Tour de Suisse Review

by Jack  

The 72nd Tour de Suisse ended today and completed the last of the major warm ups for the upcoming Tour de France in July. While the racing was certainly exciting, it was the eventual winner that was the biggest surprise of the tour. 22 year old Czech rider Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) defeated German Andreas Klöden (Astana) and Spain's Igor Anton (Euskaltel - Euskadi) and won one stage in the process.

The race started with Spain's sure thing, Oscar Freire (Rabobank), winning the stage 1 sprint and the first leader's yellow jersey. The mountains began immediately on stage 2 with the first mountain top finish up the Flumserberg. Igor Anton won over Luxembourger Kim Kirchen (High Road) while major contenders Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Andreas Klöden all lost some time. Anton also became the leader of the race from here forward. The next 2 stages saw Aussie Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) reclaim his winning ways by taking the field sprints in stages 3 and 4.

The fireworks continued on stage 5 as they hit the mountains again. It looked as though Luxembourger Frank Schleck (Team CSC) was going to ride his way into the leader's jersey until he crashed on the descent down to the finish line. In what was probably one of the luckiest days for any cyclist, Schleck remarkably survived going over the barriers with nothing more than a few scratches and bruises. He was indeed counting his blessings as he crossed the finish line. See the video here. Schlecks breakaway companion, German Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), benefited from his crash by taking a big win.

Great racing continued on stage 6 as Kim Kirchen beat a finally in-form Andreas Klöden to the line after major attacks from Stijn Devolder (Quick-Step) and Frank Schleck did not stick. Race leader Igor Anton was dropped on the final climb and surrendered his leader's jersey to Kirchen. Stage 7 should have been a typical sprinter's stage but Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) had something else to say about it. The current world time trial champion broke away with about 5 km to go and held a gap all the way to the line for a dramatic win reminiscent of his victory at Milan San Remo earlier this year.

The next day's stage 8 was a dramatic mountain time trial up the Klausenpass and many were picking Klöden to be the victor. But it wasn't meant to be as the eventual tour winner, Kreuziger, blew away the competition and won by an impressive 15 seconds over José Rujano (Caisse d'Epargne) and 17 seconds over Klöden. The leader, Kirchen, lost over 3 minutes and dropped to 7th overall while Klöden moved up to 2nd with his good ride. Kreuziger's 49 second lead over Klöden proved to be enough for the final stage as he cruised to his biggest ever victory at this young age. Could this be a sign of good things to come? Cancellara once again blew past the peloton in the last few kilometers and scored another win in his hometown.

Besides the surprising Kreuziger (who will be riding the Tour), a few other cyclists should be noted. Devolder showed good form but still lacked the mindset needed to win a grand tour. He continued to attack way to early and by the time everyone else caught up to him he was out of energy. He needs to learn to channel his strengths at the right time so his attacks can lead to maximum gains. Cunego also failed to impress me. Although he was one of the top riders, he proved to not have adequate form at this time. Maybe he was saving himself? He did a very good mountain time trial and was steady throughout but missed giving his rivals a good impression on what is to come in July. Personally, I hold Cunego's chances in July pretty high. I believe this can be his year because the time trials are minimal and Astana will not be around.

Frank Schleck showed that he's on target for July and should Carlos Sastre struggle, he'll be ready to step in. Kim Kirchen showed that he can eventually be a good stage race rider but he'll have to work on getting better on the longer climbs like the Klausenpass if he's to have a shot.

With the Dauphiné showing us hints that both Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) are riding strongly and the Tour de Suisse showing us the improving forms of Damiano Cunego, Stijn Devolder and Frank Schleck, I cannot wait for this year's Tour!

Final Top 5 Overall Standings
1 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
3 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
4 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre
5 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team High Road

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