After a race against the clock on stage one, there was no easy introduction to the first road stage with three laps of a circuit featuring two categorized climbs, including gradients of more than 15 percent on the second climb.
Guillaume Van Keirsbulck was one of four riders to make the day’s breakaway, going clear on the first ascent of the day, with the peloton allowing the quartet to go more than three minutes down the road.
The steep gradients caused Van Keirsbulck to lose contact with the breakaway but he was able to fight back each time before eventually being caught by the peloton at the halfway mark.
The last remaining breakaway rider, Claudio Imho (Switzerland), was bought back with 35 kilometers remaining, which set the stage for attacks on the last two climbs.
Omar Fraile (Astana Pro Team) was the first rider to go clear and was joined by Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Roland Thalmann (Switzerland), on the penultimate climb but a strong chase from the bunch brought them back inside the final 20 kilometers.
Luis Leon Sanchez made what would be the winning move with an attack on the flat, after the final descent, with 11 kilometers to go.
Simon Geschke went to work at the front of the reduced bunch, leading the peloton in pursuit of Sanchez, and was joined by Michael Schär with the duo working hard to bring Sanchez back and set Van Avermaet up in the finale.
Sanchez had a lead of 30 seconds in the final kilometers and held on to take the stage victory by six seconds over the peloton, from which Van Avermaet sprinted to fifth place.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It was a super hard stage to begin the week with. We went really fast up the second-to-last climb and then on the last climb, we tried to hang on as much as possible and then come back in the descent. Then, I tried to do my best sprint. I think it worked pretty well. Simon Geschke was riding quite fast to try and close the gap on Luis Leon Sanchez and then Michi tried in the end. I was maybe a bit too early in the front but I tried to come in again and sprint from the wheels. I think I can be happy with this result at the start of the week.”
“It’s really important to have teammates up there, especially on a stage like today as position was key. I was really happy with the guys climbing that well and it was a good stage for me, so it was important to have the help and save as much energy as possible.”
Valerio Piva, Sports Director:
“We knew from our recon two days ago that this would be a hard stage but we had hope and Greg was motivated. We had two guys with him, Simon Geschke and Michi Schär, but Luis Leon Sanchez was stronger. We tried to help Greg to make the best place possible so we are up there, we are good, and tomorrow is another stage where we can do something. Our objective here is to win a stage so we will keep trying day by day.”
“Simon is a professional. He comes from a team where he was helping big champions and he knows exactly what he needs to do. So it was great to see Simon and Michi up there with Greg in what was a difficult finale. This is definitely a good sign for the week ahead and the next races.”
Tour de Suisse
Stage 2: Langnau im Emmental > Langnau im Emmental (159.6km)
Top 3: 1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team), 2. Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), 3. Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-SCOTT).
CCC Team top 3: 5. Greg Van Avermaet, 59. Simon Geschke, 61. Michael Schär