Tour de Suisse Stage 5 surprised once again, with a new winner on a difficult mountain stage. This time it was Juan Ayuso who demolished the field on Albulapass and put almost a minute to his competitors on the gruelling high altitude climb. This was Ayuso’s first World Tour-level mountain stage win after winning a time trial in Romandie back in April.
It was the third mountain day in a row. After Mattias Skjelmose Jensen and Felix Gall victories on the previous days, Stage 5 did not disappoint and delivered big action on the irregular final climb, Albulapass (17.4 km, 6.8%). When the GC group hit the climb after 4 hours and 36 minutes of racing, Felix Gall had spent 3870 kilojoules – much more fatigue than the previous mountain stages.
Remco Evenpoel and Mattias Skjelmose Jensen did not look good on the previous stage and could not respond to accelerations today. AG2R Citroen blew up the GC group by launching Felix Gall who was unbeatable on Stage 4. Only Wilco Kelderman, Pello Bilbao, Romain Bardet and Juan Ayuso were able to follow Gall’s initial move. The group for a brief moment of time was pulled by Wout van Aert who was in the breakaway and waited for his team leader Kelderman, trying to keep Evenepoel behind who was pacing at his own tempo.
Juan Ayuso pulled off a Simon Yates style performance, as he finished 3rd on Ollon Villars on Tuesday, then lost almost 2 minutes to Gall yesterday, but was in incredible shape today. Ayuso quickly caught the best breakaway climbers and put almost a minute to Gall’s group.
The Spaniard after battling with injuries in the early season returned in the Tour de Romandie with a hilly ITT win but was dropped early on Thyon 2000. After a month of training, he is even better in the Tour de Suisse and dominated against strong competition on Albulapass, setting a new climbing record. The 20-year-old UAE talent did the steep part of the climb in 32:50 min, pushing 6.15 ᵉW/Kg.
The average altitude of the segment was 1,859 metres with the crest being 2320 metres above sea level. Given this high altitude and the fatigue before the climb, Ayuso’s effort is much more impressive than the ᵉW/Kg numbers suggest as he put almost a minute in the following group with Gall, Kelderman and Bilbao who were all working together. To compare performances at different altitudes it is useful to normalise the w/kg to sea level, using a factor depending on the average altitude of the relevant climb. For example, in March on Vallter 2000 in Catalunya, Giulio Ciccone won the stage doing 6.08 ᵉW/Kg for 30 minutes but when normalised to ‘sea level power’, this increases the value of his effort to 6.51 w/kg. for today’s stage, Ayuso’s watts normalised to sea level are 6.63 w/kg for a longer duration.
Ayuso risked a lot to maintain his gap on the fast descent and lost only a few seconds to a bigger chase group. His effort was not enough to become the GC leader but Skjelmose is only 18 seconds ajead, while Remco Evenepoel lost 26 seconds to the second group and is 46 seconds from Skjelmose. The 25.7-kilometre time-trial on Stage 8 might decide this GC as Skjelmose, Ayuso and Evenepoel all have a decent shot to win overall. Felix Gall's time trial is not anywhere near his rivals' level and very likely might not finish on the podium.
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