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69th Tour de Suisse - PT

Switzerland, June 11-19, 2005

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Stage 3 - June 13: Abtwil/Säntispark - St. Anton a.A., 160 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 14:30 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:30 CEST

14:23 CEST   
This week, by popular demand, the Hindenburg IV is back to cover the 69th Tour de Suisse live. We apologise for not doing justice to the Dauphine Libéré last week, but cloning technology has only come so far, and we decided against having Dolly the Sheep man the controls of our dirigible.

After an interesting opening weekend to the Tour de Suisse, today's third stage will see the climbers test their legs for the first time, with the Cat. 2 ascent of the Albergpass (1793m) coming with just 8 km to go in this 160 km stage between Abtwil/Säntispark and St. Anton, across the Austrian border. It's the only climb of the day and although it's not a mountain top finish, the descent shouldn't change things too drastically. We shall see.

The stage also passes along the Bodensee (Lake Constance), where race leader Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) now makes his home. Jan's priority is not to defend the yellow jersey, but he will enjoy wearing it on home turf.

14:41 CEST    52km/108km to go
There were two non-starters this morning: Guennadi Mikhailov (Discovery Channel) and Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step, suffering from stomach problems). That has reduced the field to 157 riders. The weather at the start was not great, with rain and wind greeting the peloton, but it seems to be clearing up a bit now.

The attacks started from the gun with Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) making the first move, which was brought back. He was followed by David Loosli (Lampre-Caffita) and Cédric Hervé (Crédit Agricole) who went after 3 km, with a similar result. Loosli was obviously keen to get away, as he attacked again after 8 km, but didn't last long.

Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner) and Jurgen van den Broeck (Discovery Channel) attacked after 10 km, lasted 2 km in front before they were caught. In the meantime, Nico Mattan and Gert Steegmans (Davitamon-Lotto) both had mechanical problems. As Phonak controlled the peloton, Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Alessandro Bertolini (Domina Vacanze) were the next to try after 13 km, and lasted 25 km in front before they came back.

Discovery Channel's Jason McCartney, who finished 16th in the TT yesterday, had mechanical problems but was brought back to the peloton. T-Mobile took over the pace making and set a high tempo, which has so far succeeded in nullifying any further attacks. Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), Staf Scheirlinckx (Cofidis), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues) and Antonio Colom Mas (Illes Balears) went after 47 km, but were brought back 4 km later.

The peloton, for the time being, is together.

14:44 CEST    54km/106km to go
The T-Mobile controlled peloton is now riding close to the Austrian border. The race will cross over it in about 23 km.

14:51 CEST    60km/100km to go
The bunch flies through St. Margrethen at high speed. No-one has bothered to disturb the rhythm of T-Mobile recently, as it seems nothing is being allowed to go away. Ullrich is safely near the front of the peloton.

15:02 CEST    66km/94km to go
No changes as the bunch gets nearer to crossing the Austrian border. The first Postfinance sprint is coming up in about 15 km. There used to be two separate sprint competitions in the Tour de Suisse, but it seems as though the Feldschlosschen sprints have been dropped this year.

15:11 CEST    75km/85km to go
The rain clouds begin to clear at last as the peloton continues its journey east. Still no attacks of note to report.

15:18 CEST    80km/80km to go
The peloton rumbles through the feed zone at Oberriet, and there is the usual chaos as riders look for their team soigneurs to grab their all-important musettes.

15:32 CEST    88km/72km to go
It's all T-Mobile, all the time, with Jan Ullrich safely protected in the yellow jersey. The race has now entered Austrian territory.

15:41 CEST    94km/66km to go
It's looking like the attacks will not happen today until the final climb. There has been no early break to reel in, and T-Mobile has complete control of the bunch for the time being. The field is now heading through Feldkirch. We're also quite close to Liechtenstein today.

15:48 CEST    104km/56km to go
T-Mobile is setting a pretty serious pace on the front courtesy of Rolf Aldag and Steffen Wesemann, as Stephan Schreck comes up to give them bidons. The bunch covered 51 km in the first hour, which gives you an idea of the speed. The second hour was ridden at 44 km/h.

It's decent enough weather now - the roads are nice and dry and the sun is more or less out.

