Tour de Suisse 9: Frank Schleck wins it

Tony Martin takes final time trial; Gesink not good enough

Luxembourg's Frank Schleck won the Tour of Switzerland here on Sunday ahead of American Lance Armstrong after the ninth and final stage, a 26.9km time-trial won by Germany's Tony Martin.

Schleck finished 12 seconds ahead of seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong of RadioShack in the overall standings, with Saxo Bank team-mate Jacob Fuglsang third at 17sec.

Dutch rider Robert Gesink, who had been wearing the leader's yellow jersey going into the final stage, finished fifth at 27sec after finishing over two minutes off Martin's winning time.

Schleck is not considered a time-trial specialist and admitted he had benefited from the advice of Saxo Bank team-mate Fabian Cancellara, the three-time world champion in the discipline, to post the 13th best time at 1min 14sec behind Martin.

"I was a little bit surprised myself that it went so well but the good thing about being on the same team as Fabian Cancellara is that you get to know a trick or two about time-trialling and he said I could pull it off before the stage," said Schleck.

Schleck was also quick to pay tribute to compatriot Kim Kirchen, the Katusha team rider who has been in a coma for two days after suffering a heart problem.

"Winning here so close to the Tour de France means a lot to me but my thoughts go to Kim Kirchen and his family who are having a hard time right now," he said.

Martin clocked 32min 21sec to finish 17sec ahead of Olympic time-trial champion Cancellara in the stage around Liestal.

The German had been leading the race until Gesink took command in midweek, and after his exertions in the mountains he admitted he had performed well beyond expectations.

"I wasn't really expecting this," said Martin.

"I've not been feeling so good in the last two or three days. It's been very cold and rainy here in Switzerland and I didn't think I had much of a chance today.

"But I was very motivated, I really wanted to put up a good fight for it, and I think the second half of the stage was where I gained most time on my rivals."

Just two weeks before the start of the Tour de France where Armstrong will be one of the main challengers to reigning champion Alberto Contador, the American finished 11th, 1min 09sec behind the stage winner.

Armstrong admitted recently he is trying to brush up on his time-trialling after a series of mediocre performances the past year.

And he was buoyed by his performance.

"It was a really hard time-trial, with nowhere to really rest. You just had to keep pedaling constantly," said the American. "I felt good. I had good legs today."

He added: "There were a lot of strong riders here this week and so it's given me a good indication of what's going to happen (at the Tour). Now, I just have to stay in good shape and try to gain that extra little percentage."

© AFP 2010

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