Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo) climbed to stage victory and the race lead at the Tour de Suisse, dropping world champion Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step) on stage three's final ascent to Villars-sur-Ollon.
The 22-year-old was one of just two riders who followed Evenepoel when he attacked on the category-one climb. With 2.5km to go, Skjelmose then drifted away from the Belgian, following AG2R Citröen’s Felix Gall, who he beat in a two-up dash to the line.
The victory marked the Dane’s third of the season, and his first at WorldTour level. He now leads the GC by 17 seconds ahead of Evenepoel, while Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) sits in third at 24 seconds.
"I had a really big question mark about my climbing abilities," Skjelmose said afterwards. "Ok, this is not the hardest mountain stage, but it’s still a really long climb, and I did really good. I think we can put a little bit smaller question mark at least.”
When Evenepoel attacked with 6.5km remaining of the 11km climb, the yellow leader's jersey looked destined for his shoulders. "He was going really fast," Skjelmose said. "I wasn't sure [if I could beat him], to be honest."
The world champion, however, just a month after abandoning the Giro d'Italia with Covid-19, found himself dropped as the summit approached, first by Gall, then by the eventual stage winner. He was later tagged by a chase group led by Ayuso, who passed him and rode away for third place.
"I wasn't sure if Remco was playing games or if he was on the limit," Skjelmose said. "I was a little bit more worried about Felix, because when he attacked, he went really fast."
In sight of the finish line, Skjelmose continued to measure his effort, and held off Gall for his first WorldTour win, a feat he said was "incomparable" to the rest of his palmarès.
Asked if he is capable of holding the GC lead until the end, he said: “We hope so. We’re going to try our best. There are a lot of strong teams and it will be difficult but we will try our best. Hopefully we can do really well and defend it until the last TT, then it will be all up to me.”
The eight-day race will conclude on Sunday with an individual time trial to Abtwil.
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