Remco Evenepoel did not have the best day on the first mountain stage in Tour de Suisse, losing to Mattias Skjelmose Jensen, Felix Gall and Juan Ayuso on Ollon Villars w/kg test after an easy day.
It was the perfect stage for a good climbing performance as there was not much climbing before the Ollon Villars (9.8 km, 8.0%) climb and the final climb was regular and perfect for high watts. The stage was fairly easy as Felix Gall spent only 2,407 kilojoules for 3:05h, which is 11.61 kj/kg/h. That is not far from the Tour of Oman or UAE Tour level of fatigue.
Remco Evenepoel was the favourite to win the stage and the World Champion attacked early after his teammate James Knox had ridden to exhaustion to set him up. Only Felix Gall and Mattias Skjelmose Jensen could follow Evenepoel’s attack, with other contenders like Uijtedbroeks and Bilbao pacing in a small group just behind. It was the first race after the Giro d’Italia for the Belgian, who exited that race early due to sickness. Skjelmose Jensen and Gall stayed on Evenepoel’s wheel seemingly with ease, despite the wind conditions being favourable for attacking as there was a slight tailwind.
Evenepoel’s confidence backfired like in Vuelta a San Juan where he attacked too early in January this year. Both Gall and Skjelmose dropped him with 2 km to go and battled out for the victory as the GC group with Ayuso was not far behind the world champion. In the end, it was Skjelmose Jensen who won his first World Tour race and outpowered Gall. The young Dane already won on Le Mont Bouquet in February and is at Suisse preparing for his first Tour de France after a long stint at altitude.
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Ayuso did not catch the leading duo but finished third while Evenepoel won the bunch sprint ahead of Cian Uijtdebroeks, Pello Bilbao, Wilco Kelderman and Rigoberto Uran. A promising performance for Magnus Sheffield who lost only 37 seconds on the climb today after riding at his own pace for much of the climb.
The ᵉW/Kg level was solid but not outstanding compared to other 2023 World Tour climbing performances of a similar duration, such as Evenepoel’s own level in Catalunya and Hafeet, especially considering the lack of fatigue before the climb, low altitude and mild temperature. 6.44 ᵉW/Kg for 25:43min is the best climbing performance for Skjelmose Jensen so far in his career. With all of his pacing taken into account, Evenepoel did 6.42 ᵉW/Kg for 26:04 min, which is a big underperformance for him on an easy day – about 0.5w/kg below his level on Lo Port back in March.
Despite consistent improvement the last few years and a great sprint for a climber, until today Skjelmose Jensen had not done anything near this level, which is promising for himself and Trek Segafredo before the Tour. The same climb (but 100m longer than today) was used in the Tour de Romandie mountain time trials in 2018 and 2022. Skjelmose was 25 seconds faster than Vlasov in 2022 but lost 33 seconds to Bernal's time in 2018.