After watching Austrian, German and Aussie riders take the honors in the first four legs, the Swiss fans could finally celebrate a "home victory" today, as Switzerland's own Michael Albasini (Liquigas-Bianchi) was the winner of stage five of the 69th Tour of Switzerland, covering 172 km. from Bad Zurzach to Altdorf, in the Uri canton. Albasini was the toughest in a sprint of seven riders, all of them members of a breakaway group that went clear about 46 km. into the stage, and that the peloton couldn't bring back. Another Swiss, Gregory Rast, and Austrian "waterboy" René Haselbacher, were the other top three place getters of the day. None of the seven fugitives was a real threat to Jan Ullrich's GC leadership, so that the German retained the overall leader's yellow mantle.
How it unfolded
Wednesday's leg got underway without Alejandro Valverde in the peloton. But with the "usual" flurry of early attacks. The first men on the move were Stephan Schreck (Ger - T-Mobile), Thorwald Veneberg (Hol - Rabobank), Linus Gerdemann (Den - Team CSC), David De la Fuente (Spa - Saunier Duval-Prodir), Cédric Herve (Fra - Crédit Agricole), Michael Albasini (Swi - Liquigas-Bianchi), Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel - Cofidis) and Daniele Righi (Ita - Lampre-Caffita), even though this breakaway of eight was over in the space of just 3-4 kilometres. Phonak's Sascha Urweider and four more riders were the next attackers, and the next guys that weren't allowed to go; the T-Mobiles were still very attentive at the front of the bunch.
Some 20 km. into the stage, fifteen more riders had a shot at making the break, and Tom Boonen was among them. But, needless to say, their move didn't come to fruition. The same goes for following attempts from Spain's Luis Pérez (Cofidis), Italy's Daniele Colli (Liquigas) and Belgian Kevin Hulsmans (Quick Step). It was interesting to see how two excellent sprinters who made the top four yesterday (Colli and Boonen) tried to get into early breakaways today. Maybe they realized that, with such a strong rival as Robbie McEwen in the field, they could have some chances for victory only in a small bunch sprint without the Aussie around.
But after all those skirmishes, the winning breakaway finally formed, as Albasini, Marten Den Bakker (Hol - Rabobank), René Haselbacher (Ger - Gerolsteiner), Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe - Fassa Bortolo), Yannick Talabardon (Fra - Crédit Agricole) and two combative guys like swissman Gregory Rast of Phonak and Denmark's Allen Johansen of Team CSC succeeded in getting away from the group. Rast was on the attack for the tenth time thus far in the race, while Johansen got into the "break of the day" for the second stage in a row. And today's "break of the day" (whose best-placed member, France's Talabardon, was 07'09" down on Jan Ullrich on GC) opened up a maximum gap of 04'22" by km. 60.
Bart Dockx's presence in the breakaway trio allowed Davitamon-Lotto to save their legs while others (Quick Step in particular) were putting in efforts to bring the race together yesterday. But McEwen's squad had no man in the front group today, so that it was the same Belgian team that had to move up front and drive the chase. With Nico Mattans and Gert Steegmans riding tempo, the bunch started bringing the gap down (to 03'40" by km. 77), though close to all escapees, with Fassa's Larsson as sole, "lazy" exception, were working well together.
But despite those early gains the peloton didn't put the hammer down at all as, while France's Christhope Le Mevel, stage winner at the recent Giro d'Italia, was dropping out of the race, the gap stayed the same (e.g. around the four-minute mar k) over the next 30 kilometres, as they all reached the feeding zone at Sempach. With still more than 70k remaining, the Lottos at the front of the pack were not that eager to catch them too early. So that the break could comfortably make it to the top of the first climb, the cat. 3 Udligenswil, with Gregory Rast winning the prime there, and Talabardon, den Bakker and Haselbacher in the other point-awarding spots.
