Patrick Bevin and Tom Scully got their Tour de Suisse campaign to a fantastic start in the race’s individual time trial. Bevin and Scully finished 8th and 10th respectively in the stage won by Bahrain Merida’s Rohan Dennis, before Luis Leon Sanchez took the first road stage.
Kiwis Patrick Bevin of CCC Team, Tom Scully of EF Education First and Sam Bewley of Mitchelton-SCOTT have lined up for this year’s Tour de Suisse, with racing getting underway in Langnau Im Emmental with a 9.5km individual time trial. It was interesting to note a good cross-section of riders who found the going to their liking on day 1 with the established TT specialists like Rohan Dennis, Maciej Bodnar, Patrick Bevin and Stefan Küng being challenged by the sprint prowess of Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan.
It was the world champion, Rohan Dennis of Bahrain Merida who won out on the opening day with a blistering performance that saw him just edge Maciej Bodnar of BORA-Hansgrohe for top spot. Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb finished third at 1 second with teammate Søren Kragh Andersen fourth and Kasper Asgreen of Deceuninck-Quick Step completing the top five who were separated by just 2 seconds in total.
Patrick Bevin, resplendent in his national time trial champion’s kit, was a little disappointed not to have finished higher up the standings on day 1; although his eighth place bodes well for the week ahead. Instead it is the closing time trial, 19.2km in length, that has the Kiwi much more excited.
“It’s tough to come in with a 10-kilometre time trial after a break in racing. I had hoped for a bit more. I liked the course and thought it was a good one for me but I didn’t quite have the legs today. It was a good way to rip the bandaid off and get back to racing but we have some tough days ahead,” Bevin said via his team website.
“There were four corners in 10 kilometres and three of them were together, so it was about form and speed, about being aero and producing the power over the whole effort. It really punished you if you didn’t have anything left at the end with the last two kilometres drifting uphill.”
“The final time trial is a big one for me. That parcours should suit me a little better as it’s longer and I tend to go better in the longer time trials, and at the end of the week with a few race days under my belt. So, that’s definitely a big goal and we’ll see how the next few days play out. There are some really hard stages this week.”
Sanchez denies sprinters with stage 2 attack.
The first of those really hard stages came again in the Langnau Im Emmental area, with 159.6km of racing that took in two climbs of the Schellenberg and Chuderhüsi that were to be tackled three times each before the finish of the day. The stage threatened to break up the race and it proved to do so.
Four riders got away up the road with Guillaume van Keirsbulck of CCC Team, Fabien Grellier of Total Direct Energie, Gavin Mannion of Rally UHC Cycling and Claudio Imhof of Switzerland attacking together. Bahrain Merida took up chase duties at the head of the peloton, but it was Imhof who was the most aggressive of the attackers, breaking clear of the break after the first time up the Schallenberg and leading by 4 minutes from the peloton by the time he went up it for the second time.
The three chasers were gradually reeled in by the peloton with Imhof the last man standing. He was reeled into the peloton with 37km left to race; and from there the peloton raced towards the finish. But as the race neared its end Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana took off up the road with 11km remaining. He worked hard to build a 28 second lead with 6.5km to go, and he was helped by the fact that the peloton was heavily reduced under the grind of the climbs that had really broken the field up significantly.
Sanchez’s lead climbed the 30 second mark and with 5km to go it was going to be a very close battle for the win. CCC Team, Team Sunweb, Astana all were visible towards the front of the peloton but there was no bringing Sanchez back who stretched his advantage out to 39 seconds. Team Sunweb emerged as the most prominent of the chasers with just under 4km to go, but Sanchez was in full flight time trial mode and was proving unstoppable.
Despite the high intensity of the peloton they were unable to make any serious dent into the lead of Sanchez, who kept a lead of 30 seconds with 1.2km to go. Even with the confidence that the race was won the Spaniard was not happy to sit up until 50m to go; where he celebrated the win as Peter Sagan of BORA-Hansgrohe led home the peloton ahead of Matteo Trentin of Mitchelton-SCOTT.
New Zealand’s favourite Aussie – Robert Stannard of Mitchelton-SCOTT – finished in the main group that contained all of the main contenders for overall victory except Rui Costa of UAE Team Emirates; with the Portuguese conceding over 8 minutes to the leaders. Patrick Bevin arrived home alongside Matej Mohorič of Bahrain Merida and Brandon McNulty of Rally UHC, while Sam Bewley of Mitchelton-SCOTT and Tom Scully of EF Education First finished in a large grupetto featuring Elia Viviani, Alexander Kristoff, Dan McLay and John Degenkolb.