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Spilak wins by the closest of margins in Tour de Suisse

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FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

The pieces were in place for a thrilling finale to the Tour de Suisse. Going into the 38km timetrial Thibaut Pinot was in the lead but common thinking was that his lead would be too slim and Geraint Thomas, Simon Spilak and, a bit further down, Tom Dumoulin were in a good position to pass him. In the end the race was every bit as close and exciting as expected and Simon Spilak continued Katusha's brilliant season by taking a bit of an unexpected win.

Geraint Thomas looked like the man with the best shot at the GC win. A strong timetrialer, he held a 12 sec lead over Spilak and 50 seconds over Dumoulin who was probably the best TTer of the three. When the three set out Cancellara had set the fastest time of the day and a time that perhaps only the three chasing the win should be able to match. On the hilly course it soon became clear that the race between Thomas and Spilak was perhaps tighter than expected. As one of the more anonymous top riders, Spilak's skill are often overlooked but he was riding absolutely neck and neck with the other two. Somewhere after the half-way mark the scales started tipping in Dumoulin's favor as he pulled away somewhat but probably not enough for him to be in the running for the overall win. Spilak and Thomas were obviously on too good days for Dumoulin to make up all he had lost and he would ultimately have to settle with the stagewin and a third place on GC. Cancellara's problematic race prep shone through and the old dominant saw his time crushed by 19 seconds as Dumoulin crossed the line.

About at the same time Thomas was beginning to drop off the pace of Spilak as well and his advantage was slowly disappearing. Coming in to the final kilometer the two were almost exactly even with Thomas fighting with everything he had to stay ahead. It would prove to be futile as he finished 18 seconds behind Spilak who had posted the second best time on the day. With that, Spilak took the overall lead with just a 5 second margin giving him the biggest win of his career and completing Katusha's Swiss double after Zakharin's win in Romandie. Pinot predictably dropped off the podium to give place for Dumoulin but he might not be too disappointed with his week after a great win on the mountain stage and great signals of form going into the TdF where he has a podium place from last year to "defend".

For the TdF most everyone got promising signs. Thomas would of course have wanted another stagerace win but he looks well prepared to be a top helper for Sky in the coming weeks. He might be invaluable already in week one and then very useful too as the race hits the high mountains. Robert Gesink is another who had a bit more anonymous but still very solid TdS. He finished with a strong TT to go into the Tour with a form that is approaching where he once was. Given a slightly uncertain form of the other top riders on LottoNL-Jumbo, a strong showing from Gesink should at least instill some confidence in management. Guys like Majka and Barguil also looked about the place where you would want to be a bit ahead of the Tour as did Fuglsang before he was hit with illness (gastro yada yada). All in all there looks to be a very fit field going into the Tour de France especially if you also look at the Route du Sud where the TdF-bound riders also performed just as you would want to see. Now we just wait and bite our nails, with only Nationals to tide us over until the big party starts July 4 in Utrecht.

Top 5 Stage 9

  1. Tom Dumoulin, Giant 48.36
  2. Simon Spilak, Katusha +18 s
  3. Fabian Cancellara, Trek +19 s
  4. Adriano Malori, Movistar +34 s
  5. Geraint Thomas, Sky +36 s

Top 10 GC

1. SLO KAT Simon Spilak
2. GBR SKY Geraint Thomas + 5 s
3. NED TGA Tom Dumoulin + 19 s
4. FRA FDJ Thibaut Pinot + 45 s
5. ITA ALM Domenico Pozzovivo + 2:21
6. LUX TFR Bob Jungels + 2:58
7. COL AST Miguel Angel Lopez + 3:06
8. SUI FDJ Steve Morabito + 3:17
9. NED TLJ Robert Gesink + 3:19
10. POL TCS Rafal Majka + 3:20