Fuglsang gets yellow and defends it
By Kevin Kemp
Nico Denz celebrates his victory. | Photo: Cor Vos
06/17/2022 | (rsn) – Nico Denz (DSM) won the 6th stage of the Tour de Suisse on the Moosalp. In the sprint, after 177 kilometers at an altitude of 2022 meters, he prevailed against four escapees. After an evaluation of the finish photo, Clément Champoussin (AG2R – Citroën) was only second. Third was José Herrada (Cofidis) ahead of Quinn Simmons (Trek – Segafredo) and Fausto Masnada (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl).
30 drivers, including Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora – hansgrohe) and the entire teams from UAE Team Emirates, Alpecin – Fenix and Bahrain Victorious, were no longer able to appear at the start in Locarno, largely because of the new corona wave. Jakob Fuglsang (Israel – Premier Tech) therefore wore the yellow jersey, which he defended as tenth of the day.
Twelve breakaways determined the stage and were able to tackle the final ascent to Moosalp in 5:30 minutes. There, Denz showed his great legs in the first few meters by breaking through the group. “I felt really fantastic today. A big thank you goes out to the staff who kept me fit,” he said in the finish interview. When the temperatures were high, the supervisors had provided ice and water to cool down again and again.
He made a quartet out of the dozen with his attack, but Simmons and Quentin Pacher (Groupama – FDJ) couldn’t follow Masnada’s pace. The Italian had to do almost all of the leadership work alone. “On the last climb it was hold, hold, hold Masnada. He almost broke me,” admitted the day’s winner.
But the tactics of the DSM professionals caused displeasure at Masnada. He attacked and gesticulated – in the end he slowed down so that a chasing duo caught up with the front-runners. Simmons even came back on the last kilometer, who didn’t hesitate and opened the sprint. Denz seemed surprised and followed behind Champoussin in third position. “In the end I thought I lost the stage because I started my sprint too late,” recalled the 28-year-old, who celebrated his third professional win.
But Denz sprinted past Simmons on the right, while Champoussin overtook the American on the left. A bad decision as the finish was in a right hand bend. So the Frenchman seemed to have won. Denz also saw himself as a loser at first, but was surprised after a few minutes of uncertainty. “Finally a success for me. I’m not usually the one who wins. But today is my day,” he said happily.
The favorites didn’t let themselves be looked at in the cards for a long time. Only in the last four kilometers did the pace increase. Stefan Küng (Groupama – FDJ) was able to limit his time loss to 39 seconds to Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), who led the group of favorites to the finish, in 19th place. Maximilian Schachmann (Bora – hansgrohe) dared to attack about seven kilometers from the finish, which was only followed by Fuglsang and which was quickly thwarted. At the finish, the German champion lost 52 seconds to the best drivers.
In the overall standings, little changed due to the passive driving style. Fuglsang is still one second ahead of Thomas. The new third is Sergio Higuita (Bora – hansgrohe), who took the lead in the junior classification with a ten-second deficit. Simmons gained 26 mountain points and remains in the red jersey. Denz is in second place, six points behind the 21-year-old. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange – Jayco) won both intermediate sprints as part of the group of the day and thanks to that eight points he moved past Andreas Leknessund to the top of the points classification.
This is how the race went:
After 14 kilometers Pacher, Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) and Masnada pulled away from the field. Gradually, nine more riders, including Denz, Champoussin, Herrada, Matthews and Roland Thalmann (Switzerland), were added. Masnada was the best-placed driver in the classification, 8:58 minutes behind Fuglsang.
In the Nufenenpass (HC) Dion Smith (BikeExchange – Jayco) fell back from the leading group. Simmons secured the 20 mountain points at the top 5:30 minutes before the field. While Astana Qazaqstan had set the pace on the climb, Israel – PremierTech took charge again after the descent in the valley. Together they reduced the gap between the pack, which had grown to seven minutes, to 5:45 minutes by the final climb. Before that, however, Matthews had won intermediate sprints and thus overtaken Leknessund.
At the beginning of the final climb, Denz and Pacher attacked. Simmons and Masnada were able to reestablish contact with the top duo a little later. With 14.5 kilometers to go, Pacher had to pass.
Masnada made the best impression in front and shook off Simmons with an attack with 11.5 kilometers to go. In the field, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), who was far behind in the rankings, attacked about ten kilometers from the finish.
Since Denz hardly drove at the front, there were disagreements between the German and the Italian. With 3.9 kilometers to go, Champoussin and Herrada were able to catch up again. A powerful attack by Masnada 900 meters later fizzled out. Around four kilometers from the finish, Lutsenko was caught again.
The top quartet made a few standing attempts in the last few kilometers. With 500 meters to go, Simmons was able to close the gap. The American put on the sprint shortly afterwards. Denz and Champoussin followed suit, the German narrowly beat the Frenchman who was sprinting on the outside. Herrada was third.
In the field, a selection was only made over the last four kilometers. Ten drivers sprinted for eighth place and any seconds; Thomas was the fastest of the favorites.
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