Robert Gesink claimed a prestigious win on the sixth stage of the Tour of Switzerland Thursday to take command of the race.
The Rabobank climbing specialist attacked late on the third and final climb, crested the summit alone and raced the remaining 10km downhill to finish well ahead of an eight-man group of chasers.
Rigoberto Uran led the pursuit group, which included Lance Armstrong, over the finish line 42 seconds in arrears.
Gesink now holds a 29-second lead on Uran, of Caisse d’Epargne, with Swiss rider Steve Morabito at 36 and Franck Schleck at 38.
The sixth stage was a 213 km ride from Meiringen and La Punt and with two hors categorie climbs ─ the Sustenpass and Albulapass ─ and one category one climb, the Oberalppass, a change of race leader was a distinct possibility.
Germany’s Tony Martin began the day with a 01-second lead on defending champion Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank, however the Swiss was never in contention on the long, sapping climbs of the Swiss Alps.
Martin’s HTC-Columbia team tried to provide as much support as possible on the long climb over the Albulapass however a series of attacks and counter-attacks upset the German’s plans and he eventually trailed in over two minutes behind.
A convincing attack by Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck appeared to set him up to take command of the race however the Luxemburger inexplicably ran out of steam. Gesink had closed the gap to Schleck and, sniffing an opportunity, he raced away from Schleck to go on and forge a win that could well prove key to him winning the race overall.
Armstrong, who is sitting seventh overall, 55 seconds behind the winner, said he was satisfied with his performance in the mountains.
“It was a tough day. To be honest, I suffered at the beginning of the Albula climb. It was hard to find my rhythm,” said the seven-time Tour de France winner. “But overall I’m quite happy. It was a long day that was also a good test.
“Team RadioShack is ready for the Tour de France” he added.
Friday’s seventh stage is another hilly affair but the 204.1 km ride from Savognin to Wetzikon will be far easier than the sixth stage.
The race ends with an individual time trial on Sunday.
Top-10, Stage 6
1. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank, 6:20:53
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:42
3. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha, at 0:42
4. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Liquigas-Doimo, at 0:42
5. Lance Armstrong (USA) Radioshack, at 0:42
6. Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil, at 0:42
7. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing, at 0:42
8. Fränk Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank, at 0:42
9. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo, at 0:42
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank, at 1:20
Overall Standings, after Stage 6
1. Robert Gesink (Ned), Rabobank, 25:18:57
2. Rigoberto Uran (Col), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:29
3. Steve Morabito (Swi), BMC, at 0:36
4. Fränk Schleck (Lux), Saxo Bank, at 0:38
5. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa), Katusha, at 0:42
6. Matteo Carrara (Ita), Vacansoleil, at 0:54
7. Lance Armstrong (USA), Radioshack, at 0:55
8. Oliver Zaugg (Swi), Liquigas-Doimo, at 1:01
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Saxo Bank, at 1:17
10. Thomas Lövkvist (Swe), Sky, at 1:38
Images courtesy Graham Watson