Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates) won the fast 5th stage to Leukerbad with his incredible start.
Tour de Suisse: What memories do you have of the fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse 2018?
Diego Ulissi: At the beginning of the Tour de Suisse I was in perfect shape: I had already built up my fitness at the Giro d‘Italia, but I was not able to win. In Switzerland, I was highly motivated from the very beginning to achieve a great result. Together with the sports directors we had decided that the fifth stage was particularly suitable for me. At the start I was in good spirits, but at the same time I knew about the strong competition. The satisfaction after the victory was incredible.
TdS: The start was relatively hectic. During the ride over the first pass and also during the whole descent, the peloton did not let anybody into the breakaway group and an enormously high speed was set. How did you approach the first half of the race?
DU: I tried to arrange everything as best as I could. In order to save as much energy as possible, I stayed in the slipstream of my team. This is especially important if you are driving very fast from the start.
TdS: Larry Warbasse was the last to be caught up. The race was decided on the last climb to Leukerbad. Mikel Landa went on the attack six kilometres before the home stretch. His attack was explosive. Did that pressure you?
DU: In such situations I always try to stay calm. I keep a regular and efficient rhythm and wait for the most opportune moment to give my all. I try not to be too distracted by my opponents and concentrate fully on my strategy. Of course Landa is very dangerous when he attacks. It is just as dangerous to follow him immediately and react to his attacks: This can end badly!
TdS: Under the flame rouge you then led the field and could catch Landa about 200m before the finish line. Was it your original plan to control the race from the front? You did a sprint of about 400m!
DU: 400 meters before the home stretch I decided to give everything and catch up with Landa, who had already used up energy during the attack. My legs were in perfect shape, so I was able to overtake Landa: When I was in the lead, all I could think about was getting faster and not slowing down till the home stretch.
TdS: Leinahe would have been successful Landas escape, from when did you think you could sprint around the stage?
DU: During the stage I felt that I was equal to all my opponents. Even when Landa started to attack, I noticed that his lead was not very big and so I held on to the conviction that I could win.
TdS: You are known for your hilly arrivals. But on paper, the 5th stage looked like the first mountain stage. Was it a stage you had in mind from the beginning or did you notice on the spot during the final that it could turn into a sprint and to your advantage?
DU: Not least thanks to the sports directors of the team as well as the coaches we had already studied the stage in detail and I knew that I had very good chances. It’s true, I like tracks that have big differences in altitude towards the end.
TdS: In general, you came over the mountains well at the Tour de Suisse and got a Top10 GC place. Did you also go to the GC from the beginning or did you originally go to a stage and it all came together in the end?
DU: If you are in good shape, you can put short stage races on stage wins. If you also keep a regular rhythm, then a good result in the overall classification will come about all by itself.
TdS: You have been living in Switzerland for a few years now, did it feel a little like home for you at the Tour de Suisse?
DU: That’s right. The Tour de Suisse is the race of my adopted country! I feel this especially when the stages run through the canton of Ticino – sometimes even on the roads on which I train every day.
TdS: And what are your plans for the 2019 season?
DU: In May I will take part in the Giro d’Italia: I hope that this will be positive for me. For an Italian cyclist, the Giro d’Italia is always a very special race. Should I, as planned, finish the Giro d’Italia in good form, I will participate in the Tour de Suisse again.
TdS: What triumph do you dream of, what victory do you still want to add to your Palmeras?
DU: My dream is still the Liège-Bastogne-Liège race. Besides another victory at the Tour de Suisse of course.
TdS: Thanks a lot Diego, and good luck for the season!