Frank Schleck won the Tour de Suisse’s stage 4, proving Andy Schleck isn’t the only Team CSC brother to win big this year. Frank won the 167.2-kilometre stage, soloing to victory atop the 1,600-meter Triesenberg ahead of Vladimir Efimkin (Caisse d’Epargne) and José Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Prodir).
Schleck’s heroics also gained him the leader’s yellow jersey in front of Efimkin and Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile). It was the first win of the season for Schleck and puts him in the driver’s seat of the nine-day Swiss tour.
“Seven kilometers before I finished, I took a chance and went for it,” Schleck explained. “I thought – nothing ventured, nothing gained. In the end it worked out for me.”
Schleck, whose younger brother Andy finished second overall at the Giro d’Italia earlier this month, now holds a 49-second lead to Efimkin. The more dangerous Kim Kirchen, a compatriot from Schleck’s native Luxembourg, lies in third with the same time.
Most of the pre-race favorites such as Damiano Cunego, Gilberto Simoni and Vladimir Karpets all lost more than one minute. Three-time world time trial champion Michael Rogers lost more than two minutes.
“I had good legs today, so I asked my teammates to go for it on the second-last climb towards Arlberg,” Schleck said. “They were all brilliant and especially Cancellara, who worked really hard.”
Team CSC rode aggressively over the hilly route to put the peloton on pressure before Schleck attacked early on the final 12-kilometer climb. The others left the chase too late and couldn’t reel in the attacking Schleck.
“We tried to make the stage tough early on and the fact that Fränk went on the attack as early as he did was according to the master plan as well,” said Team CSC sport director Kim Andersen. “If he had been sitting there with the rest of them until the final kilometers, his rivals would have had a chance to counter-attack, so that’s why the wisest move was to keep it fast-paced from the beginning.”
The victory bodes well for Schleck ahead of next month’s Tour de France. Schleck enjoyed a breakout season in 2006, winning the Amstel Gold Race and taking a win at the legendary climb at Alpe d’Huez in the Tour.
The hills don’t stop in Wednesday’s fifth stage in a 192-kilometer march from Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, to Giubiasco in the south of Switzerland. The day’s main obstacle – the Cat. 1 Lukmanlerpass – comes about midway through the stage and from there it’s a long downhill to the finish in Switzerland’s southern Italian-flavored region.
1 Frank Schleck (Lux, Team CSC) 4:20:37 (38.493kph)
2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus, Caisse d’Epargne) 00:00:32
3 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:00:42
4 Matteo Carrara (Ita, Unibet.com) 00:00:48
5 Kim Kirchen (Lux, T-Mobile)
6 Gilberto Simoni (Ita, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:01:05
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus, Caisse d’Epargne) 00:01:11
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 00:01:25
9 Xavier Florencio (Spa, Bouygues Telecom) 00:01:37
10 Stijn Devolder (Bel, Discovery Channel) 00:01:40
Overall classification after stage 4
1 Frank Schleck (Lux, Team CSC) 14:32:24 (38.294kph)
2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus, Caisse d’Epargne) 00:00:49
3 Kim Kirchen (Lux, T-Mobile)
4 José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:00:58
5 Matteo Carrara (Ita, Unibet.com) 00:01:05
6 Vladimir Karpets (Rus, Caisse d’Epargne) 00:01:19
7 Xavier Florencio (Spa, Bouygues Telecom) 00:01:39
8 Damiano Cunego (Ita, Lampre-Fondital) 00:01:46
9 Stijn Devolder (Bel, Discovery Channel) 00:02:03
10 Gilberto Simoni (Ita, Saunier Duval-Prodir) 00:02:06