Juan Ayuso confirmed his prestigious mountain climbing talent and said he would now “fight until the end” for the yellow jersey following a blistering victory on stage five of the Tour de Suisse.
The UAE Emirates rider was imperious attacking on the final climb from a group of GC favourites, bridging to what was left of a huge breakaway from earlier in the day and breezing to victory.
He lifted himself onto the general classification podiums with three days left to race.
The yellow jersey also changed hands as behind Ayuso, Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo )wrestled it from Gall’s grasp. He will now have to watch for both Gal and Ayuso both of which are within 20 seconds of the lead.
Afterwards Ayuso said: “The two races I've done this year have been here in Switzerland it’s nice to win a stage of each.” Referring to his TT victory in the Tour de Romandie
He added: “Now we’ll fight for GC it’s going to be hard but I think it’s possible so we’ll fight until the end.”
Ayuso had complained of a lack of leg power the day before when asked what had turned around he said: “ I don’t know. The body is the body. Yesterday I had no legs and I just had to suffer. In the end when the pace started increasing [today] I just started feeling better and better.”
He warned that all his rivals, including Remco Evenpoel who had an underwhelming day in which he lost time; new yellow jersey wearer Skjelmose were also strong time trialists and would be difficult to hold off in the 25km time trial on Sunday.
“If I manage to win the GC it’s going to be one of my biggest achievements,” The Vuelta Espana podium finisher added.
How it happened
On a day of 211km Wout van Aert (Jumbo-visma) was the first t attack and eventually a group of 37 riders made its way off the front of the peloton on what was set to be a mountainous day over three mountain passes, two of which went above 2,000m.
It swiftly built a lead of around three minutes which it held until the peloton shipped away at it on the final ascent.
Although the front group began to splinter on the early climbs it was still in double digits as it came into the bottom of the final climb, the lead having now grown to 4-00.
On the lower slopes of the Albulapass climb Soudal Quick-Step eventually came to fore to set the pace for Remco Evenepoel.
At the front Neilson Powless attacked with 22km to go, he was joined by three other riders as the road began to ramp up to 8%. Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorius), Oier Lazkano (Movistar) and Rui Costa (Intermarchse-Circus-Wanty) all rode with Powelss until Lazkano began to drop from the front group.
Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe) gritted their teeth and began to bridge up to the front. Simmons was the first to make it. But as soon as he did the learning trio kicked on and he was distanced once again.
Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) was safely ensconced in the still sizable peloton with no-one seemingly keen to attack him. By 17km to go Romain Bardet’s DSM team-mates had made their way to the front to work for him but the group remained stubbornly large.
With 16km to go Ag2R went to the font and began to push the pace and immediately Evenpeol was caught behind a split. Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Vism) was able to follow the pace of Gall and when his team-mate swung over.
Romain Bardet had made his way into yellow jersey group as the began to eat into the break’s advantage picking up riders along the way. Soon they were up to Wout van Aert who immediately sat on the front working for Kelderman.
No sooner had van Aert been burned out then Kelderman took over.
The gap to the front of the race had collapsed to just over one minute as Powless attacked but was reeled back in by Costa.
With 14km to go as the front group reached the sprint point half-way up the climb Powless attacked once again. He was reeled in again though. Ashe was on a subsequent acceleration with 3km left to climb.
A minute further back down the mountain fancied Spanish GC prospect Juan Ayuso (UAE Emirates) attacked the yellow jersey group and swiftly the gap yawned open.
Before long he was in sight of the front group and Tiberi launched his own attack from the front but was swiftly neutralised but soon afterwards Powless, perhaps paying for his earlier exuberance, began to lose contact.
Ayuso breezed past the American mere moments later. Further back down the lcimb bardet was losing tough with the yello jersey group.
Ayuso tried to go straight past the breakaway riders at the front but the stubbornly stuck to his wheel for a moment before Tideri’s head dropped and Ayuso rode off up the road.
The Spaniard crested the climb alone with a gap of a few hundred meters back to the former race leaders, nearly a minute over the yellow jersey and even more on the world champion Remco Evenpoel.
Indeed the Belgian was losing contact with the group he was in at the summit and had been distanced.
The 20-year old, who had not won a WorldTour road stage until today, descended on the wide, well-maintained roads with ease. The Vuelta a España podium finisher clocked over 100kph on the way down.
With 10 bonus seconds he was within touching distance of the GC lead, which he had started the day 1-18 away from.
Behind him the various chase groups began to coalesce on the descent but Ayuso continued to further his advantage.
Under the 1km to go banner he had a lead of 1-08 over the yellow jersey, just enough but the group behind pegged him back a bit and he would settle for the stage win.
Behind Denmark’s own young sensation Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo) who had won stage three and taken yellow for a day. Returned to the front of the race with bonus seconds for winning the sprint for second.
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