Tour de Suisse (final report)
Yet another brilliant display from the Basque star, giving it all into Flüelapass climb, takes him up to second overall in Helvetic stagerace, this third GC podium in 2016 after Algarve (2nd) and Romandie (3rd). López (AST) claims final yellow jersey
Ion Izagirre crowned another day to remember for the Movistar Team. After the Blues' domination in the Route du Sud, with Nairo Quintana and Marc Soler completing a one-two overall, the Basque allrounder -who had presented his candidacy to GC success with Saturday's time trial victory- fought for everything today at an eventful mountain showdown to close the Tour de Suisse with a third-place stage finish and second in the final overall classification.
Extreme weather on the top of the Albulapass forced race organisers to apply the UCI protocol for such situation, shortening the route on stage nine to just 57km from La Punt -25km of false flat and slight descents and the long Flüelapass (HC) as only climb of the day- to the unchanged finish venue in Davos. The squad directed by Jaimerena and Laguía made a strong gamble with Winner Anacona and Jorge Arcas into the early splits, before the Colombian escorted Ion to the top of Flüelapass. Then, as Miguel Ángel López (AST) kept building a strong gap, Izagirre started pushing on his own.
An excellent descent from the younger of the Izagirre brothers made him reach the race leader with 7km from the finish line. From that point and until the very finish, he didn't stop pushing so Talansky (CPT) and Barguil (TGA) could be left behind. Ion's attitude was the perfect summary to a Tour de Suisse where he knew how to make up his least strong days, like Carì (stage 5) and the 'hell' of the Rettenbach glacier (stage 7), to claim his third 2016 stagerace podium and the sixth UCI WorldTour top-3 finish, including the Tour de Pologne (2013-14-15), País Vasco (2015) and Romandie (2016). Ion now sits in sixth place in the UCI standings, as the Movistar Team gets back to second, 72 points short of leaders Tinkoff.
Ion Izagirre: “Following my win in yesterday's TT, there was so much pressure to finish things off well today and take this podium finish. We knew that it would be difficult, as the shortened route would make the pace even more intense. We had to keep focus on many rivals, all of them good climbers, but fortunately, it went well for me – that second place overall is a good prize to come home with.
"The organisers decided to scrap that first climb (Albulapass), and the stage became like another time trial. The only tactics here was holding on and riding as close to the fore as possible. Miguel Ángel López, Van Garderen and Pantano were climbing strong, but soon I got my legs rolling better and better. I could take the gap back into the downhill and confirm my second place.
"Things are going tremendously well in this first part of the season. I know that these one-week stageraces, with some timetrialling and not-to-steep climbs, suit me perfectly well, I prepare for them the best I can, and my morale is high after seeing the results I've got since February. Now we'll be racing the Spanish Championships; it will depend on how it's all going next week to see if I make the Tour roster or not. If I do, I just hope I can help Nairo all the way to the final podium. We're now three Movistar riders into the top-ten of the WorldTour -Nairo, Alejandro and myself- and that's a very good thing for us as a whole. Yesterday's Marc win is another good sign that things are going well overall for the team – let's hope it continues so."
Picture ©: Tour de Suisse