This time, there was no one to upset Stefan Küng. On the opening time trial of the Tour de Suisse, the Groupama-FDJ rider proved to be the best in front of his home crowd. To get the better of his main rivals Remco Evenepoel and Wout Van Aert, he still had to cover the 12,7-kilometer course at an average speed of 56.3 km/h. The Swissman beat the Belgian champion, his runner-up, by six seconds, and thus brought the team its first WorldTour victory of the season. On Monday, “King Küng” will head to Nottwil with the yellow jersey on his shoulders.

The Critérium du Dauphiné was barely over than another WorldTour race started on Sunday, on the other side of the Alps. An individual time trial was therefore set to launch the Tour de Suisse in Einsiedeln, where a 12.7-kilometer coursewas to crown the first winner. “The course was very fast, essentially flat, with a final hill of 400 metersso you needed to keep some energy to make a last big effort, explained Anthony Bouillod, team coach. “There were a few curves, but the specialists could take them in position without any problem. The only thing we needed to take into account todaywas the wind, because it changed during the day. We then decided to spread out our specialists a bit, and that’s why we chose to put Romain rather at the start. Among the first to set off, the recent winner of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque Romain Grégoire actually made an impression. He indeed granted himself the best provisional time, in 14’06, and was only beaten half an hour later by the Italian time trial champion Matteo Sobrero. The young Frenchman remained on the provisional podium for a while, then gradually lost positions with some outsiders finishing, just like Miles Scotson, who first came with the fifth provisional time. “It’s a very good time trial for Romain (19th), especially for his first one at the WorldTour level”, said Anthony.

“We adapted the plan a little”, Anthony Bouillod

Shortly after 4:30 p.m., Magnus Shefflied took the best provisional mark, but the big favorites were only about to start. Behind the European champion Stefan Bissegger, Stefan Küng was expected at 4:51 p.m., two minutes before Wout Van Aert and four before Remco Evenepoel. This time slot was therefore going to decide the day’s outcome. At the intermediate checkpoint, the Groupama-FDJ rider passed just one second behind the American, but one second ahead of the Belgian champion and four ahead of Van Aert. “With the wind’s change of direction, we adapted the plan a little”, added Anthony Bouillod. “Initially, with the headwind on the way out and tailwind on the way back, the plan was to push a little harder on the way out. We decided to do the opposite and not to go too hard in order to be able to put an extra notch with the headwind. This small detail could make the difference.” It it precisely in this second portion that Stefan Küng made the most of all his power. On the line he first beatSheffield by eleven seconds with a time of 13’31, and then waited for the Belgian riders to join the line. Van Aert lost ten seconds, Evenepoel six, and the Swiss rider then screamed his joy, as he knew the main competitors were out of the way. 

“It’s such a relief”, Stefan Küng

A few minutes later, Stefan Küng was officially declared winner of the stage, his third career victory in the Tour de Suisse, and his second this season. “It’s such a relief to win, even more here with the home crowd, my family, my wife, my son, said Stefan. “It was a short time from the Giro to the Tour de Suisse. I did an altitude camp, I worked very very hard and I felt really tired on Wednesday evening. So, I just focused on my recovery, and even though I wasn’t 100% confident, seeing all my friends and family definitely gave me extra motivation. I knew I could do well, but I didn’t want to have too high expectations. Anyway, I always go full-has, and today it paid off. There was some strong competition today, and with the last Remco’s displays on the Giro, it wasn’t written that I could win. I’m so glad I did it after coming so close so many times.” “We are very happy for Stefan, because he came close so often”confirmed Anthony. “We also know how much he commits to this discipline. It’s reassuring to see that it’s paying off. For his motivation, it is also a good thing for him to see that he is able to win even against the best in the world, as was the case today. I think it will do him good.”

On Sunday evening, Stefan Küng also took the leader’s yellow jersey, which he will proudly wear tomorrow in a stage suited to the sprinters. “I want to honour the jersey and give mybesthe added. I think I can defend it tomorrow and then we’ll see soon enough how things go in the mountains. I can’t promise anything, but I will fight for sure.” “We couldn’t dream of a better start, concluded Anthony. “It will put the team on the right track, and we have a versatile squad that will be able to have a role throughout the whole week”.

No comment