Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) continued his love affair with the Tour de Suisse by beating the defending champion and two other GC contenders in a rain-soaked sprint into Meiringen.
The Slovak, who won four stages of last year’s race, and two stages of the 2011 race, crested the first category Hasliberg/Winterlücke with the men contesting overall victory, and proved the equal of any on the treacherous descent.
Defending champion, Rui Costa (Movistar) finished second, with the final spot on the podium claimed by Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff). Fourth-placed Mathias Frank (BMC Racing), however, was the big winner of those who finished behind Sagan, and moved into the overall lead of the race.
Sagan, who began the stage with 10 wins already this season in the bank, attacked as soon as his rivals passed under the flamme rouge, and took a comfortable victory.
He said he had been surprised by the victory and revealed that team had decided the stage was too hard in the morning briefing.
“The final sprint wasn’t so easy,” said Sagan, modestly. “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.”
The day started with the odds in favour of Cannndale’s nominal team leader for the Tour de Suisse, Damiano Caruso, who escaped early with Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Stefan Denifl (IAM). Their advantage lasted just 30km, however.
A second break formed 30km later on the third category slopes of the first of the day’s categorised climbs, the Chemin de Lorette. Several of the Tour de Suisse peloton’s Classics heavyweights were present among the 18-strong escape group, among them the world road race champion, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), and Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Sharp).
Aware of the danger, the bunch granted little leeway to those who had gone clear, and the first category Hasliberg terminated the lead of the breakaway survivors, including Boonen and team-mate, Niki Terpstra.
With a little over 25km remaining, Wilco Kelderman (Blanco Pro Cyclng) headed the breakaway, dropping Gilbert but proving unable to shake off Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Martin Elminger (BMC Racing), both racing on home soil, and Matti Breschel (Saxo-Tinkoff). Albasini went clear, but was soon caught.
Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing), the team’s leader as little as two stages ago, turned domestique for Fränk, who finished second to Bauke Mollema the previous day and who had started the stage just five seconds off the lead. Their combined efforts, however, were insufficient to shake Sagan.
Kreuziger, a more able climber than Sagan, moved to the head of the now 15-strong lead group as they crested the Hasliberg.
As the treachours descent unfolded, the quartet that would form the final break of the stage went clear. Having failed to shake Sagan on the descent, the writing was on the wall for his confederates in the sprint.
“I’m really happy for this win and to have found the first positive sign of my form,” said Sagan. 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 at the Tour de Suisse I’ll be ready, but for me it’s important to see my form improving.”
The yellow jersey of race leader passed from Cameron Meyer (AUS) to Frank, who now leads by 23” from Kreuziger and 35” from Porte.
Tour de Suisse 2013: stage three – result
1) Peter Sagan (SLO) – Cannondale Pro Cycling – 4.46.27
2) Rui Costa (POR) – Movistar
3) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Saxo-Tinkoff
4) Mathias Frank (SUI) – BMC Racing
5) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +39″
6) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar +46″
7) Daniel Martin (IRE) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
8) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ
9) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana
10) Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
1) Mathias Frank (SUI) – BMC Racing – 7.39.38
2) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) +23″
3) Rui Costa (POR) – Movistar +35″
4) Giovanni Visconti (ITA) – Movistar +53″
5) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +57″
6) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling +1.08
7) Daniel Martin (IRE) – Garmin-Sharp +1.23
8) Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.28
9) Tejay Van Gaarderen (USA) – BMC Racing +1.39
10) Cameron Meyer (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE