Wales' Stephen Williams 'over the moon' to take his first WorldTour victory at stage one of the Tour de Suisse

The 26-year-old from Aberystwyth took his first WorldTour win, and now leads the GC

Stephen williams wins Tour de Suisse stage one
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Stephen Williams (Bahrain-Victorious) took his first WorldTour victory at stage one of the Tour de Suisse, storming up the outside line in a fast paced sprint against a host of general classification contenders.

The enormity of the win took time to process, for the 26-year-old from Aberystwyth (Wales). 

"I don't think it's sunk in yet, to be honest," he said, once he'd had time to collect his thoughts. "It's been a strange few years - to come here and win a stage, I am over the moon."

"It's my first big race back since Romandie, so it's been a good month training," he added, saying: "I was unsure where my form was...but I knew I'd done the work before this. To win the first stage, in a group like that, is really special."

So far this year, at WorldTour level, Williams' strongest result was 77th on stage one of the Tour of Romandie. He had surgery on his knee in 2020, and placed 43rd on the GC at the 2021 Tour de Suisse - his best stage placing being 25th.

A seven strong break was allowed to escape early into the 177 kilometre race, starting and finishing in Küsnacht. Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) used every available opportunity to gain points in the King of the Mountains competition before the break was swept up with 6km left to race. 

On the final climb, a gaggle of general classification contenders made themselves known, with a selection coming to the fore, including the likes of Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team), Jakob Fuglsang (Isreal PremierTech) and Adam Yates (Ineos).

Though Evenepoel looked to have a small gap with 2km to go, the group was intact at the 1km mark. With the pace ramping up ahead of the line, it was Williams who was able to ride up the outside of the bunch to storm to victory - ahead of Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal).

How the race unfolded 

The Tour de Suisse opened with a circuit race, starting and finishing in Küsnacht; the 177 kilometre parcours was made up of four 45.7km laps, the repeating features being climbs of the Pfannenstiel and Küsnachter Berg - with intermediate sprints at Mönchaltorferstrasse.

Attacks began from the flag drop, and eventually, a seven strong group was able to clear the peloton. Whilst the bunch initially aimed to close this down, eventually, the distance was allowed to accumulate between the two groups.

The seven rider break consisted of Casper Pedersen (DSM), Davide Villella (Cofidis), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Chad Haga (Human Powered Health), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Simon Vitzthum (Swiss Cycling) and Johan Jacobs (Movistar Team) with Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) chasing in no man's land - and eventually dispatched back to the bunch.

Come the first ascent of the Pfannenstiel - 20km in - the seven leaders had 2 minutes 40 seconds on the bunch, once they reached the climb of the Küsnachter Berg, this had let out to 3-22, then 3-45 by the conclusion of the first lap.

The first of three intermediate sprints came at Mönchaltorferstrasse, with the win going to Simmons, Askey was second followed by Jacobs.

The second ascent of the Pfannenstiel was another opportunity, this time for KOM points, with Jacobs crossing the line first, ahead of Simmons and Vitzthum.

Askey briefly found himself adrift of the break, dropping ahead of the second KOM sprint, on the Küsnachter Berg, with the honours there going to Simmonds. However, this time, he was able to find strength in his reserves and time trial his way back to the leaders.

Another intermediate sprint at Mönchaltorferstrasse provided a further opportunity for Simmons to shine, though he wasn't allowed to win every opportunity for bonus seconds - at the third KOM climb on the Pfannenstiel, his winning streak was usurped by National rider Vitzthum.

With 51km to go, the gap had reduced - to 1-20, and Askey was once again distanced on the Küsnachter Berg - this time remaining so and drifting back to the bunch. At the summit, Simmons raced Vitzthum for the KOM points, the American leading across the line.

The bunch began to coordinate towards the end of the third lap, and with 46km to go, the gap was down to 57s, increasing to 1-09 at 40km to go - but still unlikely to hold until the finale. Simmons, clearly motived to mop up every bonus available, took the final intermediate sprint at Mönchaltorferstrass.

Come 25km to go, the break of six had 40s advantage, the seconds quickly coming down to 29s at 22.1km, when Jacobs and Teunissen dropped from the break - decreasing their number to four.

Evidently, Simmons and Vitzthum still had strength left in their legs, doing battle for the final KOM on the Pfannenstiel - eventually won by the American rider. Not far behind, the slopes proved too much for Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies) and Alexander Kristoff (Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux) - who both dropped from the peloton.

With less than 10km to go, Vitzthum attacked the break - leaving Simmons to drift back to the bunch, content to have secured the climber's jersey for the day. Villella then Haga also dropped; come 8km left, just the Swiss national rider and Pedersen were out front alone, Vitzthum attacking again to distance Pederson before the final remaining escapee was swept up with 6km remaining. 

UAE's Alessandro Covi put in a dig, gaining a gap but only to be caught, before  Groupama–FDJ's Stefan Küng upped the pace - giving way for a GC battle as Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team), Jakob Fuglsang (Isreal Premier Tech) and Adam Yates (Ineos) came to the fore. 

The injection of pace created a gap for a strong selection group, including Fuglsang, Evenepoel and Yates, with a further group of six between them and the bunch.

With 2km to go, Evenepoel and Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) had a small advantage over the rest of the leading group - but this didn't hold. The group was together with 1km to go, with the fight for a sprint win ramping up with 400km left. 

It was Stephen Williams (Bahrain-Victorious) who moved up on the outside, storming to his first WorldTour victory, in front of Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal).

Results

Tour de Suisse, stage one: Küsnacht to Küsnacht (177km)

1 Stephen Williams (GBR) Bahrain Victorious in 4-16-51
2 Maximilian Schachmann (GER) BORA-hansgrohe
3 Andreas Kron (DEN) Lotto Soudal
4 Marc Hirschi (SUI) UAE Team Emirates
5 Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ) Astana Qazaqstan Team
6 Ilan Van Wilder (BEL) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
7 Stefan Küng (SUI) Groupama-FDJ
8 Sergio Higuita (COL) Bora-hansgrohe
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
10 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, all at same time

General Classification after Tour de Suisse, stage one

1 Stephen Williams (GBR) Bahrain Victorious in 4-16-51
2 Maximilian Schachmann (GER) BORA-hansgrohe, at 4s
3 Andreas Kron (DEN) Lotto Soudal, at 6s
4 Marc Hirschi (SUI) UAE Team Emirates, at 10s
5 Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ) Astana Qazaqstan Team
6 Ilan Van Wilder (BEL) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team
7 Stefan Küng (SUI) Groupama-FDJ
8 Sergio Higuita (COL) Bora-hansgrohe
9 Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
10 Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, all at same time

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Cycling Weekly's Digital Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.


When not typing or testing, Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.


Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.