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Tour de Suisse stage 6: Nico Denz wins photo finish mountain sprint, GC hits stalemate

'Queen stage' of Tour de France tuneup race overshadowed by COVID cases and team abandons.

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Nico Denz (DSM) won a two-up sprint on the high-altitude finish of the Tour de Suisse.

Denz bettered Clément Champoussin (Ag2r Citroën) as Friday’s “queen stage” of HC climbs came down to a five-rider breakaway kick for the line on the Moosalp climb.

José Herrada (Cofidis) took third on the podium.

Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) threw fireworks into the final after catching back to the breakaway group in the closing meters and lighting up the final sprint, only to narrowly miss the top-three.

Denz’s victory came on another day of searing sun in the Swiss summer.

“I felt fantastic during the day, I have to thank the staff in the car who kept me cool all day. I think that was key,” he said.

The burly rouleur is better known for his work as a domestique, making victory on a stage dominated by two HC climbs all the more unlikely.

“I knew I had a fast finish so I could live with the other guys coming back but I almost think I lost it because I launched the sprint late. I do a lot of work in the shadows for teammates so today is really special for me.”

Back in the GC group, Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) led out a sprint of classification contenders but couldn’t do enough to overhaul Jakob Fuglsang (Israel Premier Tech).

Fuglsang started the day in the leader’s jersey after Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora Hansgrohe) exited early with COVID. The Dane now takes a one-second lead into the closing weekend.


Suisse stage 6: Lots of uphill.

The day started with concerning COVID news after Jumbo-Visma and Adam Yates had already taken early exits Thursday.

Vlasov was among one of many confirmed to have caught the virus Friday morning. UAE Emirates, Bahrain Victorious and Alpecin-Fenix pulled their whole teams from the race after they saw a swath of infections.

Almost 30 riders were on the DNS list for the day due to illnesses, injury or infection, and the peloton was an empty place.

With Vlasov out, Fuglsang inherited the yellow jersey and took to the start of another super hot stage with his new garment after organizers scrambled to make it ready at late notice.

KoM jersey Simmons starred in the break once again. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The break finally formed after around an hour of racing, with KOM category leader Simmons one of a strong 11-rider move including Denz, Masnada, Herrada and Champoussin.

Simmons led the race over the top of the huge 2,5000-meter Nufenenpass to grab more mountain points as the break held around six minutes of a gap over the Israel Premier-Tech-controlled peloton.

Not much changed until the escapees hit the bottom of the relentless 18km climb to the line.

Denz attacked first and Simmons and Masnada followed.

Simmons’ big day in the mountains looked likely to come to a close at 11km to go when he dropped, leaving just two at the front until when Champoussin and Herrada bridged across at 4km. Nonetheless, Simmons kept motoring in his relentless chase back.

Masnada was aggressive after the group swelled to four, but couldn’t shake his rivals.

The stage looked set to go down to a four-rider sprint until Simmons appeared from nowhere in the final meters and lit up the surge.

The Coloradan kicked clear but soon faded after his huge chase and had to make do with fourth and a tightening on his KOM classification lead.

Denz and Champoussin overhauled Simmons at 50m to go and went to the line in a photo finish. It took several minutes before Denz was confirmed as winner before the German rouleur roared in delight as he celebrated the biggest win of his career.

GC action

With Vlasov out of the race, Thomas started the day just one second down on Fuglsang and the race lead.

Ineos Grenadiers set the pace early on the Moosalp before Fuglsang and Co took control in the peloton.

The GC action only lit up at 5km to go. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) made the first move before Fuglsang and Ineos Grenadiers countered.

A series of following accelerations in the group saw Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) pop out the back as Daniel Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers) set a crushing pace in bunch of favorites. The young Belgian ended the stage three minutes down and far off the back of the GC pack.

The contenders came to the final hundred meters together, and Thomas accelerated in the hunt for GC scoring seconds but couldn’t get the gap he needed.

Up next: Extra tough weekend

The GC will be decided on two equally important closing stages this weekend.

A cruel summit finish on the 8.5km, 9.2 percent Malbun climb could zap the legs Saturday before the decisive 26km Vaduz TT Sunday.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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