Andreas Leknessund of Team DSM took a superb solo victory in stage two of the Tour de Suisse, though crowds enjoyed an extra celebration, as Alberto Bettiol (EF Education Easy-Post) seemingly didn't realise he was racing in the bunch kick for second place.
The young Norwegian rider Leknessund was the strongest of the leading breakaway throughout the day and was able to accelerate away on the final climb, the category two Challpass, to take his first WorldTour win.
Leknessund was poised to take the overall lead from Bahrain Victorious rider Stephen Williams but the peloton came in 38 seconds behind the stage winner, just inside the 45 seconds Williams needed to retain the jersey.
Bettiol and Michael Matthews (Team Bike-Exchange Jayco) rounded out the top three, with Bettiol initially celebrating thinking he had taken the stage victory. The Italian was soon corrected by Matteo Trentin (Team UAE Emirates).
In the heart of Switzerland, Leknessund fulfilled some of his promise and there was delight amongst the Bahrain Victorious team for Stephen Williams as the Welshman kept hold of his overall lead ahead of Leknessund.
How the race unfolded
As the race rolled out of the stunning Küsnacht, 10 riders formed an initial breakaway. This contained three riders all just over one minute behind race leader Bahrain-Victorious’s Stephen Williams, they were Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), Mathieu Burgaudeau (Team TotalEnergies) and young Norwegian rider, Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) all at 1-01 from the overall lead.
On the second category climb at Gempen, two riders moved off the front of the race to begin to form the break and challenge for points in the King of the Mountains classification. They were Jonas Rutsch (EF Education Easy-Post) and Swiss rider Joel Suter (UAE Team Emirates). Suter led the duo over the climb taking maximum points whilst the rest of the breakaway battled it out for the rest.
As the race then reached the intermediate sprint at Reinacherstrasse, Leknessund (Team DSM) was first over the line to take three points and bonus seconds, Holmes (Lotto Soudal) took two points and Burgaudeau (Total Energies) took one.
With 57 kilometres remaining, the gap to the peloton was at 5-52 and the breakaway were working effectively together. With three riders close to Williams (Bahrain Victorious) it was also likely that there would be a reaction behind. With some very accomplished riders in the group including Michael Schär (AG2R Citroën Team) the peloton gradually began to get to work and organise the chase.
With 47.2 km to go, the threat posed by Andreas Leknessund (Team DSM) to Williams’ lead meant that Bahrain Victorious accompanied by Bora-Hansgrohe began to work on the front of the peloton. Ineos Grenadiers also began to assist the other teams and within just a few kilometres, the breakaway’s gap had shrunk by one minute.
Riders began to gradually drop from the breakaway and at 47km the group was down to seven riders as they crossed the finishing line to start one long finishing lap with the gap at 5-22 to the peloton. The race then took on the consistently difficult category 3 Eichenberg climb with a gap of 4-41. Leknussund took maximum points again at the top to continue his impressive day out.
The combined work of Ineos Grenadiers, Quickstep Alpha-Vinyl protecting the interests of Remco Evenepoel (Quickstep Alpha-Vinyl) and Bora-Hansgrohe meant that the breakaway's lead was shrinking quickly. As the peloton crested the Eichenberg themselves, Anton Palzer (Bora-Hansgrohe) finished a long turn on the front heavily eating into the leaders gap with a furious stint of setting the pace.
Out front the breakaway was gradually beginning to splinter with Andreas Leknussund (Team DSM) forcing other riders off the back. The Norwegian talents pressure proved too much for Schar, Badilatti and Suter as they fell away from the leaders. Schar gradually found his way back leaving a leading group of five riders.
At 36km to go Andreas Leknussund was still looking like the strongest rider in the breakaway and was the virtual leader of the general classification on the road. The five leaders still remained 4 mins ahead of the peloton.
