The mountainous sixth stage of the Tour de Suisse turned into a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France, with all the race favourites testing their legs on the Albulapass, crested with 10km to go. Robert Gesink (Rabobank) proved to be the strongest, attacking from the group of favourites to catch and pass the remnants of an earlier breakaway and solo to his first win of the 2010 season.
With his stage victory, Gesink dons the yellow leader's jersey. The morning's leader, Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia) was dropped early on the climb and lost two minutes, falling out of the top 10 in the general classification.
Rabobank director sportif Adri van Houwelingen was impressed with Gesink's performance, watching him put time into the chasing group led by no other than Lance Armstrong and his Radioshack team.
"It says something about Robert's victory when you see that Radioshack is blowing up the chase; including the best riders in the team like Klöden and Leipheimer," Houwelingen said. "I heard Dutch journalists say today that this is the most beautiful victory by a Dutch rider in recent years. I can do with that. His performance on the Albulapass was nothing less than impressive. We had suggested that Robert test himself today, and this test is very, very good."
It was one of the biggest career moments for the tall, slender Dutch rider, who has become better known for crashing out of Grand Tours than for victories. The 24-year-old has now shown he has the form to justifiy being a co-captain for his Dutch ProTour team in the upcoming Tour de France.
Another rider who showed that he is coming into Tour form is Lance Armstrong. The 38-year-old rode in the leading group up the final climb, and outdid both of his younger teammates Klöden and Leipheimer. His fifth place finish on the day was enough to propel him from 21st place to seventh.
"It was a tough day," said the seven-time Tour de France winner. "To be honest, I suffered at the beginning of the Albula climb. It was hard to find my rhythm, but overall I'm quite happy. It was a long day that was also a good test. Team RadioShack are ready for the Tour de France."
Armstrong, however, was the only Radioshack rider to survived the attacks near the top of the Albulapass, with teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden both left behind. Also present was Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), whose brother Andy had been part of the attack with Gesink but faded from the leading groups to finish in a second group behind the winner.
The chasing group was led home by Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d'Epargne), who fell 29 seconds shy of claiming the race lead. He was the best placed rider of the group behind Gesink, with Steve Morabito (BMC) moving into third overall at 36 seconds.