15:50 CEST    107km/53km to go
Ullrich is not close to the front at the moment, as he stretches and chats with Linus Gerdemann (CSC). At the back, Chris Horner is changing jerseys. Not easy at 45 km/h.

15:52 CEST    108km/52km to go
Horner fixes up his radio, puts a helmet on and gets a madison handsling from the team car to bring him back to the peloton. There wasn't even a turbo bottle involved there!

Speaking of which, Patrik Sinkewitz (Quick.Step) was penalised 42 seconds for drafting off Jan Ullrich for an extended period in the time trial. That will cost him his 10th place.

15:55 CEST    110km/50km to go
Aldag continues to lead the peloton, which has six T-Mobile riders in front. Behind him, Wesemann gets some help from Nardello to take his shoe covers off. Francaise des Jeux is well placed behind the T-Mobile boys.

16:02 CEST    114km/46km to go
The riders are now starting to climb, gently at first, but in total they have to reach nearly 1800m above sea level from their current altitude of 600m. The Arlbergpass is still only rated as a Cat. 2 climb.

No-one is looking like attacking at the moment. Everyone is content to let T-Mobile set the pace until the climb. Ullrich slides up the right hand side of the peloton where he finds a teammate, who gives him something to munch on. He gives it back.

16:05 CEST    116km/44km to go
Steinhauser goes back to the T-Mobile car for some more munchies. The boys are getting hungry up front.

Ullrich is now near the front of the T-Mobile train, next to Big Kev Hulsmans, who is checking out the scenery.

16:06 CEST    117km/43km to go
Rolf Aldag is showing exactly how useful he can be as he rides in front, with Steffen Wesemann following. Wesemann seems to prefer the flapping jersey look.

16:08 CEST    118km/42km to go
Liquigas takes over just before the sprint at Bludenz. Albasini and Clerc go for it, and it looks like Clerc got it.

16:10 CEST    119km/41km to go
It was the Phonak rider, Aurelien Clerc, who won the sprint from Albasini and Rast. They are joined by Bernhard Eisel, Robbie McEwen, and Markus Zberg and a couple of others to form a little break.

16:12 CEST    120km/40km to go
The break has Rast, Clerc (Phonak), Eisel (FDJ), Albasini, Colli, Mugerli (Liquigas), McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto), and M. Zberg (Gerolsteiner). They have 12 seconds, but the T-Mobile train has upped the tempo and they are caught.

16:14 CEST    121km/39km to go
T-Mobile is definitely going about things the wrong way if they don't want to defend the jersey. Maybe it's a ruse to spread Confusion and Disorder in the peloton.

16:19 CEST    123km/37km to go
Aldag, Wesemann, and Nardello in that order are leading the T-Mobile train as it begins the long climb of the Arlbergpass, which incidentally was used in the third stage of the Tour of Germany last year, with the same finish. Patrik Sinkewitz won then, and Ullrich was 12th.

16:22 CEST    125km/35km to go
35 clicks to go and it's all T-Mobile. Ullrich is placed in about sixth wheel near the pointy end of the peloton. Several teams are now fighting for position near - but not at - the front.

16:23 CEST    127km/33km to go
The peloton scares a field full of horses as it rolls by. Oh well, they're not going anywhere.

16:25 CEST    128km/32km to go
Sven Montgomery (Gerolsteiner) is bringing up the rear of the peloton, not looking too comfy. He moves up a bit.

16:26 CEST    129km/31km to go
It's still the gaunt but powerful Rolf Aldag on the front. He's really earned his money today.

16:30 CEST    125km/29km to go
The mountains loom above the riders as they head up the long valley to the Arlbergpass. The climb is fairly steady but the last 10 km of it averages 7 percent.

16:34 CEST    127km/27km to go
The bunch follows the course of a river as it heads up the valley. Although the start of the day was a bit grey, it's very nice weather now for racing, and the sun is out. No-one's got arm warmers on.

16:37 CEST    128km/26km to go
We're 8 km from the day's second sprint at Kirche, then the climb will really start. Various teams are fighting to get to the front, where it looks like Wesemann has finally taken over from Aldag.

16:39 CEST    130km/24km to go
Another attack! It looks like Gerdemann from CSC. Yep. He's chased by a Discovery Channel rider - Jurgen Van Den Broeck. They have a small lead.

