Bernhard Eisel usually works hard to help his Columbia-Highroad team mates win races but the experienced Austrian had a chance for success at the Tour of Switzerland on Sunday and took it, cleverly winning the sprint into Davos.
The testing climb up to the Swiss ski resort on stage two meant that Mark Cavendish and most of the other sprinters were not in the front group and so Eisel got his chance for glory. And when team mate Tony Martin was caught by a greedy Saxo Bank squad, Eisel and the Columbia team promised to punish them.
George Hincapie produced another perfect lead out just like he did for Cavendish at Milan-San Remo, and then Eisel finished it off by taking a direct line through the final corners before accelerating to the line.
Former team mate Gerald Ciolek (Milram) came up along the barriers and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was also ready to come through the gap but Eisel squeezed them gently to the right and managed to hang on and win by a few millimetres with a well-timed throw at the line.
Freire wagged his finger at Eisel in discontent but it was the three-time world champion who had messed up his sprint and he knew it.
Cavendish himself finished in the main gruppetto with world champion Alessandro Ballan and most of his sprint rivals at 13-54 but was as happy as if he’d won himself. He considers ‘Bernie’ Eisel a friend and role model as much as a team mate. Just like Cavendish, Eisel praised his team mates and hugged them all as he shared his win with them.
“It was a tricky finish and so after George Hincapie gave me a good lead out, I went early, took my own line and didn’t look back until I hit the finish line. I think I did a good sprint but the line never seemed to arrive. I was scared of Ciolek and Freire coming back up to me and beating me,” Eisel said.
“I have to thank the team for the work they did for me. Tony Martin attacked in the final 30km and looked like he was going to win but then the Saxo Bank team pulled him back. After that all the team rode well and so I had to win.”
Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) finished 11th, just behind and in the same time as Eisel. He managed to extend his lead on Roman Kreizuger (Liquigas) to 22 seconds thanks to sneakily winning a late time bonus. Germany’s Andreas Kloden (Astana) is third at 25 seconds.
Monday’s 195km third stage is a long hail south from Davos to Lumino not far from Lugano in the Italian speaking canton of Switzerland. The stage includes the long climb of the Lukemanierpass after 130km but the long descent could mean Cavendish and the other sprinters fight for the stage win.
Stage two: Davos-Davos, 150km
1. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Columbia-Highroad in 3-36-54
2. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram
3. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
4. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre
5. Jose Rojas (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Xavier Florencio (Spa) Cervelo TestTeam
7 Andreas Dietziker (Swi) Vorarlberg
8. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r
9. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Lampre
10. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
11. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank
135. Mark Cavendish (GB) Team Columbia at 13-54.
Overall classification after stage two
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 3-46-12
2. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 22secs
3. Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana at 25secs
4. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia-Highroad at 27secs
5. Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-Highroad at 34secs
6. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia-Highroad at same time
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Columbia-Highroad at 35secs
8. Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Saxo Bank at 36secs
9. Rui Alberto Faria (Por) Caisse d’Epargne at 38secs
10. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Columbia-Highroad at 39secs
132. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 15-05