LUGANO, Switzerland (AFP) — Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) continued his strong season on Saturday with a victory in stage 1 of the 2012 Tour de Suisse.
Sagan won the opening individual time trial in Lugano, covering the 7.3km course in 9 minutes and 44 seconds. Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), who had won on the exact same course the past two years, took the runner-up spot at four seconds slower with Moreno Moser (Liquigas) third at seven seconds.
“I’m certainly not a time trialist,” Sagan said on the team’s website. “But over short distances, like a prologue, I can maximize my power.
“I had fun and felt comfortable. I’m really happy for this moment when everything is going well. It’s a great morale boost, just what I need to continue my path toward the Tour de France.”
The Tour de Suisse, like the Critérium du Dauphiné in France, is a crucial tune-up for the Tour, to be held June 30-July 22.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who has made the Tour’s yellow jersey one of his objectives this year, finished Saturday’s opener in 23rd place at 31 seconds, the same time as Robert Gesink (Rabobank).
Damiano Cunego (Lampre) finished 41st at 36 seconds adrift, the same time as 44th-placed Fränk Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan).
Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), finished 57th at 41 seconds.
Sunday’s stage 2 is a 218.3km leg from Verbania to Verbier.