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Schleck attacks and distances race leader
Jun 17th, 12. The penultimate stage of the Tour de Suisse saw Frank Schleck attack on the final climb to put race leader Rui Costa under pressure, while up front Michael Albasini took the win solo.
The 148km stage was hardly easy before the day's Hors Category summit finish - the front bunch was already down to 30 odd riders before the big action played out.
Up front, Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) was well on his way to a solo victory after leaving behind his stage long breakaway companions.
"My first goal today was to get into the breakaway because we rode through the town where I lived," said Albasini, before adding, "I'm really happy with this win."
While the 31 year old Swiss dug deep to thrill the crowds and take the win by over 1min, behind him the GC battle was in full swing.
Having started the day with his main rivals around a minute behind him thanks to yesterday's solid individual time trial performance, Costa needed plenty of help from his Movistar teammates today.
With 4km to go on the HC climb, when Costa was dangling off the back of the front group, Schleck (RadioShack Nissan Trek) launched an attack. He was closely followed by Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma Quickstep).
Schleck continued to set the pace for the trio, while two other GC contenders Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana Pro Team) lead a small chase group.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde did a great job towing Costa up the climb and back within contention.
The Schleck lead trio stayed ahead until the finish where Nieve took 2nd place ahead of Leipheimer.
Schleck missed out on the bonus points with his 4th place, but time gaps saw him finish the day 2nd overall, up from 5th at the start of the day.
Costa finished 50sec after his rivals, but close enough to maintain a loose grasp on the yellow jersey.
He now leads Schleck by 14sec at the top of the leaderboard. Leipheimer is 3rd +21sec, Gesink (who fiinished 21sec behind the lead GC trio) is 4th +25sec.
Tomorrow's 216km final stage day includes more opportunities for the GC contenders to battle it out for the tour title - the stage includes two Hors Category climbs before a Cat2 summit finish.
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