The Tour de
Sagan Suisse is entering its fifth stage and we have had some pretty nice racing this week, despite what some consider to be a lackluster route. Today? A total cracker of a stage. How many breakaways were there in the last 20km that you thought would stick? And all of a sudden, when the commentators realized Sagan was in the small group at the finish with only a few kilometers to race?
Sunday was a nice little jaunt in the mountains culminating in a summit finish at the ski resort of Verbier. Fränk Schleck looked to have the stage wrapped up, attacking with 6 kilometers to the finish and getting a substantial gap right away. Rui Costa, however, had other plans and reminded us that timing is better than brute strength. You see, Costa sat in the group of climbers until 2 kilometers to go, conserving energy before jumping up to Schleck and passing him with 200m to go. On the steady, not-too-steep climb to Verbier, Costa certainly played his cards right. He now leads the overall classification because Peter Sagan decided a summit finish was not to his liking and sat up with 20km to go.
What's coming up in the next few days? Tomorrow is a lumpy lumpy race. Six categorized climbs and a few other bumps in the profile which look like they could sting as well. Nothing too serious - all are rated Category 3 and none look to gain more than 200m in height - but it's one of those days without much flat riding. If my name were Peter Sagan, I would be licking my lips at the thought of a stage just hard enough to drop the sprinters. Because Sagan? He won't get dropped on a profile like that. Garmin tried in Cali on harder stages and couldn't dislodge him.
But really, isn't it about time a breakaway got a chance? You would think so - and goodness knows Martin Elmiger is frothing at the mouth for a stage win in his home tour - but Liquigas did not really have to work today and might still be fresh. Dario Cataldo, who was only a minute down on the overall classification, got frisky and put himself into the break today and forced Movistar to ride tempo almost all day. Granted, most of Liquigas was in the sizeable grupetto at the finish - only Moreno Moser remained to help Sagan in the final kilometers - but still, that must beat pulling on the front all day. I would expect them to want another Sagan win. Plus, I'm sure Ted King and Tim Duggan won't mind setting pace again.
Could Sagan go 4 for 5? And maybe even win the following stage? A smart person would not bet against him, but I am hoping Heinrich Haussler wins one of the next two stages. He is motivated enough to, after having a front row seat to Sagan's domination in Cali and here. Poor Heino, can't the guy get a win? I think he just might.
If the break doesn't stick tomorrow, there is little chance one will for the rest of the race. Thursday's stage is considerably flatter, Friday is a time trial, and the weekend's two stages both feature summit finishes. This tour, it likes the climbers.
The time trial should add some suspense to the race, though it would even more if it were flat. Because this is Switzerland, it is rather hard to avoid the hills and there is a surprising amount of climbing in the 33km stage. And there is so much to watch on Friday! Will Levi Leipheimer take enough time to get the leader's jersey and defend it? Will Schleck the elder do a decent TT or a horrible one? And what about Robert Gesink - he's been getting better against the clock, and he has even won hilly time trials recently... There should be pretty views too because, well, we're in Suisse.
So, peoples - get excited! At the very least, we can always try to guess what victory salute Peter Sagan will use next.