Egan Bernal took victory on stage seven of the Tour de Suisse as he looked to consolidate his lead ahead of tomorrow’s time trial.
The Colombian attacked from the leading GC group with less than 5km to go, aware that world time trial champion Rohan Dennis (Bahrain-Merida) sits 12 seconds down, poised to capitalise in tomorrow’s flat race against the clock.
Bernal finished 23 seconds ahead of Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) who led Dennis up the climb as the Australian looked to limit his losses.
Next over the line was Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), who led a group containing Jan Hirt (Astana) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal).
How it happened
Stage seven provided a chance for the other GC contenders to try and unseat Egan Bernal (Ineos) from the top of the overall classification, with the San Gottardo summit finish likely to see most of the day’s action.
The peloton didn’t fancy letting the break go over the first 50km of flat road, on which Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and Michael Valgren (Dimension Data) crashed.
When the day’s break got away, it was a strong group of riders, featuring Winner Anacona (Movistar), Steve Morabito (Groupama-FDJ), Mathias Frank (AG2R La Mondiale), Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) and Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma). These riders were soon joined by Tsgabu Grmay (Mitchelton-Scott), Łukasz Wiśniowski (CCC) and Gino Mäder (Dimension Data), to make a leading group of eight.
As the break hit the Lukmanier Pass, a 16.8km-long climb at an average gradient of 5.3%, with Bouwman taking the king of the mountains points, leaving him only seven points down on the kom leader Claudio Imhof (Switzerland).
With 31km to go, the break had a 3-39 gap over the peloton, with Bahrain-Merida leading for Domenico Pozzovivo and Rohan Dennis, the Australian 12 seconds down on Bernal in second place.
Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) was the first to drop from the break, after working to set things up for Tsgabu Grmay, before Koen Bouwman (Jumbo-Visma) attacked the break with 15km to go.
Grmay was then dropped as the break scrambled to catch the young Dutchman, who only had a 1-34 advantage over the peloton.
With 9km remaining Mathias Frank attacked the break, passing Bouwman and heading off alone. However after a kilometre he only had a 40 second advantage as the peloton began to close in with Movistar working hard for Marc Soler.
Frank was eventually reeled in with 5.5km to go, leaving the GC riders to fight it out for the stage victory.
Enric Mas (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) attacked the yellow jersey group with 4.5km remaining, the Spaniard taking out a 12 second gap with 3km left to race.
Egan Bernal attacked with 2.5km to go, as Pozzovivo followed the young Colombian, the duo chasing down Mas.
Bernal caught Mas with 2km left as Pozzovivo decided not to stick to his wheel, choosing to protect Rohan Dennis ahead of tomorrow’s time trial.
Pozzovivo, Dennis and Mas formed a chase group behind, with another group containing Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) making contact with a kilometre remaining.
Bernal rolled over the summit finish pointing to the Ineos logo on his chest, with Pozzovivo and Dennis across next before Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) led Jan Hirt (Astana) and Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) over the finish line.
Tour de Suisse 2019, stage seven: Unterterzen to St. Gotthard (216.6km)
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos, in 5-37-40
2. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 23 seconds
3. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Bahrain-Merida, at same time
4. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 34s
5. Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana
6. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, all at same time
7. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 40s
8. Simon Špilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 50s
9. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Sunweb, at 1-03
10. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Ineos, in 24-17-48
2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Bahrain-Merida, at 41s
3. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-13
4. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-17
5. Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana, at 1-19
6. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, at same time
7. Enric Mas (Esp) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 2-07
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-20
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb, at 2-23
10. Simon Špilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 2-26