Back in the peloton, the T-Mobiles took the chase back in to their hands, even if Ullrich's overall leadership wasn't in jeopardy. And the gap finally kept shrinking for the first time in close to 80 km: Albasini, den Bakker, Haselbacher, Larsson, Talabardon, Rast and Johansen were leading by "only" 03'30" with 35 km. to go, after Albasini won the Arth mid-race sprint from Allan Johansen and René Haselbacher (presumably the fastest guy in the seven-strong breakaway). The next points at stake came at the second and final mountain prime on the menu today (Sattel), less than 30k from the finish, with Rast taking first again (and clinching the KOM classification leader's jersey) and Johansen, Larsson, Albasini filling the other top four places.
The field, with the Lottos back to their chasing task in an all-Belgian alliance with Boonen's Quick Step, brought the gap a further minute down over the next ten kilometres, but with the escapees leading by 02'30" with 17k left, there was room for hope for anyone wanting the seven brave riders to succeed. And they must have kept their hopes intact even after watching the gap go down to 01'37" nine km. from the finish, straight after Albasini took also the last hot spot sprint of the day, with Rast and Talabardon in second and third place respectively. And to 01'20" some two miles later.
Their hopes turned to certainties as the gap was still over the minute with less than 3k left. The escapees realized that they were going to make it today, but also that there was no point in continuing to work together in such circumstances, and started attacking each other, trying to solo away, throughout the last couple of kilometres. None of them was really able to make the gap though, such that the breakaway came down to a sprint of seven, with Albasini showing that, regardless of his previous hot spot sprint efforts, he still had plenty of gasoline left. The 1980-born Liquigasman started his sprint early and held off the oncoming duo Rast-Haselbacher in the very last metres to get a well-earned success, the first one since he entered the professional cycling ranks back in the days of 2003. The bunch came in at 35", and was led home by another swiss fastman, Aurélien Clerc.
Lucky 13 for Liquigas Bianchi
The Celeste army kept to its winning ways today and a naturally delighted team had this to say about the stage -
Swiss Michael Albasini scored the 13th win for Liquigas-Bianchi in this race season - the 8th win in Pro Tour races - and the first success of his career just in his homeland. Albasini outsprinted six escaping mates he had been in the front with for 126 km out of 176 km from Bad Zurzach to Altdorf.
The riders crossing the finish line behind Albasini were in order: Gregory Rast, René Haselbacher, Allan Johansen, Gustav Erik Larsson, Yannick Talabardon, and Maarten Den Bakker. The peloton finished 38” behind the escaping men.
For Michael Albasini - 24, both a long distance rider and a climber - this is the third race season as a pro. In 2002 when he was among U23 riders, he won the road race of the European Championships.
«That’s extraordinary happiness,» says Albasini - everyone loves him for his shy kindness. «I fought and won a long sprint after entering the home-stretch the first. Do you wonder if I hoped to win? Of course, just like any escaping mate of mine. We exhausted ourselves to resist the chase of the peloton: we took our chances at the end of such a demanding stage…»
Tomorrow, the sixth stage Bürglen – Arosa, 156 km. German Jan Ullrich is still wearing the yellow jersey.
After the stage Albansini said –
«For a Swiss rider , to win a stage of the Tour de Suisse, is always going to be very special. I didn’t think that the break would stay away, I was riding really just to show the team colours. I didn’t really think we would stay away even with 10 kilometres to go.
I ride very well with Rast, we know each other very well and rode together as espoirs and then spent two years together with Phonak. However, in a sprint like this one you cant have friends.
Raast and I had been away together yesterday, and we both had the same goal. It’s a pity we couldn’t have stayed in the same team; but last year, Phonak had told me they would not be resigning me.So I signed for Liquigas then, after my 5th place in the Championnat de Zurich, Phonak asked me to sign.But I was already committed to Liquigas and I am very pleased I chose them".
In the sprint, Den Bakker went early, I closed the gap and then went for the line, I did wonder if I would make it! I hope to ride the Tour de France for the first time , I will find out after the Tour de Suisse.»
