Porte's lead down to just 17 seconds with two stages to go
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took victory in the queen stage of the 2018 Tour de Suisse, attacking at the bottom of the 27km finishing climb to Arosa and taking victory at the summit to slash the advantage of race leader Richie Porte (BMC Racing).
Going into the stage 45 seconds behind Porte and with a time trial to come on the final day, Quintana seized the initiative with a long-range attack as soon as the road tilted upwards towards Arosa.
At one point Porte had Quintana in his sights just 10 seconds up the road, but seemed to have gone too deep as he was caught by Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and saw the gap go out once again.
By the line Quintana’s lead was up to 22 seconds, with Fuglsang leading Porte across the line behind. That result sees Porte’s lead cut to just 17 seconds with two stages remaining.
How it happened
Stage seven of the Tour de Suisse saw the third summit finish of the race at the end of a 170km stage between Eschenbach/Atzmännig and Arosa with a large 29-rider break going away early.
In the move were José Gonçalves (Katusha-Alpecin), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott), Simon Geschke and Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb), Silvan Dillier, Cyril Gautier, and François Bidard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Oscar Gatto and Tanel Kangert (Astana), Gorka Izagirre and Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida), Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Victor De La Parte (Movistar), Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), Igor Anton (Dimension Data), Joe Dombrowski (EF Education First), Enrico Battaglin and Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Sebastian Henao and Ian Stannard (Team Sky), Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Stefan Denifl, Mark Christian, and Eddie Dunbar (Aqua Blue Sport), and Lilan Calmejane, Romain Sicard, and Rein Taaramae (Direct Energie).
BMC Racing and, later, Movistar, controlled the front of the bunch, with the break enjoying a maximum lead of 3-30 early on, before the pace went up behind the gap dropped to just two minutes as the long finishing climb started with 28km to go.
The steep early ramps split the break, with Dombrowski going clear, but the real action came from the peloton as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) launched a bold attack in an attempt to overturn his 45-second deficit to race leader Richie Porte (BMC Racing).
Quintana’s move seemed to catch the other GC contenders unawares and the Colombian was able to open a decent gap, but Porte eventually reacted and was able to neutralise Quintana with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo).
One-by-one the rest of the GC men rejoined the group, before Quintana launched another acceleration that was briefly followed by Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb) before he was dropped as Porte was unable or unwilling to follow again as Tejay van Garderen arrived to help his team-mate.
Quintana’s gap gap quickly up to 20 seconds before Van Garderen and Simon Geschke (Team Sunweb) began work to limit the gap on behalf of their team leaders.
Dombrowski was still out front, but his lead was coming down rapidly as Quintana linked up with team-mate Victor de la Parte, taking turns with the Spaniard as Van Avermaet, dropped from the break, began to work on behalf of Porte.
De la Parte and Quintana, with a number of breakaway riders in their wheels, caught Dombrowski with 16km to go, and the gap back to the Porte group had grown steadily, stretching out to 40 seconds on the steadier gradients of the middle section of the climb.
Unfortunately for Quitana, De la Parte didn’t have much in the tank and soon dropped off, leaving the Colombian climber to try and hold off Van Avermaet’s effort, the Belgian Classics specialist picked off the odd second here and there to reduce the gap to 26 seconds as the road started to ramp upwards again with five kilometres to go.
One last huge effort from Van Avermaet helped Porte off the front of the chase group, the Australian setting off solo in pursuit of Quintana who had dropped all but Muhlberger and Bidard at the start of the second part of the climb.
Bidard was dropped quickly but Muhlberger lasted a little longer as Porte, who soon had Fuglsang for company, began to make good progress behind to have Quintana in his sights at 10 seconds with three kilometres to go.
However Porte was beginning to suffer a little and rely on the pace-setting of Fuglsang as the gap went out a little as Quintana went under through two kilometres to go with a lead of 16 seconds.
Quintana seemed to have a little left on the tank, accelerating as the gradient levelled and crossing the line 22 seconds ahead of Fuglsang who led Porte home.
Tour de Suisse 2018, stage seven: : Eschenbach/Atzmännig to Arosa, 170km
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, in 4-01-39
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 22 secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at same time
4. Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 38 secs
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
6. Enric Mas (Esp) Quick-Step Floors
7. Igor Anton (Esp) Dimension Data, all at same time
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 50 secs
9. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at same time
10. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 59 secs
General classification after stage seven
1. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, in 26-06-10
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 17 secs
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 52 secs
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 53 secs
5. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-13
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-28
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 1-31
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-37
9. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-48
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-26