AROSA, Switzerland (VN) — Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) won stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse on Saturday.
Albasini and Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had been off the front with more than four minutes in hand and just 27km remaining in the 148.2km stage from Bischofszell to Arosa. The two had left behind break-mates Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Barracuda) and Remi Cusin (Team type 1-Sanofi).
Then Albasini shed Velits and went it alone, crossing 1:15 ahead of a late three-man chase containing Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
Nieve won the sprint for second, with Leipheimer third and Schleck fourth.
“My first goal today was to get into the breakaway because we rode through the town where I lived,” said Albasini. “I have tried to get in a break every day, and today was another day where I made the same attempt. I did a hard attack to get away with four other riders. I’m surprised that I could bring it all the way to the finish. I’m really happy with this win.”
Albasini said Velits “looked really good on the first climb, and I actually was scared of him a little bit.”
“He did the first part of the climb really hard, but as we came to the false flat, I started to pull. I realized that I was gapping him and that he wasn’t as good anymore. I maintained my pace on the steeper parts, and he couldn’t go with me. He dropped, and I was alone.”
Race leader Rui Costa (Movistar) cracked likewise on the final climb to Arosa, sliding off the back of the chase just as Schleck gave it the gas, dogged by Leipheimer and Nieve. Costa had been in difficulty before, yo-yoing on and off the group, as the chase ate into the breakaway’s advantage on the category-2 ascent to Castiel. But he went away for good as the Schleck trio drove away on the beyond-category climb to Arosa.
With the help of teammate Alejandro Valverde, who dropped back to pace him, Costa hung onto his yellow jersey, but only just — Schleck vaulted into second overall at 14 seconds back, with Leipheimer third at 21 seconds.
The team was good today,” Leipheimer said. “The guys brought me to the bottom of the last climb in perfect position. The first part of the climb was hard but I could count on (Dario) Cataldo. I was OK there. The last kilometers of the race were really steep. Schleck attacked, but I was able to stay with him.
“I think I did a good race. I’m happy because I’m improving day by day. It’s a good trajectory for the Tour de France. Tomorrow it won’t be easy. The stage is hard, but I will try to take it kilometer by kilometer. It will be a fight, but I will do my best to be there until the end.”
The victory marks Albasini’s third win of the 2012 season, adding to his two stage wins and overall victory at Volta a Catalunya.
“This has been a really good year for me,” said Albasini. “I want to continue like this. It’s hard to pinpoint the reason why things are going well. I’ve learned that when you’re going well, you go well and don’t ask about it too much. Just go with it and enjoy the good form. All I know for sure is that I’m enjoying a good year and so is my team — and that’s it.”
Stay tuned for more from the Tour de Suisse.