Leukerbad (Switzerland) (AFP) – BMC’s Australian rider Richie Porte took the race leader’s yellow jersey off teammate Stefan Kung’s back as Italian Diego Ulissi won Wednesday’s fifth stage of the Tour de Suisse.
Home favourite Kung suffered over the final few kilometres of the 155km stage from Gstaad to Leukerbad which featured three climbs, eventually finishing 3min 23sec down on Emirates team rider Ulissi.
The Italian won a sprint finish from Spain’s Enric Nicolau (Quick-Step) and Dimension Data’s Dutchman Tom-Jelte Slagter.
In his final race before July’s tour de France, Porte, a two-time Paris-Nice winner, now sits atop the overall standings 20sec ahead of Sunweb’s two Dutch riders Wilco Kelderman and Sam Oomen.
“I am just happy to be back racing and to have good form. It wasn’t a simple day but this jersey is all credit to my team today,” Porte said.
“The team was absolutely superb. They were fantastic all day. It was a hectic start and we covered the first 100km super quick and I don’t think it was an easy day for anyone.
“It may not have looked really hard in the final there but we went hard. All of the guys did their part today and I am so happy to have the jersey and keep it in the team.”
Kung was phlegmatic about a stage where a damaged wheel left him expending valuable energy to catch up the peloton.
“I didn’t expect to be wearing the yellow jersey coming into this stage so I wasn’t as prepared as you are when you are going for the GC (general classification) and things like punctures you can’t afford if you are not a pure climber,” the Swiss rider said.
“I have to be happy with four days in the yellow jersey. Now, Richie is in yellow so we will try to do our best to help him win this race.”
Other rivals for the Tour de Suisse crown also lie in wait: Colombian Nairo Quintana of Movistar is in sixth, at just 33sec, while Katusha’s Simon Spilak, twice a winner (2015, 2017), is ninth (+46sec).
Thursday’s stage throws up the chance for the climbers in the field to make up some valuable time as the 186km ride features two feared climbs, to the top of Furka and Klausen.
There is a thigh-trembling total of 3,300 metres of climbing, with the toughest climb coming just 50km from the finish in Gommiswald.