Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) emerged victorious on stage five of the Tour de Suisse and moved into the overall lead as he just managing to hold off Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) at the finish line.
Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) launched his lead out for Vlasov into the final right-hand turn with 400m remaining, and Vlasov took over the mantle expertly as he sprinted to victory. Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) attacked first, but Vlasov powered past him.
Powless tried his best to throw his bike past Vlasov, but just fell short as the Bora-Hansgrohe rider took the win. Fuglsang came in third, with Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) finishing fourth, the Welshman just not having enough in the final sprint to gain any extra bonus seconds.
With Stevie Williams (Bahrain-Victorious) struggling in the day and dropping from the peloton early, Vlasov also moves into the overall lead of the Tour de Suisse, with three more stages to go.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage five started without 17 riders taking to the start line. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) withdrew due to returning a positive Covid-19 test, while a Covid outbreak in the Jumbo-Visma team meant the Dutch team pulled out completely from the rest of the Tour de Suisse. Not all 17 riders were due to Covid, with others suffering from dehydration and illness.
Stevie Williams came into the stage wearing the yellow jersey once again, with a 190km hilly route ahead of the riders.
The day's break immediately formed, with Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Johan Jacobs (Movistar) and Claudio Imhof (Switzerland) getting some distance out front. Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo) soon joined them, creating a quintet that lasted for the opening half of the race.
After 30km, the break's lead had grown to four minutes, rising to as high as 7-30 just 10km later. Heading towards the foot of the Monte Ceneri - a 6.2km, 5.5% average gradient ascent - the lead dropped to 6-30. Kamp summited first, though he faced little competition from the other four riders for the KOM points.
With 90km remaining in the race, the breakaway's gap stood at 4-30 as the peloton gradually worked away at bringing them closer in. Ineos Grenadiers and EF Education-EasyPost were the main teams working to reduce the deficit, with the British-based team most prominent in keeping the tempo high.
The final 70km climb of the race featured a circuit set to be completed three times. On the approach to the Pedrinate or the first time of the day, a 2.5km long climb at 7.8% gradient, Imhof and Jacobs were both dropped from the breakaway. Turgis also looked like he was struggling, but just managed to cling onto the front riders for the next couple of kilometres before the hill.
Dillier led Kamp over the Pedrinate climb first, with Turgis soon dropped. With 50km remaining, the peloton was four minutes back from the duo out front.
Meanwhile, yellow jersey leader Stevie Williams (Bahrain-Victorious) couldn't quite manage to keep pace with the peloton. The Welshman was soon dropped from the bunch over the sharp ascents, his time in the general classification seemingly coming to an abrupt end. Dillier led Kamp over the Pedrinate climb first, with Turgis dropped - 50km remaining, the peloton was four minutes back from the duo out front
The time gap kept dropping though, and soon Dillier dropped Kamp during the second climb of Pedrinate. By now, with 32km remaining, the peloton sat just 1-15 back from Dillier, who continued to press on in a mighty solo effort, considering the sweltering heat.
With 20km remaining, though, the peloton sharply reeled him back in. Initially comfortable with him 75 seconds up the road, a largely reduced peloton bought Dillier within 30 seconds of them. At the same point, Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) couldn't hang on in the main bunch, but he soon worked his way back on.
The peloton eventually caught Dillier with 14km remaining in the race, meaning the stage would likely conclude with a reduced sprint finish. With just 10km to go, riders faced the Pedrinate for the final time. Upon summiting that, they had just 8km left until the finish line, with a steady climb in the final kilometre. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Evenepoel all fell victim to the climb.
Just 100m from the top, an acceleration by Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) and Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) split the peloton, with the front riders stretched out heading into the final kilometres of the race. On the descent, Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) accelerated, but Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) followed to quell that attack as the group caught back up.
The games of cat and mouse then started, before Fuglsang decided on a solo attack with 4km remaining. No riders matched him immediately, but Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe), Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) soon responded. They eventually drew level with Fuglsang just before the Flamme Rouge, with Schachmann then joining them on the ascent of the approach to the finish line.
Schachmann launched his lead out for Vlasov with 400m remaining, and the Russian gritted his teeth and sprinted past his teammate at the 200m mark. Fuglsang attacked early, but didn't have enough in the tank to trouble Vlasov, while Powless presented a strong opponent. The American nearly came alongside Vlasov and threw his bike to the line, but didn't quite have the strength or speed to get past him.
Williams' struggles in the race also means that Vlasov moves into the overall lead, with three stages left to complete.
TOUR DE SUISSE, STAGE FIVE: AMBRI TO NOVAZZANO (190.1KM)
1. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-30-28
2. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at same time
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier Tech
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 5s
6. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 6s
7. Stefan Küng (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at same time
8. Sergio Higuita (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
10. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at 9s
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FIVE
1. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 22-16-56
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Israel-Premier Tech, at 6s
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 7s
4. Andreas Kron (Nor) Lotto Soudal, at 14s
5. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama FDJ, at 16s
6. Sergio Higuita (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
7. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 28s
8. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 40s
9. Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) Groupama-FDJ, at 43s
10. Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, at 44s
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