As the race progressed Dylan Van Baarle got onto the front of the peloton and began to eat away at the breakaways lead and as the race entered the final 30 kilometres Ineos, Quickstep and Bora-Hansgrohe all swapped turns to chase down the surviving race leaders. The gap was quickly reduced to 2-04 and Stephen Williams was well placed and protected by his team mates at the front of the peloton.
As the final climb, the category 3 Challpass began, the leaders began to suffer and Badilatti was immediately dropped. The gap to the breakaway was under two minutes and the peloton led by Louis Vervaeke and Tim De Clerq (Quickstep Alpha-Vinyl) were putting in some huge turns, maybe looking to set up Remco Evenepoel. Soon realising that it was beginning to look like now or never, Leknussund pushed on but Burgadeau was able to launch an acceleration with Rutsch following him. Leknussund was still the virtual race leader on the road and was sensing the opportunity was there to create a big time buffer over his rivals.
Leknussund pushed on and gradually had 1-32 on the peloton with the surviving breakaway riders caught in the gap. The Norwegian was working hard and as one of the top young climbers in the sport showed no signs of relenting his attack.
As Leknussund crested the summit of the Challpass he 1-05 on the break away with 1:35 on the peloton. UAE Team Emirates and Alpecin-Fenix were jostling for the front of the peloton as they arrived at the summit to ensure they had a good position in the descent. Meanwhile Leknussund showed no signs of relenting and was well on his way to a stage victory and taking the overall lead off of the shoulders of Williams (Bahrain-Victorious). Leknussund had already picked up 6 bonus seconds and with 10 on offer for the stage winner, the overall lead was all but certain to be going his way.
With under 10km to go, Leknussund had 44s on the remnants of the breakaway with the peloton 1-27 further back. In just two kilometres, the Norwegian had lost only 3 seconds and despite a long day out in the heat was looking remarkably strong.
45 seconds was the key with 3.6km to go and Leknussund was flying. The final kilometres flew by with the Norwegian still with a lead of 1-05 and set for the victory.
Almost 5 hours of racing Leknussund began to smile, knowing victory was secured as he crossed the line and punched the air in celebration to win stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse. The Norwegian had 45s on Williams and it remained to be seen if he would take the yellow jersey.
As the peloton flew over the line in hot pursuit, Alebrto Bettiol lifted his arms in celebration thinking he had taken the victory. Had the riders not been informed Leknussund had won the stage? Michael Matthews (Team Bike Exchange-Jayco) completed the top three and the rest of the peloton came in at 38s back to ensure that Stephen Williams (Bahrain Victorious) retained the overall lead.
Tour de Suisse, Stage Two: Küsnacht to Aesch (199 kilometres)
1.Andreas Leknessund (Nor) Team DSM, in 04:46:22
2. Alberto Bettiol (ITA) EF Education- Easypost +38
3. Michael Matthews (AUS) Bike Exchange-Jayco
4. Andrea Pasqualon (ITA) Intermache Wanty-Gobert
5. Matteo Trentin (ITA) UAE Team Emirates
6. Niklas Arndt (GER) Team DSM
7. Stefan Küng (SWI) Groupama FDJ
8. Edoardo Zambanini (ITA) Bahrain Victorious
9. Daniel Oss (ITA) Total Energies
10. Stefano Oldani (ITA) Alpecin Fenix all same time.
General Classification after Stage Two
1. Stephen Williams (GB) Bahrain Victorious, in 9:03:41
2. Maximilian Schachmann (GER) Bora-Hansgrohe at 4s
3. Andreas Kron (NOR) Lotto Soudal at 6s
4. Andreas Leknessund (NOR) Team DSM, at 7s
5. Stefan Küng (SWI) Groupama FDJ, at 10s
6. Aleksey Lutsenko (KAZ) Astana Qazaqstan
7. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo Visma
8. Marc Hirschi (SWI) UAE Team Emirates
9. Aleksandr Vlasov (RUS) Bora Hansgrohe
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) Intermarche Wanty-Gobert at same time
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