Named as the main favourite in the Swiss Time Trial championship on Wednesday, Stefan Küng completely lived up to his status. Near Lausanne, on a forty-kilometre course and despite a flat tire, the Groupama-FDJ’s rider crushed the competition to conquer his fifth consecutive national title in the event. He also scored the team’s 15th win this season.
“I was really riding blind”, Stefan Küng
On Wednesday late afternoon, Stefan Küng was expected on the outskirts of Lausanne, in the locality of Chalet-À-Gobet, to defend his Swiss national title in the time trial. “There was almost not a flat metre”, explained Julien Pinot, his coach. “It was a very hilly course. There were certainly no steep climbs, but there were still ones at 2-4%, slight hills, slight downhills. We had to do two round trips in a straight line. With more than 600 meters of elevation gain over 40 kilometers, it was still a demanding route”. As his runner-up in the opening time trial of the last Tour de Suisse Stefan Bissegger was not competing, Stefan Küng was the clear favourite for the title once again. “Even though Bissegger was not there, the goal was to make the maximum effort in order to work in race condition,” added Julien. “Today, the goal was of course to defend the title, but it was also a good test for the Tour and the Olympic Games,” Stefan said.
The European champion therefore went flat-out right from the start. “He started very fast,” Julien could testify. “At the intermediate check, after ten kilometers, he was already 45 seconds ahead of Hirschi”. “I started really well, I found a good pace,” said Stefan. But things were going too well… “He punctured from the front wheel right after”, added Julien. “We made a quick bike change and he went again”. “Unfortunately, five kilometers later my radio stopped working, and so did my power meter,” said Stefan. “I was really riding blind, I had no more information. I had to ride according to the feelings. Fortunately, I spend so much time on the time trial bike that I pretty much knew what to do”. The day’s technical issues therefore had no impact whatsoever on the Swiss man’s power. “After twenty-five kilometres, I caught Marc Hirschi who started two minutes before me, and just before the end, I caught Mäder who started four minutes before me”, he explained. “So I knew I was in the right timing.”
Photo credit : @maxime_schmid
“The second purpose was to prepare the next big goals”, Julien Pinot
More than being in the right timing, Stefan Küng actually crushed the competition on Wednesday, distancing the silver medallist by 2’29 and the bronze medallist by more than three minutes. “The gap at the finish is huge because the goal was to do 50 minutes full gas,” said Julien Pinot. “From this point of view, the mission was accomplished”. With this remarkable performance, the 27-year-old Swiss took his fifth national title in time trial, his sixth on the road within the pros, and his tenth as an elite rider including the track. However, this one was won in special conditions. “In the end, it is better for these issues to happen now than in a race like the Tour, the Olympics or the Worlds,” he put into perspective. “We learn from all that”. “It was a ‘good’ exercise to suffer a flat tire today, because these are things that can happen on bigger goals,” said Julien. “We have been able to prepare for such a situation. If that happens later, we’ll be ready to react. In the end, today went really perfect. The number 1 priority was to keep this national champion’s jersey, which also keeps the team’s record running. The second purpose was to take advantage of this time trial and its hard course to prepare for the next big goals that are the Tour’s two time trials and the Olympic Games’ one. Stefan had already done two great time trials on the Tour de Suisse. His performance today proves that his shape is very good and that he will be able to reach the top of his form in the Tour”. In that purpose, Stefan Küng will actually skip the road race this weekend, despite being the defending champion. “I’m going to rest a bit to be well prepared for the upcoming Tour-J.O sequence,” he concluded.