "Now I will wear it for one more day. But that's no tour priority. It always means a lot of work in the wind for the team."
The goal according to Ullrich is not defending the title: "Three weeks prior to the Tour, I neither want to put myself nor the team under pressure. We won't fight for the jersey at any cost, since we don't want to waste too much of our energy already,"
Ullrich said before the race. "We aim for the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, not at the Tour de Suisse."
Ullrich remained however delighted with yesterday's performance in the time Trial.
Writing on his website yesterday he made the following comments –
This morning I once more scouted the course, together with Mario Kummer and Steini. After that the hair dresser was waiting for me. I told him: "Make it streamlined!" Which really helped, as you could see.
My personal highlight was when my little daughter waited for me at the finish. Then I got up on my bike again for a short while and did some interviews afterwards. Needless to say, I also went to the fans and signed autographs.
It's amazing, how they reacted to my win! Looks like they were in top form - just like myself!
A confident looking Ulle. Photo by
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Paolo Bettini Out
The Olympic Champion Paolo Bettini did not start this morning. A bad stomach, most likely caused by an ice cold drink had given him a fever, and with expected bad weather the Quickstep star decided caution was better than valour.
«I was feeling good and seemed to have the right form and, to be honest, I did want to leave my mark on this race. The thing to do now is to recover as quickly as possible » said the disappointed Gold helmeted star.
CSC – Schleck on song
Fränk Schleck, who was very impressive as Basso’s right hand man in the Giro continues his run of good form and, a little surprisingly is now the CSC best placed rider in 8th Spot.
Team CSC Report
Team CSC's Fränk Schleck improved to eight overall after Monday's 160-kilometer third stage of the Tour de Suisse from Abtwil to St. Anton. The stage was won by Bradley McGee (Francaise des Jeux), who is now just two seconds behind Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) in the general classification.
"Fränk was the only one, who had enough strength left to stay up front on the climb, which of course is a bit disappointing. Blaudzun had stomach troubles, but he was still almost able to keep up with the favorites," said sports director Kim Andersen.
The stage ended with an almost 20-kilometer climb to the ski resort St. Anton, followed by a short, but steep descent, where the group with the main contenders caught Koldo Gil (Liberty Seguros), who had escaped shortly before the top of the climb.
Top Ten - Who's hot?
So we have a very interesting top ten riders. In second and third place, McGee and Rogers, both of these men will be fancy being the first (and only) Australian to win the event since Phil Anderson took the honour in 1985. Rogers has team mate Patrick Sinkewitz in 9th place and it will be interesting to see the Quickstep tactics in the next few days, particularly since Bettini's departure.
In at number four, Dario Frigo, is it too early or too late to say "finally on the comeback trail" after a quiet season last year? Always a classy rider but inconsistent in the mountains, a top three position would be a step in the right direction for the "ice man".
5,6,7 - are Beat Zberg, Fabian Jeker, and Georg Totschnig who were expected to be in the top ten at this stage. Strong gutsy 100% men who aim to impress in their local race (since Totschnig is Austrian local is used in the widest sense of the word).
A big surprise, to Daily Peloton anyway, is the presence of Frank Schleck in 8th place. He was the last man standing with Basso in the Giro and has obviously carried that form into this race.
McEwen wonders what to make of this morning's startline
Photo by cyclingpictures.de. Click
for larger image.
Aitor Gonzalez. The "Terminaitor" has in fact, not "been back". Since he romped into a football stadium with his Vuelta victory, his career has been on a near free fall. A quite stunning victory in last years Tour de France reminded fans of his class, er is it too early or too late to say "finally on the comeback trail"?
Number 1 and race leader remains Jan Ullrich. He knows what a morale boosting effect on his team a win in this race, televised live in Germany, would mean.
The race is starting to warm up...
Ullrich at yesterday's time trial. Photo by
cyclingpictures.de. Click for larger
Stage 3 Results: Top 10 Places
1. Bradley McGee (AUS - FDJ) - 03h45'48"
2. Mirko Celestino (ITA - DOM)
3. Patrick Sinkewitz (GER - QST)
4. Georg Totschnig (AUT - GST)
5. Daniel Schnider (SUI - PHO)
6. Koldo Gil Perez (SPA - LSW)
7. Iban Mayo (SPA - EUS)
8. Tadej Valjavec (SLO - PHO)
9. Fabian Jeker (SUI - SAU)
10. Beat Zberg (SUI - GST)
All with the same time.
Tour de Suisse: GC after Stage 3 - Top 10 Places
1. Jan Ullrich (GER - TMO) - 08h31'10"
2. Bradley McGee (AUS - FDJ) - at 02"
3. Michael Rogers (AUS - QST) - at 18"
4. Dario Frigo (ITA - FAS) - at 01'12"
5. Beat Zberg (SUI - GST) - at 01'14"
6. Fabian Jeker (SUI - SAU) - at 01'25"
7. Georg Totschnig (AUT - GST) - at 01'31"
8. Frank Schleck (LUX - CSC) - at 01'41"
9. Patrick Sinkewitz (GER - QST) - at 01'47"
10. Aitor González (SPA - EUS) - at 01'52"