Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) won stage eight of the Tour de Suisse on Saturday in a two-man sprint ahead of Jan Bakelants (Ag2r).
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) retained his overall lead, but lost a further three seconds to Geraint Thomas (Sky), Simon Spilak (Katusha) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) due to a small split in the peloton on the finishing climb.
Lutsenko’s win is confirmation of the talent he first displayed on the world stage when he won the under-23 world championships in 2012.
He and Bakelants rode clear of a group of 19 riders who formed the break of the day. First Lutsenko attacked with 20km to go, to be joined by Bakelants a few kilometres later.
For no clear reason, Bakelants failed to take any turns as the pair built a gap of around 18 seconds. Lutsenko seemed content with the situation though, and set a fast enough pace by himself to keep the chasing group at a slight but steady distance.
Though the chasers were in sight by the foot of the final climb, Lutsenko did not falter when the road went uphill, and ensured the pair contested the sprint for the stage.
With just less than one kilometre to go, the Kazakh rider finally demanded his breakaway companion took a turn, and Bakelants reluctantly accepted. Having done all the work up until that point, it seemed as though Lutsenko would still be too tired to win despite having the advantageous position on Bakelants’ wheel, but surprisingly he surged past him with 200 metres to go to comfortably claim the win.
It was not always a forgone conclusion that the 19-man break would succeed. Having reached two minutes, the gap started to come down before Lutsenko made his attack, and at one point was as low as 1-30. But from that point on no inroads were made, and the peloton seemed content to let the escapees battle it out.
The top 10 therefore remains the same as yesterday, only with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) dropping out after stomach problems caused him to abandon the race.
The ultimate order of that top 10 will be decided on Sunday’s final time-trial stage, where Thomas, Spilak and Dumoulin will all hope to usurp Pinot as leader.
Tour de Suisse 2015 stage eight: Bern to Bern, 152.5km
1. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana in 3-28-11
2. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r at 1 second
3. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 17 secs
4. Marco Haller (Aut) Katusha 22 secs
5. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo
6. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step
8. Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC
9. Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar
10. Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek-Factory Racing all same time
Overall classification after stage eight
1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, 17-42-07
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 34 secs
3. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 47secs
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 50 secs
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Esp) Astana, at 1-14
6. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, at 1-24
7. Steve Morabito (Swi) FDJ, at 2-29
8. Sebastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling, at 2-43
9. Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 2-46
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 2-51
Video: Show us your scars – Geraint Thomas