Elisa Balsamo took the perfect line through the final corner to power to victory in Chur on stage three of the Tour de Suisse Women.
Monday's stage came down to the final climb up to the finish, with Trek-Segafredo's world champion sprinting past Lianne Lippert (Team DSM) and Évita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) in the final 200 metres to win.
Balsamo was forced to wait for confirmation, such was the narrow gap between herself and Muzic on the line, but was able to celebrate her fifth victory of the year at her new team.
Kristen Faulkner (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) remains in the lead in general classification ahead of Tuesday's final stage, which is also the race's queen stage. Balsamo said that her goal for tomorrow was to help her teammate Lucinda Brand and then simply "survive".
There was a worry for the yellow jersey during the day, as a dangerous break containing Brand and Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM) briefly escaped up the road. Such was the concern that Faulkner led the chase herself, but it was neutralised within 7km of escaping.
How it happened
Covid came to impact the Tour de Suisse Women as well as the men’s equivalent. On Monday afternoon, the peloton was deprived of Andy Schleck-CP NVST-Immo Losch as well as Ceratizit-WNT as it rolled out of Vaduz.
There were two categorised climbs across the 124.2km stage to make the day interesting, as well as a slight rise to the finish at the end.
Noémie Abgrall (Stade Rochelais Charente-Maritime) was the first rider to attack, before Tiril Jørgensen (Team Coop-Hitec Products) and then Kylie Waterreus (Lotto Soudal Ladies) tried to escape. Within eight kilometres, everyone had come back together again.
24km into the day, Nicole Steigenga (Team Coop-Hitec Products) and Aline Seitz (Roland Cogeas Edelweiss Squad) were the next to attack, ahead of the first category climb of Gais. The time gap to the two lone leaders was up to two minutes, but this started to drop as the peloton went up the climb faster than those in the break. With just over 80km to go, the attackers were caught.
Évita Muzic (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) was the first to cross the top of the Gais climb, meaning she took top points in the Queen of the Mountains competition.
The next attack came with 68km to go, and might have been a crucial one, as Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), Jolanda Neff (Swiss Cycling), Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM), and Ronja Blöchlinger (Swiss Cycling) escaped.
In the peloton, general classification leader Kristen Faulkner and third-placed Georgia Williams (both Team BikeExchange-Jayco) were the ones pulling to bring this dangerous move back, which happened with 7km to go.
The race had been so hard up to this point that just 37 riders remained in the bunch with 62km to go.
With a break still to form, attacks continued. The next to attempt something were Sina Frei (Swiss Cycling), Quinty Ton (Liv Racing Xstra), Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma), Stine Borgli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) and Léa Curinier (Team DSM), who attacked with 57km to go.
This escape did stick, with the three of the five, Frei, Kraak and Borgli, contesting the QoM sprint of St Luzisteig. Borgli was the one to take the maximum points on this occasion. On the descent from the climb, Kraak misjudged a turn but suffered no damage.
Team DSM were the ones pulling on the front in the final 10km to ensure the breakaway came back, and they were successful in their endeavour with over 5km to the finish.
Two riders came down in the final kilometres of the race, first Rachel Neylan (Cofidis) and then Lianne Lippert (Team DSM), both almost innocuously falling out of the bunch, denting their chances for the day, although Lippert chased back on.
Canyon-SRAM led the peloton on to the final climb, Soraya Paladin and Pauline Rooijakers in front, with Lucinda Brand and Elisa Balsamo (both Trek-Segafredo) also very visible.
Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscop) led her teammate Muzic out, with Lippert recovering from her late crash to also be up there.
The German was the first to attack, followed by Muzic, but it was Balsamo’s late surge up the final climb to beat the Frenchwoman to the line, by just a tyre’s width. It was not clear who crossed the line first immediately, but soon after the world champion was crowned the winner.
Behind, Faulkner lost no time to remain in the leader’s jersey.
TOUR DE SUISSE WOMEN, STAGE three: VADUZ - Chur (124.2KM)
1. Elisa Balsamo (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, in 3-18-40
2. Évita Muzic (Fra) FDJ Nouvelle - Aquitaine Futuroscope, at same time
3. Lianne Lippert (Deu) Team DSM
4. Ilaria Sanguineti (Ita) Valcar - Travel & Service
5. Soraya Paladin (Ita) Canyon-SRAM
6. Ingvild Gåskjenn (Nor) Team Coop - Hitec Products
7. Jolanda Neff (Sui) Swiss Cycling
8. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM
9. Clara Koppenburg (Deu) Cofidis
10. Floorte Mackaij (Ned) Team DSM, all at same time
General classification after stage three
1. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Team BikeExchange-Jayco, in 5-00-35
2. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 4 seconds
3. Georgia Williams (NZ) Team BikeExchange-Jayco, at 14s
4. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM, at 34s
5. Jolanda Neff (Sui) Swiss Cycling, at 1-28
6. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team DSM, at 2-06
7. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar-Travel & Service, at 2-10
8. Brodie Chapman (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 2-19
9. Clara Koppenburg (Deu) Cofidis, at same time
10. Alessandra Keller (Sui) Swiss Cycling, at 2-24
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