Tejay van Garderen adds to his small WorldTour wins tally with victory on stage seven of the 2016 Tour de Suisse
The long and arduous final climb, covering 12.3km at an average of 10.4 per cent, proved every bit as gruelling as the organisers probably hoped and saw riders scattered down the road with sizeable time gaps between them.
The leader’s jersey changes hands again and some riders may be questioning their progress ahead of the Tour de France in July.
Not long after Kelderman’s exit from the group of favourites and with 7km to the summit, the GC contenders passed Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick Step) who was going backwards fast. By now the riders were under the clouds and the rain was falling.
With 5.5km left to the top, Matthias Brändle’s tortuous adventure came to an end as the Kiryienka-powered group passed him without a second glance.
Looking comfortable throughout the climb, van Garderen showed his strength with an attack 4km from the finish line. The American soon gained a 20 second advantage, before Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) was the first to try and follow.
Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) pulled away from the now hugely reduced GC group with 2.5km to go and quickyl had Barguil in his sights. All the while, van Garderen held his gap around the 20 second mark.
Kiryienka’s huge turn finished 2km from the finish line, as the sun began to shine on the top of the mountain.
Pantano and Barguil worked together as the following group fragmented. Thomas looked uncomfortable again after his bad day on stage six and was passed by some of his rivals.
Miguel Lopez (Astana) bridged across and then attacked straight away. This left Pantano behind but Barguil was able to follow.
Despite the injection of speed from Lopez, van Garderen held on for stage honours.
Earlier in the day, leaders Keisse and Brändle held a lead of over 11 minutes ahead of the peloton with 43.5km to go, .
In contrast for most of the race so far, the sun came out and the riders saw fit to leave the warmers and jackets behind.
Most of the stage took place across the border in Austria, but finished nearer to the start of stage eight, back in Switzerland, than it started.
With under 20km to go and the road heading for the final climb, the GC teams massed on or near the front of the peloton, with Astana, Giant-Alpecin and LottoNL-Jumbo taking turns on the front.
With 16km to go, Keisse and Brändle held a gap of 8-04 over the main bunch. The final climb of the day, the Rettenbachferner started with 12.3km to go.
The climb, with an average of 10.4%, soon saw the advantage of the leaders whittle away. It quickly became clear that Brändle – perhaps wanting to perform on home Austrian roads – was the stronger of the two, and didn’t so much as attack but rather just rode away from Keisse.
Back in the peloton, Max Richeze (Etixx-Quick Step) came to the front to gain some points on the intermediate sprint and extend his lead over Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), who won the points competition on the last four occasions.
With the peloton 9km away from the summit finish and still under settled skies, the snow began to fall at the finish line.
The racing livened up and the sun came back out as the GC battle got underway.
Tour de Suisse 2016 stage seven, Arbon to Sölden, 224.3km
1. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, 6-26-12
2. Miguel Lopez (Col) Astana, at 16s
3. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin, st
4. Jarlison Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling, at 31s
5. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale, at 33s
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha, at 43s
7. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, at 49s
8. Jon Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar, st
9. Victor de la Parte (Esp) CCC–Sprandi–Polkowice, at 59s
10. Jan Hirt (Cze) CCC–Sprandi–Polkowice, st
Overall standings after stage seven
1. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin, at 29-09-53
2. Miguel Lopez (Col) Astana, at 21s
3. Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale, at 24s
4. Jon Izaguirre (Esp) Movistar, at 55s
5. Jarlison Pantano (Col) IAM Cycling, at 1-06
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha, at 1-07
7. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, at 1-31
8. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-36
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-36
10. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida, at 1-55