Costa Wins Tour de Suisse
World road champion Rui Costa won his third straight Tour de Suisse on Sunday after clinching the ninth and final stage.
The 27-year-old Portuguese made his move with 2.4 kilometers to go of the 156.5-kilometer mountainous stage, which featured two Category 1, one Category 2, and a finishing HC climb. Costa finished 14 seconds ahead of Dutch cyclist Bauke Mollema of Team Belkin - Linksys and 24 seconds in front of Switzerland's Mathias Frank of Team IAM Cycling.
"What a wonderful day with both a stage win and overall classification victory. I could not have asked for a better end," Costa said after being celebrated on the podium. "No one had ever won Tour de Suisse three times in a row. I'm proud I'm the first one to do it."
Frank finished second overall, 33 seconds behind Costa, with third-placed Mollema 50 seconds off the pace in the 78th edition of the race.
Costa, of the Lampre-Merida team, started the day in third, 1 minute, 5 seconds behind time trial world champion Tony Martin of Germany and Team Omega Pharma-QuickStep, who had been leading since the opening stage.
In today's final stage, the GC contenders decided to take their chances on the final Category 1 climb. A small group including Costa, Mollema and Frank went ahead of yellow jersey wearer Martin, and eventually caught up with a group of about 14 leaders. With 41.4 kilometer to go, the group had a 01:12 gap.
The gap continued to climb, to more than two minutes by 35.3 kilometers to go in the race. But Martin was willing to fight hard to protect the jersey he wore for the previous eight stages, having won both the prologue and the stage 7 individual time trial. He worked on the front of the group, and even cut the gap down to 1'37" with 7.4 kilometers to go on the final climb after countering some attacks within the group.
However, soon after Frank launched an attack, which was followed by Mollema and Costa. Frank tried attacking again, but the duo closed in on him. Costa eventually went solo with 2.3 kilometers to go, and he went on to win the stage and take the overall Tour of Switzerland victory.
"I was strong enough to maybe win this year," Martin explained and added "But at the end it was difficult when co-operation within the chase group wasn't there and we had a team here focused on both the stages and the sprints. It's no secret we're not here with the best mountain team."
"When my main contenders went today on the climb, they were full gas. I couldn't follow directly or close the gap. I tried to play poker a bit to see if teams would support the chase for their contenders. It didn't work out that way. But, I still did my best to fight kilometer-by-kilometer and I have to be satisfied with what I could do today."
The German finished fourth overall, 1:13 off the pace. Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, who started the day second overall, finished in the same group as Martin to slip to fifth.