Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) won stage six of the Tour de Suisse, counter attacking an effort made by Michael Gogl (Trek–Segafredo) from a reduced group of six riders, which splintered from an earlier break of 18.
The 18-strong escape group detached itself from the grasp of the peloton early on, losing riders as the pace quickened – notably Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) who looked strong in the break before losing the chain on his single ring 3T Strada.
Second and third went to Nathan Haas (Katusha–Alpecin) and Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) respectively, with Richie Porte (BMC Racing) swallowing up several breakaway riders in a last minute charge from the peloton, to take sixth on the stage and extend his lead.
How it happened
Another day in the mountains was bestowed upon the riders, with an 186 kilometre route which kicked up almost immediately on the aptly named Furka Pass, followed by the Klausen Pass and an uphill finish in Gommiswald.
A group of 16 riders leapt of the front early in the Tour de Suisse’s Queen Stage, consistiong of Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), Patrick Konrad (Bora–Hansgrohe), Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo), Michael Gogl (Trek–Segafredo), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac), Cyril Gautier (Ag2r La Mondiale), Nick Dougall (Dimension Data), Nathan Haas (Katusha–Alpecin), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Rein Taaramäe (Direct Energie), Michael Gołaś (Michael), Magnus Cort Nielsen (Astana), Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport), Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie), Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates).
Two Quick Step riders – Iljo Keisse and Tim Declercq – missed the initial move, but bridged to increase the numbers to 18, meaning 15 of 22 teams had representation in the break.
The break group was able to quickly create an advantage of three minutes, a danger to the GC with Lotto Soudal’s Monfort starting the stage 2-31 down on GC leader, Richie Porte (BMC).
Cresting the climb, Haas took the maximum mountains points, and entering the descent they had a gap of four minutes. Though some riders were dropped on the climb, they were all able to make time back on the descent, maintaining the large group of 18.
The lead group stuck together as it hit the Klausen Pass, at this point with 90km remaining and a time gap of 3-32. The hors catégorie ascent proved one too much for several riders, who dropped off the pace of the break – which was reduced in size to just eight: Taaramäe, Kragh Andersen, Izagirre, Gogl, Haas, Monfort, Christian and Gautier.
Back in the peloton, Mitchelton-Scott’s Sam Bewley had already abandoned, and the second climb of the day later claimed Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) too.
With around 75km to go, Taaramäe attacked his companions, very quickly building up 40 seconds, whilst further back the peloton picked up the pace behind the remainder of the break.
Building up just over a minute, the 31-year-old Estonian dropped back to the team car with around 60km to go, easing off the pace as he arrived in the valley to wait for his former seven accomplices; perhaps following the conclusion that there was simply too far to go it alone, especially with BMC fronting the chase for the peloton.
The time gap hovered between three and four minutes, and with Monfort still in the break and in the virtual leader’s position, there was plenty of incentive for BMC to work hard to close the gap, something that was apparent from the train of red and black jersey’s at the front of the chasing peloton.
Whilst the majority of the riders who had dropped back from the initial 18 had drifted back to the peloton, three remained in no-man’s land – Vanmarcke, Golas and Cort Nielsen continued to chase back to the leading eight – with 35km to go they were 34 seconds adrift.
With 31km to go, some cracks began to appear in what had been an organised through-and-off from the leading eight – Izagirre, Haas and Christian seemed to have the strongest legs, but never detached their companions.
Under the 30km to go threshold, Christian was clearly struggling with a dislodged chain, which on his single chainring set 3T Strada set up meant he wasn’t able to fix the problem on the bike, causing him to drift back to the chasing three.
In the final 20km, with still 3-06 to the peloton, the leading seven detached Taaramäe, clearly suffering from his earlier efforts – making the selection just six, with five chasing behind in front of the peloton.
The gap did begin to sink, to 2-13 at 6km to go, with 50s to the chasers stuck between the front and the peloton – meaning the leader’s jersey was no longer at any threat for Porte.
At 2.2km to the finish, Gogl put in an attacked his reduced group of six – pushing hard to gain a gap whilst the other five showed no impetus to attack. He wasn’t able to keep up the effort, though, and Kragh Anderson shot past him with 1.2km to go.
Meanwhile, the GC battle was enlivened behind, as Porte accelerated – ridding himself from the grasp of the peloton and rivals like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and going on to sweep up the remainder of the breakaway.
Kragh Anderson charged his way to to the win, followed by Haas and Izagirre, with Porte just 27 seconds behind the winner in sixth.
Tour de Suisse stage six: Fiesch to Gommiswald (186km)
1 Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Team Sunweb in 04-59-53
2 Nathan Haas (Aus) Katusha-Alpecin at 10s
3 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 24s
4 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 25s
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, same time
6 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 27s
7 Michael Gogl (Aut) Trek-Segafredo at 29s
8 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 39s
9 Arthur Vichot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10 Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale, same time
General classification after stage six
1 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team in 22-04-13
2 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb at 32s
3 Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, same time
4 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 33s
5 Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott at 41s
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team at 45s
7 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 48s
8 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 52s
9 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin at 58s
10 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team at 59s