Defending champion Rui da Costa of Portugal boosted his hopes of retaining his Tour de Suisse title as he powered to victory on a grueling seventh stage to close the gap on overall leader Mathias Frank to 13 seconds.
Da Costa was in a leading group of three riders alongside Dutchman Bauke Mollema and the US’ Tejay van Garderen entering the final stages, but the pair were unable to match the Portuguese as he sprinted across the line.
“Our goal today was taking some seconds off the riders ahead of us in the overall [standings] and we didn’t just do that, we also won the stage,” Da Costa said.
“I am super happy, although it was shame about the banner,” the Movistar rider added, referring to a distance marker that fell onto the road just prior to the finish and briefly delayed the leaders.
“We lost about 10 seconds there which could be decisive, but the important thing is that I showed that I am in good form for [the concluding individual time-trial on] Sunday,” he said.
Mollema edged Van Garderen to second, with Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who took the points at the summit of the HC Albula Pass, dropped as the quartet tackled the final descent.
The 206km route from Meilen to La Punt featured four rated climbs, including a brutal 30km climb of the Albula Pass that peaked at 2,315m just inside the final 10km. Switzerland’s Frank came in ninth at 22 seconds, having been left behind by BMC teammate Van Garderen on the climb up the Albula, but remains in yellow, with Da Costa breathing down his neck ahead of yesterday’s eighth stage, a hilly 180.5km route from Zernez to Bad Ragaz.