Allan Johansen – In the right Move Again!
Team CSC report on the second excellent ride from Allan Johansen in two days ,
For the second day in a row, Team CSC's Allan Johansen was in a long break away in Tour de Suisse. In Wednesday's fifth stage from Bad Zurzach to Altdorf the break made it all the way, and Johansen sprinted to fourth in the front group of seven riders, while Michael Albasini (Liquigas) took the stage.
"Allan was strong in the sprint, but unfortunately he was too far back in that last turn, and as a result he was boxed in when trying to get around to the left. The fact that he still managed to sprint his way to a fourth place shows, that he had surplus energy at the finish," said sports director Kim Andersen after the 176-kilometer stage.
There were no changes in the overall standings ahead of tomorrow's tough stage from Bürglen to Arosa, which finishes with a category-1 climb.
"Blaudzun isn't feeling too well, he's still got stomach problems, and if it doesn't get better by tomorrow, he'll probably abandon the race. Apart from that the other riders are eager to do well, and first of all we need to make sure Fränk Schleck stays up front," added Kim Andersen.
Stage 5 Results: Top 10 Places
1. Michael Albasini (SUI - LIQ) - 03h48'01''
2. Gregory Rast (SUI - PHO) - s.t.
3. René Haselbacher (AUT - GST) - s.t.
4. Allan Johansen (DEN - CSC) - s.t.
5. Gustav Erik Larsson (SWE - FAS) - s.t.
6. Yannick Talabardon (FRA - CA) - s.t.
7. Maarten den Bakker (NED - RAB) - s.t.
8. Aurélien Clerc (SUI - PHO) - at 35"
9. Angelo Furlan (ITA - DOM) - at 35"
10. Marcus Zberg (SUI - GST) - at 35"
GC after Stage 5: Top 20 Places
1. Jan Ullrich (Ger - T-Mobile) - 17h02'29"
2. Bradley McGee (Aus - Francaise des Jeux) - at 02"
3. Michael Rogers (Aus - Quick Step) - at 18"
4. Dario Frigo (Ita - Fassa Bortolo) - at 01'12"
5. Beat Zberg (Swi - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'14"
6. Fabian Jeker (Swi - Saunier Duval-Prodir) - at 01'25"
7. Georg Totschnig (Aut - Gerolsteiner) - at 01'31"
8. Frank Schleck (Lux - Team CSC) - at 01'41"
9. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger - Quick Step) - at 01'47"
10. Aitor González (Spa - Euskaltel-Euskadi) - at 01'52"
11. Tadej Valjavec (Slo - Phonak H.S.) - at 01'53"
12. Koldo Gil Pérez (Spa - Liberty Seguros-Würth) - at 01'56"
13. Cadel Evans (Aus - Davitamon-Lotto) - at 02'02"
14. Kim Kirchen (Lux - Fassa Bortolo) - at 02'08"
15. Daniel Schnider (Swi - Phonak H.S.) - at 02'17"
16. Jens Voigt (Ger - Team CSC) - at 02'20"
17. Vladimir Gusev (Rus - Phonak H.S.) - at 02'29"
18. Alexandre Moos (Swi - Phonak H.S.) - at 02'37"
19. Charles Wegelius (GBR - Liquigas) - at 02'47"
20. Francesco Bellotti (Ita - Crédit Agricole) - at 02'48"
1. Bradley McGee (Aus - Francaise des Jeux)
1. Gregory Rast (Swi - Phonak H.S.)
1. Michael Albasini (Swi - Liquigas)
Tour de Suisse 2005 Links
Race Preview - Part 1
Race Preview - Part 2
Race Preview - Part 3
Stage 1 Live Ticker & ResultsStage 2 Live Ticker & Results
Stage 3 Results, Report & News
Stage 4 Results, Report & News
1. Fassa Bortolo