Peter Sagan (Cannondale) won stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse on Monday.
Sagan was part of a four-man group that was at the front of the race. With 200 meters left in the 203km course, he pulled around Rui Costa (Movistar) and sprinted across the finish line. Costa was second and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo Tinkoff) took third.
Mathias Frank (BMC Racing), who started the day five seconds behind race leader Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), finished fourth in the stage and seized the GC lead. Kreuziger is 23 seconds back in second, while Costa is third at 35 seconds back.
“Honestly I’m surprised to be able to take this win,” Sagan told AFP. “In the morning meeting we thought that this finale was too hard to try a move. The stage looked good when I stayed with the leaders on the final climb.
“I’m really happy for this win and to have found the first positive sign of my form. Every day is a useful test to prepare for the Tour de France. There is only one target: be at the top to fight for the green jersey. If I find other chances here I’ll be ready, but for me it’s important to see my form improving.”
Tricky finishing descent
A difficult Category 1 climb peaked with 19.4km left in the stage, and it was followed by a treacherous descent on a narrow, rain-slicked road. The four stage leaders stayed together and had to brake hard several times as the road twisted down the mountain. Back in the peloton, Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) crashed and was sitting on a muddy bank to the right of the road when a TV motorbike drove past.
Once the initial descent ended, the road was a bit bumpy before plunging into the finishing area. At one point, the four riders out front were pushing speeds of 90 kilometers per hour down a straight section, which is about 56 miles per hour. Despite the wet road, they were tucked low and straddling the top tubes on their bikes.
The road flattened out at the finish, and Costa led the foursome before Sagan made his move.
“On the descent, the group got smaller and with the other three riders I pushed to go to the finish,” Sagan said. “The final sprint wasn’t so easy. I knew I was the faster rider of the group but my legs felt tired due to the last climb. I preferred a two-up sprint with Rui Costa to not run any risks.”
Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), who was unable to defend his 2012 Giro d’Italia title after withdrawing from last month’s race because of an illness, crashed during today’s stage and was taken to the hospital.
Hesjedal re-signed with Garmin last week. Garmin’s Tour de France plans have not been finalized, but it’s believed that Hesjedal was going to lead the squad’s GC chances.
It’s not yet known how his crash will affect his Tour hopes.
A nine-man break that included Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) formed in the first half of the stage, and the group stayed out front until the final Cat. 1 climb near the finish.
At that point, the group began to fall apart at the seams as riders struggled on the ascent. Gilbert fell back when he appeared to be having a mechanical issue.
The four riders that finished out front were able to catch — and pass — the original leaders.
The race picks back up with Tuesday’s stage 4, a 161km route from Innertkirchen to Buochs.