Higuita new leader, Thomas ahead of overall victory
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama – FDJ) wins stage 7 at the Tour de Suisse| Photo: Cor Vos
06/18/2022 | (rsn) – Thibaut Pinot (Groupama – FDJ) was able to secure the 7th stage of the Tour de Suisse in Malbun from an almost hopeless position. He relegated Oscar Rodriguez (Movistar) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan) from a breakaway group. The best of the favorites was Sergio Higuita (Bora – hansgrohe) in fourth place. He took the overall lead from Jakob Fuglsang (Israel – Premier Tech), who finished sixth behind Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers).
Nineteen riders made up the day’s group after a hard fight. “Today’s start was pretty tough, the pace was very high. But it was the right decision to go into the group today,” Pinot looked back. After the Lukmanier Pass, the gap between the field and the breakaway leveled off, and the race only really started on the final climb. Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) quickly set himself apart from his escape companions. He drove away from his pursuers Lutsenko and Pinot to within 50 seconds and lost no time on the field.
But shortly after Pinot attacked his companion, he suddenly appeared in the rear-view mirror of the leader. “I must have started too early, I exploded in the last three kilometers,” explained the Basque at the finish. Pinot could understand that: “It was a long and difficult day with temperatures of 35 degrees. You shouldn’t underestimate that,” said the 32-year-old, who left the Spaniard behind with about two kilometers to go. “This victory today feels well. My goal is just to win races,” said Pinot, who only wants to chase stages instead of overall rankings.
Among the favourites, the top three in the classification were also the best on the way to Malbun. Higuita seized the initiative and broke away from his opponents. Thomas shook Fuglsang off in the last kilometer. “I tried to follow Higuita and catch him, but that didn’t work,” he said, describing his attack. The Welshman is now two seconds behind Higuita in the rankings, but 17 seconds ahead of Fuglsang Favorite for the overall win.”The plan was to start the Tour de France in the best possible shape, I think I’m on course for that. I’m in a good position for tomorrow’s time trial,” said the 36- year olds.
Maximilian Schachmann (Bora – hansgrohe) sacrificed himself for his two captains and still finished 16th. He is eleventh in the standings with a view of a top 10 placement. Felix Großschartner, next to Higuita the second ranking driver at Bora, did not have a good day. As 20th of the day, he lost four positions in the classification and is now in ninth place.
Things went well for the two Groupama FDJ Swiss. Although Stefan Küng lost 1:40 minutes on Higuita, he defended his seventh position before the time trial and can still catch a few riders in front of him tomorrow. Sebastien Reichenbach, who was ninth on the day, gained four positions in the classification and is now sixth. Bob Jungels (AG2R – Citroën) also drove a nice race. He was eleventh on the day and moved up to eighth place in the overall standings. The Luxembourger can thus achieve his first significant result since the national championship in 2019 on Sunday.
As the overall leader, Higuita also defended his lead in the junior classification. Simmons remains in the mountain jersey even on the final day when there are no points to be earned. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange – Jayco) extended his points lead as part of the group of the day.
This is how the race went:
After two more drivers, Marco Haller (Bora – hansgrohe) and Quentin Pacher (Groupama – FDJ), were unable to start because of a positive corona test, the field left no one out over the first 45 kilometers. But then Nelson Oliveira (Movistar) and Clément Champoussin (AG2R – Citroën) pulled away from the field. They were gradually joined by 17 other riders around Fausto Masnada (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Lutsenko, Izagirre and Pinot.
The Lukmanier Pass
In the 29.2-kilometre Lukmanier Pass (HC) the leading group fell apart. Pinot and Clément Berthet (AG2R – Citroën), who won the mountains classification, broke away and reached the top of the climb about 40 seconds ahead of 12 pursuers and about three minutes ahead of the field.
Fourteen breakaways came together again on the descent. Best-placed in the overall standings was Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies), 4:36 minutes behind. In Flims (Cat. 3) and on the Luzisteig (Cat. 3), Masnada secured the three mountain points, Matthews was not put in the way of the two intermediate sprints.
The final climb
With a lead of 3:30 minutes, the fourteen tackled the climb to Malbun. With eleven kilometers to go, Ilan van Wilder (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Izagirre and Lutsenko pulled away from the leading group. The Belgian had to choose his own pace just a few hundred meters later. With ten kilometers to go, Izagirre also shook off Lutsenko, but Pinot approached from behind, who drove up to Lutsenko and drove away with 4.5 kilometers to go. At this point, however, he was already 40 seconds behind Izagirre.
But with 2.2 kilometers to go, the Frenchman suddenly appeared behind the Spaniard. 200 meters later he reached Izagirre, who was completely blue and could no longer follow him. A few seconds later, however, Daniel Felipe Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) increased the pace with the favorites, which meant that only Higuita, Thomas and Fuglsang could follow. Higuita attacked and both Fuglsang and Thomas didn’t call.
While Izagirre fell further behind at the front, Rodriguez caught up with second-placed Lutsenko in the final. In the last 1000 meters Thomas attacked Fuglsang, who was no longer able to react. Pinot, meanwhile, won the stage ahead of Rodriguez and Lutsenko. Thomas was unable to reach Higuita and finished fifth behind the Colombian.
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