Swiss rider Mathias Frank claimed the overall leader’s yellow jersey as Slovakian Peter Sagan took the stage three honors at the Tour de Suisse on Monday.
The pair were part of a four-man breakaway who moved clear of a larger 12-man group on the final descent into Meiringen after a 203.3km run from Montreux, Switzerland.
Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Sagan proved too strong for his breakaway companions in the sprint for the line, finishing ahead of last year’s overall winner Rui Costa of Portugal and Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic, with Frank fourth.
An elite group formed on the final category 1 Hasliberg climb as Tejay van Garderen of the US pushed the pace for his BMC teammate Frank. That burst decimated the peloton until about a dozen riders were left, but the next split happened on the descent when Italy’s 2011 Giro d’Italia winner Michele Scarponi crashed into a grass verge, holding up those behind him.
Costa made an immediate dash to join the three ahead of him, but no one else could bridge the gap and the stage win came down to the front four.
With three of that group eyeing overall victory more than a stage success, Sagan was never in any danger of being challenged and he won the sprint at a canter.
It was the 23-year-old’s 50th win and his seventh stage victory in the Tour de Suisse, although it left him a little surprised.
“Honestly, I’m surprised to be able to take this win,” Sagan said. “In the morning meeting, we thought that this finale was too hard to try a move. The stage looked good when I stayed with the leaders on the final climb. On the descent, the group got smaller and with the other three riders I pushed to go to the finish. The final sprint wasn’t so easy. 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.”
Sagan said that he was heartened that his form was starting to improve with the Tour de France beginning at the end of the month.
“I’m really happy for this win and to have found the first positive sign of my form,” he said. “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 [for the leader of the points competition]. If I find other chances here I’ll be ready, but for me it’s important to see my form improving.”
Previous leader Cameron Meyer of Australia was distanced on the final climb and finished 1 minute, 47 seconds down, not only losing the yellow jersey, but dropping out of the top 10.
Kreuziger moved up to second overall, 25 seconds back, with Costa third a further 10 seconds back.
It was a terrible day for another general classification contender as last year’s Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal of Canada crashed out of the race.
His Garmin-Sharp Pro Cycling team later revealed the 32-year-old had been taken to hospital, where he was to remain overnight as a precautionary measure.
Hesjedal, who failed to successfully defend his Giro title, pulling out prior to the 13th stage, suffered multiple bruising, and bangs to his neck and head.
“He will remain in the hands of the medical staff,” the team said in a statement. “Hopefully, he will be in a good enough state to train again in a few days, but that will depend on how well he recovers.”