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Tour de Suisse: Aleksandr Vlasov wins stage 5 ahead of Neilson Powless

With some giants in the Swiss Alps looming for Friday's stage, the rollercoaster stage softened up the legs.

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Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) won a thrilling stage at the Tour de Suisse after a five-man sprint to the line. The Russian rider beat Neilson Powless to the line with Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech) taking third and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) fourth.

The win put Vlasov into the leader’s yellow jersey after overnight leader Stephen Williams (Bahrain Victorious) was dropped earlier in the stage. Fuglsang now sits second overall at six seconds, with Thomas in third a further second back.

The stage came down to a final battle between the GC riders after a number of late attacks inside the final 15km that saw the likes of Remco Evenepoel distanced before the final climb.

Israel-Premier Tech set a furious pace with 15km to go with stage 4 winner Daryl Impey reducing the front of the race to just 15 riders and catching back the last man from the break, Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix).

Evenepoel, a clear favorite for the race before the stage, was dropped twice before the finish, with Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) also losing contact with 6km to go.

Fuglsang put in a huge acceleration on the penultimate climb with 8.6km to go with only a handful of riders able to follow the Dane. Over the top of the climb and the group swelled again but Fuglsang rode away with 4.5km to go after a moment of hesitation from remnants of the race. Ineos and Bora both had numbers but were unable to organize a consistent chase at that point.

Vlasov went after Fuglsang and dragged Thomas and Powless with him and the group became four inside the final 2km.

Importantly for Vlasov, his teammate Maximilian Schachmann came back to the leaders and it was the German who stretched out the group inside the final 500m in order to set up Vlasov. The Russian kicked clear inside the final 150m and Powless was caught out at the back of the group when Thomas appeared to struggle with the initial accelerations.

The American finished with pace but was unable to overhaul the Bora rider before the line. Vlasov, who won the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland, is once again in top form with the Tour de France just a few weeks away.

“Yes, I like Switzerland. I’m very happy to have the wins. The very important days are coming for the GC now,” Vlasov said.

“This means more work for the team but I will of course try and keep the jersey. The shape here is good. We’ll try and do our best.”

The 190km fifth stage from Amber to Novazzano in Switzerland’s Ticino region opened a shocking reminder that COVID-19 remains very much an issue inside the peloton. Jumbo-Visma pulled its entire team after one of its riders tested positive, and other riders such as Adam Yates and Joey Rosskopf were also out.

Also read: Jumbo-Visma pulls team out of Swiss tour

The climb-riddled, Ardennes-style stage was going to shake things up, and the stage lived up to its promise.

How it unfolded

With four rated climbs and an uphill finale on a tricky finishing circuit, this stage had breakaway written all over it.

Five riders tried their lucky early, with Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Alexander Kamp (Trek-Segafredo), Silvan Dillier (Alpecin-Fenix), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), and Claudio Imhof (Swiss national team) forming a strong group.

The quintet built a lead north of six minutes at Monte Ceneri at the day’s first major climb before hitting a finishing circuit. The race was on.

Ineos Grenadiers and EF Education-EasyPost did most of the pulling heading toward the last half of the stage, trimming the lead to under five minutes.

With the peloton closing in, Kamp and Dillier tried their luck at 70km to go. Turgis bridged up, but behind in the peloton, overnight leader Stephen Williams was gapped. The leader’s jersey was up for grabs.

Dillier was the last rider swooped coming into the frenetic wild kilometers.

Wave of COVID takes out Jumbo-Visma, Adam Yates, and others

Jumbo-Visma pulled its entire team out of the Tour de Suisse as a precautionary move. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Whoever thought COVID was no longer a concern was in for a shock Thursday.

Jumbo-Visma pulled its entire team, including Sepp Kuss, out as a precautionary move after one rider came back with a positive antigen test.

Adam Yates, a Tour de France favorite on Ineos Grenadiers, also did not start.

Joey Rosskopf (Human Powered Health) and three riders from Team DSM, with Søren Kragh Andersen, Cees Bol, and Casper Pedersen were also out.

Several other riders abandoned due to other non-COVID related issues, including Gino Mader and Herman Pernsteiner (Bahrain Victorious), Yvgeniy Fedorov (Astana), Otto Vergaerde (Trek-Segafredo), and Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Fenix).

What’s next: Two giant climbs across the Swiss Alps

The 88th Tour de Suisse continues Friday with the 177.5km sixth stage from Locarno to Moosalp. The towering HC-rated Nufenenpass is featured midway through the stage before the uphill finale to the line. The final climb is 17.7km at 7.6 percent for an hors-categorie rating, making it a key moment in the overall fight for the GC.

Results will be available once stage has completed.

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