16:40 CEST   
Gerdemann sits up for a bit and waits for Van den Broeck. The peloton is at five seconds, where T-Mobile is driving.

16:41 CEST    131km/23km to go
Gerrit Glomser (Lampre) has been dropped, and is not looking too happy. A few more riders - Matzbacher and Colli - are also shelled.

The two leaders have 10 seconds now.

16:43 CEST    132km/22km to go
Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) has bridged up to the two leaders in quick time. He's now setting the tempo.

16:44 CEST    132km/22km to go
The three leaders are now being chased by Voeckler (Bouygues) and Lopez (Euskaltel). They're not cooperating very well in pursuit though. T-Mobile has the peloton at 11 seconds.

16:45 CEST    133km/21km to go
Nardello is on the front of the T-Mobile train, as Eisel moves up too. The two chasers, Lopez and Voeckler, have joined the three leaders.

16:46 CEST    134km/20km to go
The leading five: Charly Wegelius (Liquigas), Linus Gerdemann (CSC), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Discovery), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues), and David Lopez (Euskaltel). They have 9 seconds on the bunch, which is led by Serguei Ivanov and Bernhard Eisel. They're going to need more than that.

16:47 CEST   
The second sprint of the day is coming up very soon, in a couple of kilometres in fact. It looks like these front five will stay away and take all the points.

16:48 CEST    135km/19km to go
But the peloton is getting closer to the leaders, who aren't riding together. They sit up. Break over.

16:49 CEST    136km/18km to go
Albasini gets the sprint ahead of Clerc, who is annoyed because Albasini took the shortest route to the line, which effectively cut Clerc off on a corner. Rast takes third.

Loosli (Lampre) counters right after the sprint.

16:51 CEST   
The bunch rides through a tunnel and there is another attack.

16:52 CEST    137km/17km to go
On the other side of the tunnel, Loosli has been joined by a Saunier rider - David de la Fuente. Dario Frigo is also chasing. The climb is getting steeper now.

16:53 CEST    138km/16km to go
De La Fuente takes a puff from an inhaler. Now Valverde (Illes Balears) and Iker Flores (Euskaltel) are closing in on them.

16:55 CEST    138km/16km to go
De La Fuente is dropped as Valverde, Flores and Sinkewitz (Quick.Step) join Loosli in front. Straight away, Valverde and Sinkewitz gap the rest.

Guerini is towing the peloton with Ullrich on his wheel, 15 seconds behind Valverde.

Rast and Albasini are dropped.

16:56 CEST    139km/15km to go
Rast and Albasini aren't the only ones to be dropped. A sizeable bus, led by Aldag and Eisel, has formed. Most of the sprinters are back here.

16:59 CEST   
The peloton passes through another tunnel, where a couple of cows lie in wait on the top. They don't look like making an ambush though.

17:01 CEST    140km/14km to go
After the tunnel, Aitor Gonzalez (Euskaltel) has extracted himself out of the peloton, pursued by Sven Montgomery (Gerolsteiner). Not sure if Valverde is still away - doesn't look like it. No, he isn't.

The peloton is fairly small now - maybe 30 riders. Guerini and Ullrich are in first and second wheels.

Aitor has 8 seconds lead.

17:04 CEST    142km/12km to go
Aitor Gonzalez is leading with 13 km to go as the Arlbergpass steepens. Montgomery is losing time to him, and is now at 10 seconds. The peloton, led by Guerini, Ullrich and McGee, is at 21 seconds. Looks like Totschnig, Moos, Schleck, Sinkewitz, Evans, Jeker, Rogers, Horner, Piepoli, Frigo, Gil, Mayo, Atienza, Celestino, Kirchen are all there.

17:05 CEST    142km/12km to go
Beloki is riding with a small group containing Carlstrom (Liquigas), but nowhere near the front of the race.

Montgomery has been caught by the Ullrich group, and now just Gonzalez is in front by 17 seconds.

Valjavec attacks next.

17:06 CEST   
The climb is quite steep now and Guerini has to work hard to keep the tempo up in the peloton. Aitor has 10 seconds lead on Valjavec, who is closing in.

