Danish rider is the only survivor from early break as the sprinters are left frustrated
Chris Juul-Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott) tasted victory in wet conditions on stage four of the Tour de Suisse as he held off the chase of the peloton to win from the day’s early break.
The Danish rider had attacked from a six-man break alongside Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) on the final climb of the day with 11km to go, and went solo on the descent as he held a 20-second lead over a disorganised chase behind.
Race leader Stefan Küng (BMC Racing) found himself doing much of the chasing, and with the likes of Bora-Hansgrohe, Team Sunweb, Quick-Step Floors, and Bahrain-Merida unable to get organised in the pursuit, Juul-Jensen was able to stay away to the finish.
As for Küng, he finished safely in the reduced peloton to hold on to the yellow jersey for another day, but will surely yield it on Wednesday on the race’s first summit finish.
How it happened
The fourth stage of the Tour de Suisse saw the riders face a 189km stage from Gansingen to Gstaad, featuring a largely flat profile for most of the day before a second-category climb that was to be crested just 10km from the finish.
For the second day in succession the break moved away without much trouble, and for the second day in succession they were treated to rainy conditions that made the surroundings look more like Scotland than Switzerland.
The day’s break consisted of six riders who quickly established a lead of six minutes that remained constant for much of the day. In the move were Christopher Juul-Jensen (Mitchelton-Scott), Silvan Dillier and Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale), Nathan Brown (EF Education First-Drapac), Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) and Paul Ourselin (Direct Energie).
BMC Racing had little help for much of the day as they plugged away on the front of the peloton, before Quick-Step Floors and Bora-Hansgrohe decided to get involved in the chase to steadily trim the break’s lead.
As the final climb approached the pace continued to ramp up behind with the break’s advantage cut to less than two minutes with 20km to go, but with the peloton having to work really hard to close in on their quarry.
However the lead was coming down, and as it hit a minute on the climb with 15km remaining, Brown attacked from the break in a move that got rid of Ourselin, before Peters launched another acceleration that was only followed by Juul-Jensen.
Peters and Juul-Jensen put in a valiant effort to distance into their erstwhile breakaway companions, but as they crested the climb with 9.8km to go the gap to the bunch was down to just 20 seconds.
Peters pushed on alone on the flat roads that followed the end of the classified climb and seemed to be doing a good job of maintaining that 20 second gap, meaning that even the yellow jersey of Stefan Küng was forced to hit the front to try and close the gap.
With 4.7km to Juul-Jensen was able to regain contact with Peters and duly dropped the Frenchman to push on alone, still holding a lead of 20 seconds with three kilometres to go.
The final kilometres were on the wide tarmac of the Gstaad’s airport, and despite the terrain Juul-Jensen seemed to be extending his lead over the peloton which was still led by Küng behind.
With 600m to go Juul-Jensen rounded the final corner with plenty of time to play with, and duly celebrated a fine solo victory. However it was not such good news for Peters who was swept up with 200m to go as Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) won the sprint for second place.
Tour de Suisse 2018, stage four: Gansingen to Gstaad, 189km
1. Christopher Juul Jensen (Den) Mitchelton-Scott, in 4-35-56
2. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 8 secs
3. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
6. Magnus Cort (Den) Astana
7. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) LottoNL-Jumbo
8. Michael Albasini (Sui) Mitchelton-Scott
9. Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal
10. José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin, all at same time
General classification after stage four
1. Stefan Küng (Sui) BMC Racing, in 13-26-19
2. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, at 3 secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, all at same time
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16 secs
6. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 17 secs
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 23 secs
8. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at same time
9. Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 30 secs
10. Enric Mas (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at same time