Mon, Jun 20, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Sagan strikes as tempers flare

PUNCTURED SPIRIT:Bauke Mollema accused Leopard of double standards after the Tour de Suisse stage and said the tactics would not be forgotten at the Tour de France

AFP, SCHAFFHAUSEN, Switzerland

Cyclists ride past Lake Constance on Saturday during the eighth stage of the 75th Tour de Suisse UCI ProTour cycling race over 167.3km from Tuebach to Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Photo: EPA

Slovakian Peter Sagan claimed his second victory of the Tour de Suisse as tempers frayed on the finish line of the eighth and penultimate stage over 167.3km on Saturday.

Versatile Liquigas rider Sagan had already shown his class in the mountains when he won stage three to Grindelwald ahead of Italian all-rounder Damiano Cunego.

After a frantic last 25km in which several top sprinters, including Britain’s Mark Cavendish, were left behind by a split in the peloton, a powerful sprint to the finish by the Slovakian left Australian Matt Goss in second with Britain’s Ben Swift in third place.

“It was a really hard finale, but thankfully in the final kilometer I had [teammate] Daniel Oss leading me out,” said Sagan, who also secured the race’s blue jersey for the points competition. “I’m very satisfied with this second win and the points jersey. It’s been a huge success for me this week.”

Lampre rider Cunego, meanwhile, retained the race leader’s yellow jersey with a 1 minute 36 second lead on Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk ahead of the race--closing time trial yesterday.

Cunego had stayed at the front of the main chasing peloton as it pursued an earlier breakaway, an intelligent move given what was to happen in the final, hilly kilometers.

After Cavendish’s team had spent energy driving the chasing peloton, the US outfit were outfoxed when Movistar upped the pace on the category three Hallauerberg climb whose summit was 22km from the finish.

“We wanted to try and eliminate as many sprinters as possible,” said the Spanish team’s sporting director Jose Luis Arrieta, whose main hope, Jose Joaquin Rojas, eventually finished sixth.

The Garmin team of Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd soon joined in and the Leopard team put German powerhouse Jens Voigt on the front to do further damage.

Despite Goss making the cut for HTC-Highroad, their efforts ultimately left Cavendish and overall contender Bauke Mollema — second overall at 1:23 overnight — fighting a vain battle to close the gap.

It also pushed Leopard’s defending champion Frank Schleck up to third place, still 1:41 behind Cunego, however, emotions ran high at the finish line where it transpired that Mollema had suffered a puncture 15km from home.

Mollema, who dropped to fifth overall at 2:11, accused Leopard of double standards and said their tactics would not be forgotten at next month’s Tour de France.

“It’s unbelievable they [Leopard] hit full gas when they heard I wasn’t in the group any more,” the Dutchman said.

“Last year in the Tour de France the Leopard guys [then riding for Saxo Bank] neutralized the race when some of their guys had crashed. We won’t forget this when it comes to the Tour de France,” he said.

Leopard sporting director Torsten Schmidt defended the team’s tactics.

“The team pulled with 15km to go. We were on the front from there all the way to the finish. They fought to gain as many seconds as possible for the overall,” he said.

American Levi Leipheimer of RadioShack is still 1:59 behind the Italian race leader, and the biggest threat yesterday when a hilly 32.1km race against the clock will decide the race.

However, Cunego remained defiant.

“I’ve got quite a good lead and I’m in great form at the moment so it’s up to the guys behind me to catch me,” the Italian said.

Schleck’s younger brother, Andy, who showed mixed form last week as he primes his condition for an assault on the Tour de France yellow jersey, secured the king of the mountains’ green jersey.

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