17:07 CEST   
Valjavec is in a very low gear as he looks down at his feet. He's slowly coming up to Aitor Gonzalez. Peloton at 20 seconds from the leader, still with Guerini in front. McGee looks good on Ullrich's wheel, as do Rogers and Jeker.

17:08 CEST    143km/11km to go
Valjavec has now clawed his way up to Aitor Gonzalez. The climb is still very steep here. They have 20 seconds on the Ullrich group.

17:10 CEST    144km/10km to go
The two leaders have 10 km to go, and 2 km of climbing. In the Ullrich group, Valverde has taken over. Ullrich is still in second wheel, looking very solid as he rides in the drops, mouth barely open.

17:11 CEST   
There are still about 30 riders in the Ullrich group, which has knocked 10 seconds off the lead - it's now 12 seconds as the road flattens a bit. The lead pair started the day at about 1'40 behind so they're no threat.

17:12 CEST   
Valjavec and Gonzalez continue to work but they are definitely no threat now - the Ullrich group swallows them, with Illes Balears in front.

17:14 CEST    145km/9km to go
Piepoli lifts the pace a bit but Ullrich is quickly on his wheel. Then Totschnig goes to the front.

Another attack - Daniel Schnider (Phonak). He gets company from Koldo Gil (Liberty). The two might be able to get the mountain points. Gil attacks hard...

17:15 CEST    146km/8km to go
Koldo Gil is now alone but the peloton has stretched out in pursuit. He's nearly at the summit...

17:16 CEST   
Gil hangs on to take the points and the mountains jersey, then Kirchen leads the Ullrich group over at 5 seconds. Ullrich, McGee, Evans, Rogers, are all there too.

17:17 CEST    147km/7km to go
Gil still has a gap and he starts the descent with five seconds. Let's see if he can stay away. He flies through a tunnel. The Ullrich group has reformed behind - a good 25 riders here.

17:18 CEST    148km/6km to go
Alex Moos took third on the climb behind Gil and Kirchen.

17:18 CEST    149km/5km to go
Gil is flying, pedaling fairly hard so it can't be that steep. He's at 68 km/h and the peloton is very close behind.

17:19 CEST   
Gil is being reeled in by a 75 km/h chase from the peloton. There's a bit of water on the road, but it's relatively dry.

17:20 CEST    151km/3km to go
Another tunnel, always interesting at this speed. Frigo and Sinkewitz are leading the bunch. Gil is now at 93 km/h!!

17:20 CEST    151km/3km to go
Gil has to brake fairly hard for a wide corner. He has maybe 3 seconds. This is very close. One mistake and he's gone.

17:21 CEST    152km/2km to go
Gil gets the speed up on a straight part of the descent, with the peloton breathing down his neck. But he might do it.

17:21 CEST    153km/1km to go
It's only 2 seconds as he gets to 1 km to go. Ullrich himself is closing the gap.

17:22 CEST   
Gil is caught just after 1 km to go by the yellow jersey. Ullrich is in second wheel now, trying to win...

17:23 CEST    154km/0km to go
Frigo looks back but it's Sinkewitz who leads out and then Brad McGee comes around and wins the stage!!! Celestino second, then Totschnig and Sinkewitz.

17:24 CEST   
That won't be quite enough to give McGee the leader's jersey, but he'll be within two seconds of Jan. Nice finish, and it was touch and go right until the end.


1 Bradley McGee (Aus) Française Des Jeux                         3.45.48
2 Mirko Celestino (Ita) Domina Vacanze                             
3 Patrick Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick Step                               
4 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                              
5 Daniel Schnider (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems                
6 Koldo Gil Perez (Spa) Liberty Seguros-Würth Team            
7 Iban Mayo Diez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                               
8 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Phonak Hearing Systems    
9 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir   
10 Beat Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner                             

General classification after stage 3

1 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team                                8.31.10  
2 Bradley McGee (Aus) Française Des Jeux                            0.02
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step                                   0.18
4 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                                   1.12
5 Beat Zberg (Swi) Gerolsteiner                                     1.14
6 Fabian Jeker (Swi) Saunier Duval-Prodir                           1.25
7 Georg Totschnig (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                1.31
8 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC                                      1.41
9 Patrick Sinkewitz (Ger) Quick Step                                1.47
10 Aitor Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi                           1.52

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