Portugal’s Rui Costa capped a superb counterattack on the second stage of the Tour of Switzerland on Sunday by reeling in Frank Schleck to claim a prestigious victory on the summit of Verbier.
Costa, a former Tour de France stage winner who rides for Movistar, takes the overall lead from Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, the winner of the opening time trial, with Luxembourger Schleck in second overall at 8 seconds.
RadioShack all-rounder Schleck, a third-place finisher on last year’s Tour de France, is using the race to top up his form for a renewed assault on the three-week epic next month having crashed out of the Giro d’Italia several weeks ago.
And he looked all set for a morale-boosting win when he attacked 6km from the summit, only for Costa to launch a successful counter 2km from home to steal his thunder.
Spaniard Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) trailed home eight seconds behind the leader as the stragglers trickled over the line following a mammoth 218km ride from Verbania, which took a little over six hours.
Among the top finishers were Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, at 18secs, Czech Roman Kreuziger, at 22secs, the US’ Levi Leipheimer, the defending champion, also at 22secs and Italian Damiano Cunego, at 47secs.
Dutchman Robert Gesink was off the pace at 1:04.
Along with the Criterium du Dauphine in France, won by Britain’s Bradley Wiggins on Sunday, the Tour of Switzerland is used as a major tune-up for the Tour de France, which begins on June 30 and runs through July 22.
The race, which features many formidable climbs and a 34.3km time trial on Friday, ends on Sunday.