Egan Bernal explodes into race lead at Tour de Suisse 2019 as Antwan Tolhoek holds on to win stage six

No one could match the climbing power of the young Colombian

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Egan Bernal fired his way into the race lead on stage six of the 2019 Tour de Suisse, as Antwan Tolhoek narrowly took stage honours.

Tolhoek was the strongest climber in a 25-man breakaway and attacked in the final 3km of the summit finish to go clear.

But Bernal unleashed an attack from a peloton that was one-minute further down the mountain with 1km left to race, rapidly pulling Tolhoek (Jumbo-Visma) within sight and threatening to steal the stage.

Tolhoek was strong enough to hang on for glory, as Bernal (Team Ineos) finished 17 seconds behind and easily moved into the race lead.

How it happened

Stage six of the Tour de Suisse marked the first real climbing test for the peloton, as riders tackled a relatively short 120.2km from Einsiedeln to Flumserberg.

A rolling but untesting opening 60 kilometres took the race to the first categorised test of the day, the cat three Wildhaus climb (3.5km at 5.1 per cent).

After a long descent to the valley floor, a 30km pan flat run followed before the day’s real challenge.

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The first summit finish of the race ended atop the category one climb to Flumserberg, at 8.4km long and 9.2 per cent average the ascent was expected to smash the general classification hierarchy for the first time.

A huge breakaway of 25 riders went clear in the opening 20km, with some major hitters making the move.

The most notable names included Tolhoek, Rui Costa and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) and Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Merida) for a second consecutive day.

The peloton allowed the gap to extend out to almost four minutes at the first climb of the day, before long-range attacks came from the break in the closing section.

Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) hit out first with King of the Mountain leader Claudio Imhof (Switzerland) and Colin Joyce (Rally UHC) going along for the ride, but the makeup of the attack switched on the descent as Trentin bridged across while Haas dropped out.

Trentin, Imhof and Joyce extended their advantage out to 30 seconds over the main breakaway along the valley floor, as the peloton was around 3-30 further back inside 30km.

Determined not to be caught without a fight, Imhof hit out at his companions, but Trentin and Joyce caved and sat up to be absorbed back into the large breakaway group.

But the Swiss track star’s attempts were futile and he was caught by the breakaway before the final climb, as the peloton whittled down the advantage to around 2-30.

The escapees hit the final climb to Flumserberg together, but the group exploded early on.

Antwan Tolhoek was the first to launch an attack on the slopes, with 7.8km left to the line, as Luis Mas (Movistar) and Patrick Bevin (CCC Team) followed.

With 3km to go, Tolhoek upped the pace again and dropped Mas and Bevin, as the peloton slowly continued to gain on the front of the race, the gap slipping down to 1-13.

Bevin and Mas were joined by Rui Costa and François Bidard (Ag2r La Mondiale) and gave half-hearted chase, but Tolhoek looked unwavering as he hit the 2km mark.

With just 1,500 metres to ride, the Dutchman held 30 seconds over the chasing group, as the bunch were still 57 seconds further down the mountain.

Back in the peloton Egan Bernal launched a mammoth effort with just over a kilometre to race and disappeared up the road, rapidly catching Bevin et al.

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Bernal pulled Tolhoek within sight with a staggering explosion, and with 400m Tolhoek was just holding onto his slim advantage.

But into the final 200 metres Tolhoek stole a few anxious looks after his shoulder and the Colombian was nowhere in sight, and he had time to soft pedal and raise his hands across the line.

Bernal finished just 16 seconds down, taking six bonus seconds in the process and firing himself into the race lead with a huge statement. Bidard held on to take third place on the stage.

Bernal now leads by 12 seconds over world time trial champion Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida).

Tour de Suisse 2019, stage six: Einsiedeln to Flumserberg (120.2km)

1. Antwan Tolhoek (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, in 2-43-34

2. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos, at 17 seconds

3. François Bidard (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 24s

4. Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana, at 29s

5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 31s

6. Patrick Bevin (Nzl) CCC Team, at 38s

7. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 44s

8. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time

9. Patrick Schelling (Sui) Switzerland, at 46s

10. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time

General classification after stage six

1. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos, in 18-40-18

2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Bahrain-Merida, at 12s

3. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 29s

4. Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana, at 35s

5. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time

6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 41s

7. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 50s

8. François Bidard (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 58s

9. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-07

10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb, at same time

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.