It was a successful Tour de Suisse for EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale. While the team may not have come away with the results to reward its efforts, the bold approach to every road stage was an important building block towards the later season goals and offered excitement for viewers eager to cheer on #PinkArgyle.
“I’m happy with the way the guys went about racing,” said sport director Tom Southam. “They put themselves in the race. They caught the winning break twice. They didn’t finish it off either day, but there were no mistakes. It was just the wrong things happening within the groups. They were always there, always in the right moves. Yesterday was different. That break on stage eight, you knew it was going to get caught, but the moves earlier – Joe [Dombrowski], Sep [Vanmarcke], Nate [Brown] earlier in the race – those were the best places we could be in the race.”
We were happy to get the show on the road with the Tour de Suisse stage team time trial. We lined up for the 10-day race focused on stage-hunting ambitions, so the opener, which didn’t offer stage win opportunities, was more a stage for us to get through than anything else.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the first road stage of Tour de Suisse, which ended in a 60-rider bunch sprint in Frauenfeld. Vanmarcke was top #PinkArgyle, sprinting in for 16th place. The Belgian attempted to slip up the road with two kilometers left to race.
“I survived the climb but I was on the limit when they did a lot of attacking after we caught the breakaway,” said Vanmarcke. “When we came into the last kilometers, I thought I can wait and try to be seventh or eighth in the sprint or I can give it a go and maybe they hesitate and I get away. But they were immediately on the wheel, so that was it.”
Vanmarcke rounded out the top ten on stage three of Tour de Suisse — a stage race organizers dubbed the “classics stage” of the race. The day ended in a reduced bunch sprint won by Sonny Cobrelli (Bahrain-Merida).
“I’m mostly happy with where I’m at right now,” said Vanmarcke following the sprint. “I’m on track for the Tour.”
It was a tough one today at the Tour de Suisse, with heavy rain throughout the stage. Brown jumped into the break and represented #PinkArgyle at the front of the race all day, attacking on the final climb.
“I was thinking, ‘I have to get rid of these guys,’ because I was probably the worst sprinter of the group. So I was thinking if I can get rid of them, my chances of winning go up. So that’s why I attacked,” said Brown. “It didn’t work out, but I tried. The break worked perfect together. We rode excellent all day. I knew that if we hit the last climb with two minutes we had a chance of winning, and we hit it with 1’36. So, I knew it was touch and go. Obviously one guy stayed away.”
Carthy was top #PinkArgyle on the first Tour de Suisse summit finish. The Briton climbed to 18th place, 12″ down on stage winner Diego Ulissi (UAE), following a bold late race escape attempt for stage glory.
“I felt good all day. I tried to find the break but it wasn’t to be. The break was strong on the flats,” said Carthy. “Before the climbs, everyone put me in position. I found the right wheels. With six, seven, eight kilomters that was the hardest part, so I had to try something. It was ok when I first attacked but the headwind was stiff when we turned. Then Landa came across. He was too strong for me. No shame in that.”
It was another big climbing day at Tour de Suisse but instead of the decisive summit finish we saw on stage five, stage six’s biggest climbs came earlier in the stage with two HC passes in the first 110km and a category three kick to the line.
Vanmarcke rode himself into the breakaway and when he lost contact with the move on the Klausenpass, he gave chase…for 70km. In the end, Carthy was top #PinkArgyle in Gommiswald, coming home with the general contenders.
“It was a difficult course for Sep but if he could get over the climb, it was a nice finish for him,” said Southam. “He lost a little too much time to be able to come back. Sep was only with three chasing, and they obviously didn’t want them there because they rode really hard with eight. He chased for a long, long time.”
Dombrowski put in an attacking ride that netted him the stage seven most aggressive rider award. He attacked early and often to make the escape and then launched an attack on the lower slopes of the lengthy summit finish to Arosa.
“I jumped a lot in the first 20 kilometer to try and be in the break,” explained Dombrowski. “We ended up with 30 guys in the move, some on them on GC. There’s always guys sitting on when you have a big group. It was good collaboration, but we never got more than 3:20. I think we had just two minutes at the base of the climb.”
“It was encouraging to see Joe take initiative and attack when the climb was hard,” Southam added. “He tried to open enough of a gap so that when the inevitable big moves came behind he would be ahead. It didn’t work out. Quintana caught the group he’d left on a flatter section of the climb and couldn’t go past them to Joe. It was brave but he had to take a chance or the break would have just been swallowed up.”
Brown jumped up the road to fly the #PinkArgyle flag in the final breakaway of the 2018 Tour de Suisse. A sprint stage on paper, the escape offered little chance of a stage win, but it provided another opportunity for the team to showcase the fighting spirit that had been on display for the entire week.
“It’s been a tough race the last few days with not much on offer,” said Southam. “We’re pleased that the guys have been bold and put themselves in the race.”
Carthy put in a solid time trial effort on the final stage of Tour de Suisse to maintain his spot in the general classification top 20. The Briton closed out the week as best-placed #PinkArgyle overall in 18th place.
“Tom and I spoke a couple weeks ago about the race. I said I wanted to give the GC a go,” said Carthy. “We didn’t know exactly what the form would be after the Giro, but the legs felt ok in training. I felt confident enough to give it a go, see how the first couple of stages went. They went ok. I didn’t lose anytime, so I carried on. In the end, 18th. It’s not a result to write home about but I was there fighting every day, and for the confidence that’s good.”
“It’s pleasing to see where Hugh is,” said Southam. “He’s a different rider than this time last year. He finished top 20 on a course that didn’t really suit him. That’s a respectable result, especially after the Giro. He’s come out of that well. He’s showing he’s maturing, recovering. We looked to him for consistency this week, and he delivered.”