Astana’s Miguel Ángel López has been crowned Tour de Suisse champion after a fast and furious final stage of racing. Jarlinson Pantano of IAM Cycling claimed the final stage in terribly wet conditions ahead of Sergei Chernetckii of Katusha and Ion Izagirre of Movistar.
It was a peculiar stage that brought to a close the 2016 Tour de Suisse. Just 57km in length from La Punt to Davos, the stage nevertheless featured some tough climbing before the fast descent to the finish line. The weather conditions were at fault for this, with organisers having to hastily alter the course because of snow and poor visibility on the climb of the Albulapass. What was supposed to be a two-climb 117.7km stage was more than halved then; but that was to prove no deterrent for the remaining riders.
Astana tried to keep the peloton under control but the flurry of attacks that came and went made things very difficult for the boys in blue and their boy in yellow; Miguel Ángel López. Max Richeze of Etixx-Quick Step was particularly animated along with Jasper Stuyven of Trek-Segafredo and Magnus Cort Nielsen of Orica GreenEDGE. Richeze was motivated by the chance to put the points classification out of reach for good from Tinkoff’s Peter Sagan and he succeeded at the first intermediate sprint; although the gap to the bunch was just a modest 16 seconds.
34km into the stage the trio had a gap of some 50 seconds in hand on the run in to the only climb of the day up the Flüelapass. Stuyven quickly established himself as the strongest in the trio, while behind him there was action a plenty as GIANT-Alpecin took over control of the chase. Michele Scarponi of Astana soon took over from them as he looked to support teammate López; but the GC contenders were swarming at this stage.
With 27km to go David Lopez of Team Sky launched an attack with Darwin Atapuma of BMC Racing taking over chase duties. AG2R La Mondiale’s Hubert Dupont bridged the gap while Simon Spilak of Katusha swapped places in front with Lopez who dropped back. The leaders were joined by Jarlinson Pantano of IAM Cycling, Rui Costa of Lampre-Merida and then López who bridged across alone. Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing was also keen to get in on the action swapping places with Dupont.
Caught out though were the likes of Andrew Talansky of Cannondale who was forced to chase. Rui Costa and Simon Spilak dropped back too, with Ion Izagirre and Warren Barguil also not able to bridge across with 20km remaining. They had 20 seconds or so to make up too, as the leaders looked full of intent; knowing that time, not just the stage, was of the essence.
2km from the top the leaders had 18 seconds in hand. At 19.2km to go López attacked and crested the climb solo with an advantage of 30 seconds over the new chase group which had the addition of Ion Izagirre at last.
What followed was a furious descent down some treacherous roads as the GC contenders looked to peg back their race leader on the run in to Davos. It was an impressive feat as the riders hit high speed on the slick roads. Meanwhile Andrew Talansky looked like he was far from enjoying the day, finding himself now 46 seconds down with Barguil and losing his second place overall.
Barguil and Costa, who were up until now with Talansky, took off on the descent and went in pursuit of the leaders. It was a brave chase in the conditions as finally the slick roads gave way to sunshine. With the kilometres ticking away López was finally caught at 8.5km to go by a small group that contained Tejay van Garderen, Jarlinson Pantano, Sergei Chernetckii and Ion Izagirre, with Costa and Barguil still in hot pursuit.
Pantano was keen to keep the intensity high, and he went on the attack with 3.5km to go, but was pegged back by the group. Meanwhile Chernetckii was hanging back, not taking any turns; giving the suggestion that he was either exhausted or the danger man for the upcoming sprint finish. But it would be Pantano who hit for home and was able to hold off the Katusha rider to secure the stage win ahead of Chernetckii and move up to fourth overall. Ion Izagirre took third but swapped places in the GC with Warren Barguil who managed to hold on to third place; while Andrew Talansky valiantly fought but had to settle for 5th overall in the end.
After nine days of racing, with a fair amount of that in terrible weather conditions, Sam Bewley of Orica GreenEDGE and Jesse Sergent of AG2R La Mondiale crossed the finish line in Davos together in a group that contained Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas as 50 riders since the race’s first stage eventually dropped out over the course of the Tour.