Rabobank's Thomas Dekker soloed to victory in the weather-shortened Tour de Suisse stage 6 to Crans-Montana. Caisse d'Epargne's Vladimir Efimkin took over the leader's yellow jersey from Team CSC's Frank Schleck, now third overall, 21 seconds back.
Heavy rain and damaging hail delayed the start from Giubiasco for more than three hours. The 191-kilometer race was shortened to 95 kilometers; Dekker completed the shortened stage in 2:28 after breaking away in the final kilometer.
Austrian Gerrit Glomser (Volksbank) finished eight seconds behind Dekker, followed by Italian Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval-Prodir), three seconds later.
Schleck and 29 others broke away with about 10 kilometers to go. Discovery Channel's Stijn Devolder and Caisse d'Epargne's David Lopez Garcia took a flyer off the front, but Devolder was quickly reabsorbed while Lopez continued before being joined by Glomser and then Simoni, Jose Angel Gomes Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital).
Despite Schleck's prime positioning, the yellow jersey unexpectedly fell back from the group just four kilometers from the finish, costing him the overall lead. Efimkin saw his chance to gain precious time on Schleck, finishing the stage in seventh, just 11 seconds behind Dekker. Schleck crossed the finish line along with a very helpful teammate, Carlos Sastre, one minute, 20 seconds after the stage winner Dekker.
Team CSC worked hard ahead of the climb and at the beginning as well, where everyone else but Schleck and Sastre were up front. For the final eight or nine kilometers it was Sastre who got up front, but all of a sudden Schleck ran out of steam so the duo lost a bit of time at the end.
"That's too bad, but it couldn't be helped," Team CSC director Kim Andersen said. "We'd kinda hoped that Frank would take another stage, which is why we picked up the pace just before the climb. But maybe it was a disadvantage for Frank that the stage was shortened. He never really got the chance to wear down his rivals, because it was fast paced on a flat road before the climb. But on the other hand it was quite good that the team was spared a bit today with a shorter route."
Efimkin leads overall with a time of 21:57:03. Gomez Marchante is second, 9 seconds back, and Schleck slipped from first to third, 21 seconds behind the leader.
The stage was overshadowed by the crash of Italian Marco Marzaho (Lampre-Fondital) just 15 kilometers into the stage. The Lampre rider was taken to the hospital with suspected head and hand injuries.
After a lengthy delay, officials decided to restart the stage at Gnosca. But the flooded pavement and the difficulties ahead prompted organizers to shorten the route and to skip the Nufenenpass, deeming the 2,500-meter (8,202-foot) climb too risky in such conditions.
The riders were driven to Ulrichen for a new start, three-and-a-half hours after the originally scheduled time.
Dekker reports on his own website that he thought this was an advantage. But, both Dekker as well as teammate Michael Boogerd had already announced before the start of the stage that they wanted to test themselves.
"They wanted to know in what kind of condition they are in, and that decision was made well before they decided to delete the high climb from the parcours," said team leader Adri van Houwelingen. He saw the youngest of the two perform better than anyone of the Raboteam had expected. "Thomas really did not start the stage this afternoon thinking about winning it. That is how it unfolded, but if he had finished in fifteenth place, we would have also been satisfied."
Boogerd was also doing better than the last few days. "It was of course not perfect, but Michael is making progress," Van Houwelingen added. "The little improvements he makes are normal for a rider at the age of 35. They are smaller than the progress such a young guy like Thomas makes, but he is improving himself."
Friday's king stage, with three climbs of more than 2,000-meter altitude and an uphill finish. Van Houwelingen doubted on Thursday night whether Dekker and Boogerd will again put out all stops.
"That is up to the riders to decide," he said. "They know best how they feel, but I think they will be careful, and I also think Thomas really wants to step on the gas one more time in the final individual time trial on Sunday."
1 Thomas Dekker (Ned, Rabobank) 2:28:00 (38.514kph),
2 Gerrit Glomser (Aut, Volksbank) 00:00:08
3 Gilberto Simoni (Ita, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:00:11
4 Vladimir Karpets (Rus, Caisse d'Epargne)
5 Damiano Cunego (Ita, Lampre-Fondital)
6 Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir)
7 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus, Caisse d'Epargne)
8 Matteo Carrara (Ita, Unibet.com) 00:00:21
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger, Astana) 00:00:31
10 Rigoberto Uran (Col, Unibet.com)
Overall classification after stage 6
1 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus, Caisse d'Epargne) 21:57:03
2 Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:00:09
3 Frank Schleck (Lux, Team CSC) 00:00:21
4 Matteo Carrara (Ita, Unibet.com) 00:00:26
5 Vladimir Karpets (Rus, Caisse d'Epargne) 00:00:30
6 Kim Kirchen (Lux, T-Mobile)
7 Damiano Cunego (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 00:00:57
8 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa, Bouygues Telecom) 00:01:10
9 Gilberto Simoni (Ita, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:01:13
10 Stijn Devolder (Bel, Discovery Channel) 00:01:50