In the opening stage of the Tour de Suisse this Sunday, Stefan Küng took quite a special win. First and foremost, the Swiss rider won at home in the 11-kilometre time trial around Frauenfeld. Besides that, the European TT champion claimed his very first victory in a WorldTour time trial since joining the Groupama-FDJ cycling team. It also makes it three wins for him this season.

“I always felt in control”, Stefan Küng

Unlike the Critérium du Dauphiné, which ended under bright sunshine this Sunday, the Tour de Suisse started under gloomy weather in the canton of Thurgau, in the north part of the country. The weather conditions could therefore have an impact on the results in what was quite a technical time trial, including a dozen of turns. “According to the forecast, there was one moment where the weather could have been better, and many teams had chosen the same time slot for their leader,” said Franck Pineau. “But in the end, almost everyone competed the time trial in the rain and on wet roads”. Naturally named as one of the stage favourites, Stefan Küng started shortly before 4 pm. Back then, the best time (12’04) belonged to his fellow-countryman Stefan Bissegger, winner of the Paris-Nice time trial. The bar was certainly high, but still reachable. However, one had to make the most of every part of the circuit. “Stefan went so fast in the corners,” said Franck Pineau. “I have rarely been so fast in the rain. Really, it was super quick. He scared me a little, but he seemed really in control. It felt like the bike was glued to the road so it wouldn’t slip.”

“Honestly, I don’t feel like I took a lot of risks today,” Stefan said. “I always felt in control. I never felt like I overstepped the line. I had analysed the course well. I knew exactly where there was a manhole cover, where I could pass the white lines faster… I was in control, felt tied to my bike and was able to focus on pushing the pedals. In a ten-kilometre time trial with so many turns, we know that the race is won on details”. With nice trajectories and a fluent pedal stroke, the European champion seemed really at ease. “Even in normal times, he leaves nothing to chance”, continued Franck. “He is always very precise during the recon. He looks at everything, he passes through again and again… He did exactly the same thing this time, except he had a little extra motivation: he was at home”. Many factors could then explain how Stefan Küng went to set the best time at the finish, for four seconds. He then had to wait an hour or so before being able to celebrate. “Today I had a plan and I executed it perfectly,” he said. “Obviously I knew the roads, but you don’t pass roundabouts on the left when there is traffic… I was confident in myself, both physically and technically. I did exactly what I wanted to do, that’s how I was able to win”.

“We are relieved, now we won’t have to think too much”, Franck Pineau

His third victory of the season, after the time trial and the overall ranking in Valencia, also had a very special flavour. “I’m really happy to win today because I’m home, I live just one kilometre from here,” he said. “These are the roads I train on every day. I knew everyone in the organization committee, my friends and family were there alongside the road. This makes this victory very special. Also, I can tell you that two weeks ago I would have never imagined sitting here because I was still building up my form and I was struggling in my first time trial training. Then I felt from day to day I was getting better and I was eventually pretty confident before the start”. Not only a winner on home soil, Stefan Küng also took his first time trial victory, at the WorldTour level, since joining the team back in 2019. “It’s quite a performance”, said Franck Pineau. “It’s no surprise to see him win, but it wasn’t a foregone conclusion with the rain and all these turns. I also want to pay tribute to the mechanics. When it comes to the second, one glitch can ruin everything. All the lights were green today and I want to congratulate the whole staff”.

As a winner of the first stage, Stefan Küng also took the yellow jersey, which he actually already wore three years ago. “I think it’s going to be hard to keep it tomorrow,” said the Swissman. “It all depends on whether the other riders light up the fireworks in the last, quite steep climb. I think my shape is good and we’ll see how it goes. The most important thing still was to win a stage. If I only keep the yellow jersey one day, so be it, but I will do my best to defend it”. With a stage victory in the pocket, Groupama-FDJ anyway started the Tour de Suisse in the best possible way. “On paper, our greatest chance was in this time trial,” concluded Franck. “We made it happen, and so much the better. Now, we have a great team that also wants to show itself everyday. We’re relieved, we won’t have to think too much, we’re going to have fun and go on the attack. When you start a WorldTour race in this way, for sure you’re more peaceful for the rest. I want us to seize all the opportunities that arise”.

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