Rui Costa is all but assured of an overall victory, but still...
GreenEdge rider Michael Albasini clinched the eighth and penultimate stage of the Tour of Switzerland on Saturday while Portugal's yellow jersey wearer Rui Costa held on to his chances of overall victory. Switzerland's Albasini broke away 17km from the end of Saturday's stage, a 148km ride from Bischofszell to Arosa, to finish ahead of Spain's Mikel Nieve and Levi Leipheimer of the United States.
Luxembourg's Frank Schleck, who is Costa's closest rival in the overall standings, was fourth on the stage, but Portugal's Costa, of the Movistar team, will still go into Sunday's final stage with a 14-second lead. Costa was 14th on Saturday, 50 seconds behind Schleck.
1. Michael Albasini (SUI/GEC) 3h45:39, 2. Mikel Nieve (ESP/EUS) at 1:15, 3. Levi Leipheimer (USA/OPQ) 1:15, 4. Frank Schleck (LUX/RSH) 1:15, 5. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 1:36, 6.Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 1:36, 7. Tom Danielson (USA/GRM) 1:36, 8. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/RAB) 1:39, 9. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) 1:57, 10. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/RSH) 1:57.
14. Rui Costa (POR/MOV) 2:05
1. Rui Costa (POR/MOV) 29h58:39, 2. Frank Schleck (LUX/RSH) at 0:14, 3.Levi Leipheimer (USA/OPQ) 0:21, 4. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 0:25, 5. Mikel Nieve (ESP/EUS) 0:40, 6. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/AST) 0:42, 7. Tom Danielson (USA/GRM) 0:43, 8. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/RAB) 1:01, 9. Alejandro Valverde(ESP/MOV) 1:04, 10. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 1:13.
OMEGA PHARMA TEAM REPORT
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Levi Leipheimer pounced on a well timed attack by Frank Schleck (Radioshack-Nissan) with less than 4km to go on a brutal HC climb at Tour de Suisse Stage 8.
Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) was well on his way to a solo victory, with more than a two minute gap. However, the GC battle was going on behind him between Leipheimer, Schleck, and Rui Costa (Movistar), who had fallen off the back of an already small and shattered peloton.
Leipheimer bridged to Schleck and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Schleck did much of the work at the front, until slightly more than a kilometer remained. Leipheimer, Schleck and Nieve had cut Albasini's gap to 1'15", while the peloton behind them, which included other GC contenders such as Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana Pro Team) missed the very important move. The three-up sprint for 2nd and 3rd, in the last 300 meters, came down to Nieve or Leipheimer. Nieve beat Leipheimer to the line, but Leipheimer's 3rd place finish was important for time purposes.
Leipheimer moved up to 3rd place in the GC from 7th, just 21" back from Costa.
"We are happy about Levi's performance today," Sports Director Rik Van Slycke said. "Once again he has proven that he never gives up and that he will be one of the major players until the end of the race. Tomorrow the team will give him the maximum support to try to win this Tour de Suisse. Today we also tried to win the stage with Peter Velits. This morning during the technical meeting we decided that he had to try to go in a breakaway. We didn’t get the result but Peter is improving day by day. "
“The team was good today," Leipheimer said. "The guys brought me to the bottom of the last climb in perfect position. The first part of the climb was hard but I could count on Cataldo. I was OK there. The last kilometers of the race were really steep. Schleck attacked, but I was able to stay with him. I think I did a good race. I’m happy because I’m improving day by day. It’s a good trajectory for the Tour de France. Tomorrow it won’t be easy. The stage is hard, but I will try to take it kilometer by kilometer. It will be a fight, but I will do my best to be there until the end.”
Photo: OPQS/Tim de Waele