Australia and Colombia had reason again to celebrate an extraordinary season when Johan Chaves won the eighth stage of the Tour de Suisse for Orica-GreenEDGE.
The south American was first across the line in Verbier, holding off the more accomplished and experienced duo of Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin).
Ireland’s Philip Deignan (Team Sky) produced another impressive performance to cross the line sixth, just 17 seconds after Chaves in a six-strong group that contained race leader, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), the world time trial champion, and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), the world road race champion.
Martin maintained a comfortable 51-second margin over Giant-Shimano’s Tom Dumoulin on the general classification. Costa remains third overall, 1.05 behind the German.
The day, however, belonged to Chaves, who claimed his first victory in cycling’s elite UCI WorldTour in fine style – by winning alone.
The 24-year-old attacked with just three kilometres remaining of a gruelling 219km run from Delémont. Cannondale’s Davide Formolo bridged to the Colombian, but was unable to maintain his rival’s pace and fell away.
With the Grand Depart of the Tour de France just two weeks away, the most accomplished riders despatched to Switzerland have largely shown the form required to perform at cycling’s greatest race.
Kreuziger, Mollema, Martin, and Costa all rode well again today, but Team Sky’s difficult build up to the Tour continued with the loss of Peter Kennaugh.
The Manxman abandoned the race with a cold. Kennaugh missed Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro d’Italia with illness too. He was a considerable asset to Chris Froome’s team at last year’s Tour.
Team Sky’s directeur sportif, Dan Frost, said Kennaugh had struggled during the stage seven time trial and had felt worse today.
“It made no sense for him to keep going in the condition he was in, especially with such a tough stage tomorrow,” Frost said.
Tomorrow’s 157km concluding stage is another climb-laden affair, crossing three categorised peaks en route to a summit finish at 1807m in Saas-Fee.
Victory for Martin would cap a strong season to date for Omega Pharma-Quickstep as the Belgian superteam prepares for the biggest race of the year.
Tour de Suisse 2014: stage eight – result
1) Johan Chaves (COL) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 5.11.16
2) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +3″
3) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Belkin – ST
4) Eros Capecchi (ITA) – Movistar +16″
5) Janier Acevedo (COL) – Garmin-Sharp +17″
6) Philip Deignan (IRE) – Team Sky – ST
7) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
8) Davide Formolo (ITA) – Cannondale
9) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida
10) Mathias Frank (SUI) – IAM Cycling
1) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 28.54.16
2) Tom Dumoulin (NED) – Giant-Shimano +51″
3) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida +1.05
4) Mathias Frank (SUI) – IAM Cycling +1.14
5) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Belkin +1.41
6) Davide Formolo (ITA) – Cannondale +1.47
7) Roman Kreuziger (CZE) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.50
8) Janier Acevedo (COL) – Garmin-Sharp +2.07
9) Eros Capecchi (ITA) – Movistar +2.29
10) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +2.30