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Thursday, June 15, 2023

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Tour of Switzerland stage four reports

We posted the report from second-place Remco Evenepoel's Team Soudal Quick-Step with the results.

Here's the report from third-place Mattias Skjelmose's Team Trek-Segafredo:

Losing the overall race lead might to some seem like a disappointing end to Tour de Suisse Stage 4 for some, but for Mattias Skjelmose the 152.5-kilometer race was one led by tactics.

Mattias Skjelmose finishes third. Sirotti photo

Just two seconds separates the young Dane, who went into yellow after his victory on Stage 3, from the day’s winner and new race leader, Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën), who attacked from the group of General Classification favourites on the final climb.

Skjelmose remained calmed and collected, knowing that he could benefit from not having the weight of the leader’s jersey on his shoulders while also believing that he could tactically lose the least amount of time possible to ensure he is well and truly still in the fight for the overall victory come Sunday.

The 22-year-old kept his eyes on the rider who poses perhaps the biggest threat on the General Classification, Remco Evenpoel (Soudal – Quick-Step) and followed the rainbow jersey when, after being dropped from the group earlier on the climb, he made some late moves off the front of the chasing group.

In the sprint for the line behind Gall, Evenpoel took second with Skjelmose third across the line and now, the duo is separated by 14 seconds with the race far from over and plenty more exciting climbing action to come.

The race from Skjelmose's POV:
"I actually hoped [when Gall attacked and went solo] that he would take the leader's jersey with my losing the minimum amount of time. That was what happened so actually, it was a successful stage looking ahead to our overall goal. On the final, I kept a controlled pace. I think we got the maximum out of the Team today and luckily, for me, other guys wanted to control and I could follow them for the most part and only use the minimum amount of power.

"I didn't want to lose the jersey by any cost but I also didn't want to kill myself to keep it. Arguably tomorrow is more important and can make bigger differences than today. We wanted to lose the jersey to a guy who I believe I can beat in the TT. Let's see, Felix looks strong but I still believe I have a better time trial.

"Remco is still up there and even though he was maybe dropped a couple of times today, I know he is a smart rider and he also did some strong pulls today so I would say he really is the one I really need to watch out for. Saying that, we didn't get to go easy behind Felix so chapeau, to him. Hopefully he used a match more than me though.

"I felt my legs a little bit today after my efforts yesterday but not as much as I thought I would which I think is a good sign but still, I felt them but that's probably normal after a good, hard day like yesterday."

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Fourth-place Cian Uijtdebroeks' Team Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

After an initial flat 80 km, the race went up the 15 km long climb to the ski resort of Crans-Montana (1st cat). In the final section there was another first category climb, from the top of which, after a short descent, the riders took on a slight climb to the finish town of Leukerbad. The escapees were caught about 20km ahead of the finish by F. Gall, who attacked out of the peloton and went on to lead the race solo. Behind him a strong group formed, which included Maximilian Schachmann and Cian Uijtdebroeks.

After a series of attacks, Max had to let go, but Cian managed to counter the important moves. With Gall taking the win, the young Belgian crossed the finish line in fourth place, only two seconds behind Skjelmose, the then-leader in the general classification. After this convincing performance he moves up to eighth place in the overall standings. Max crossed the finish line in 10th place, 44 seconds behind his young teammate.

Cian Uijtdebroeks finishes fourth. Sirotti photo

From the Finish Line:
"It was another tough but the guys were really committed today. We were in a good position the whole day, and they supported me really well. Jonas did a good job to position me well, and Max also did a good job in the reduced group. In the end, it was a very explosive climb. I attempted several times to go clear form the small group, or react to attacks, but I was always brought back. In the end, we sprinted behind Gall and I'm pretty pleased with my fourth place." - Cian Uijtdebroeks


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Fifth-place Wilco Kelderman's Jumbo-Visma team sent me this report:

Wilco Kelderman has finished fifth in the second mountain stage of the Tour de Suisse. The Dutchman rode a strong final climb and opted to attack on the way to Leukerbad. Kelderman also moved up to fifth place in the general classification.
On Wednesday, there was no indication of a calm beginning. The race was intense from the start in Monthey, although the first few dozen kilometres were mostly flat. A lead group of eleven cyclists formed at the base of Crans-Montana, but they were eventually caught. On the final climb of nineteen kilometres, the race finally broke loose.

Wilco Kelderman finishing fifth. Sirotti photo

“I felt very strong there. Especially on the first part of the climb”, said Kelderman, who was chasing race leader and eventual stage winner Felix Gall.

“He attacked very early. In the end, we tried to get closer to the group of favourites, but we couldn’t”, the 32-year-old rider said. Kelderman then showed his excellent form and attacked. “I tried to get away, but it was difficult. In the end, I just rode my race and finished among the favourites. This gives me a good feeling, and I look forward to the next few days.”

Tirreno-Adriatico in March was Kelderman's last race. The Jumbo-Visma cyclist seemed to be performing at his peak level in Switzerland. “I hadn’t raced for three months. I wasn’t where I wanted to be last year. This team has brought me back. I’m back to my level and happy to show it again. After Switzerland, I will slow down a bit and hopefully be even better at the Tour de France”, Kelderman concluded.


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Seventh-place Romain Bardet's Team DSM sent me this report:

After Tuesday’s mountain finish atop Villars-sur-Ollon, the peloton went climbing once again on Wednesday afternoon with a finish in Leukerbad. A parcours that lived up to the “race of two halves”, the opening 80 kilometres were almost completely flat with all of the climbing packed into the latter 80 kilometres of the day.

It was a fierce and fast start to proceedings with multiple attacks in the peloton, with the team particularly active. Eventually the elastic snapped and Kevin Vermaerke made it into the break of ten, but with one of his fellow breakaway companions only three minutes behind on the GC, they were kept close throughout the afternoon. Vermaerke rode strongly and as the break split up on one of the climbs with around 25 kilometres to go, making the now front group of four. A high tempo was set in the bunch and things split up in the GC group, with eventual stage winner Gall making his move.

Romain Bardet finishing seventh. Sirotti photo

After being well positioned by the rest of the team, Romain Bardet launched a stinging attack and went clear of the group, bridging up to his teammate ahead. Vermaerke put in a strong shift, emptying the tank, as he pulled the group which now included Bardet and several of the other GC contenders. Once Vermaerke had given his all, Bardet attacked again, and again, and again. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to break the shackles of the group completely who came back to him in the final 400 metres, with Bardet eventually taking seventh place after a fighting effort by him and the rest of the team.

Speaking after the stage Bardet said: “Today we wanted to test ourself a bit with a challenging terrain. It was good to have Kevin in front with a good group that I could join in the final. We didn’t get the reward for the moves but it’s a step forward heading to the summer.”

“The set up of the plan went pretty well,” explained Team DSM coach Pim Ligthart. “We got Kevin in the break which was the goal in the morning, and it was then the aim that he would be able to support Romain in the final when we tried something. We saw a super strong Romain in the last 20 kilometres with lots of attacks. It’s a pity that he lost some seconds in the end but I think the aggressive racing style and the bounce back from yesterday is really promising for what’s to come here. So I think we can be happy with today.”

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