Thibaut Pinot takes it all
Many riders wanted to join the morning breakaway, which made for a very fast start to this long and mountainous stage. At the end, eight riders managed to get away. Amongst them were grand tour stage winners like Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) together with the leader of the mountain classification Stefan Denifl (IAM Cycling). In fact, the Swiss team had two riders in the front group as the former hour record holder Matthias Brändle had made it into the breakaway as well.
The break worked well together and quickly distanced the peloton by more than seven minutes. None of the eight riders at the front was a threat to Tom Dumoulin’s overall lead. Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty - Groupe Gobert) was the best-placed rider but more than 18 minutes behind the Dutchman. Giant-Alpecin would gladly see a breakaway take care of the bonus seconds on the finishing line. They were not in a hurry to start chasing and therefore, the gap increased to over 10 minutes.
On the Bielerhöhe climb, the light blue color of Astana appeared at the front of the peloton. In Jakob Fuglsang, the Kazakh team had one of the top favorites for this stage and general classification. Naturally, they didn’t want to let the break get too far away. At the top of the climb, the gap was down to under eight minutes.
More teams joined the chase in the peloton and as the breakaway started on the final climb, less than five minutes separated the two groups. Brändle put in a big performance to keep his teammate Denifl in contention for the stage win. After just a few kilometers on the steep slopes, the Austrian climber was alone in front.
Astana kept a high pace in the peloton and it didn’t take long before the yellow jersey started to lose ground. However, Dumoulin didn’t panic. He found a good rhythm and started to work his way back to the front little by little. The favorites for the general classification took turns at attacking each other. Fuglsang was one of the victims for the many accelerations. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Simon Spilak (Katusha) tried to take advantage of the situation with numerous attacks on the last kilometers. With about 2 km to go, Pinot went clear. The Frenchman caught Denifl just before the top of the climb and didn’t look back.
After nearly six and a half hours on the bike, Pinot crossed the line 34 seconds ahead of Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) in second place. Spilak finished third. Dumoulin managed to minimize his time loss to just 1:37 minutes, which means he’s still in contention for the overall win. He doesn’t lead Tour de Suisse anymore, though. Pinot took it all today and he’s now 47 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), in the general classification.
Tomorrow, the sprinters will get a rare chance to fight for glory. The 193.1 km from Wil to Biel are expected to end in bunch sprint, giving the GC riders a chance to recover after today’s difficult stage.
Find the results of today's queen stage here
Find the photo gallery here