The peloton got in the action right from the start of the Tour de Suisse, this Sunday. In the first hilly stage around Küsnacht, Lewis Askey first joined the day’s breakaway before some attacks occurred in the final. Just back to racing, Stefan Küng showed good form, managed to follow a group of fifteen riders and eventually sprinted to seventh place behind the winner Stephen Williams. Sébastien Reichenbach crossed the line twenty-four seconds later.
As an opening stage for its 2022 edition, the Tour de Suisse presented a hilly course around Küsnacht, made of four laps of a 45-kilometre circuit. It didn’t take long to see the breakaway take shape, since Lewis Askey managed to hit the front after just five minutes together with Casper Pedersen (DSM), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Chad Haga (Human Powerhealth) and Simon Vitzthum (Switzerland). “I got told at the briefing to try to go in the breakaway, so that’s what I did,” said the young man. “I messed up a little bit as I went in a little break initially and then missed the second one. So, I had to do a big effort to get across and I never really recovered from that”. “Lewis did well, because when there are seven riders in a breakaway in the first stage, we never know who will take control”, explained Philippe Mauduit. “In the end, they didn’t hesitate in the back and the breakaway had no real chance of making it.” Although the gap of the leading group reached four minutes, it was almost half of that after the first two laps. Lewis Askey remained up front until the last fifty kilometres, but was dropped in the circuit’s second and last climb: Küsnacher Berg (2.7 km at 8.2%). “I had a pretty difficult day to be honest,” Lewis added. “It’s my first race in the heat this year. It’s not what I appreciate the most, so I didn’t feel good all day”.
“It gives confidence”, Stefan Küng
The English rider was caught by the peloton where Stefan Küng was already attentive to the various moves. Eventually, the chase kept on going and the last men standing from the breakaway were caught with seven kilometres to go, at the bottom of the last climb of the day. After Antoine Duchesne and Quentin Pacher positioned him, Stefan Küng followed the first attacks before making one himself. However, it did not prove successful and a group of fifteen men including the Swiss rider went away for the final five kilometres. New attacks came, but it all came down to a reduced sprint with Stephen Williams taking the win. Stefan Küng sprinted to seventh place. “I didn’t know what to expect today,” he said. “I had a good preparation with an altitude camp, I felt good, but it’s always different in competition. My last race was Paris-Roubaix, so it was a while since I last raced. On the last lap, I told myself that I was going to try to hang on and do my best. I tried to win, but it didn’t happen. I thought I would have more freedom, not being a competitor for the overall, but it was not easy to manage. Today, we were not very far from home and many friends were on the side of the road. There is always this little extra motivation to shine in front of your crowd. I take some good things out of this stage. It gives confidence before the next days and the summer’s goals”.
Sébastien Reichenbach and Thibaut Pinot finished twenty-four and fifty-one seconds behind respectively as another hilly stage looms tomorrow. “We were probably not together enough at the bottom of the last climb”, pointed out Philippe Mauduit. “Anyway, it was quite a hot stage ridden at a fast pace”.