Although the win remained elusive for Cannondale-Drapac in Switzerland and Austria at the nine-day Tour de Suisse, it was undoubtedly a successful week for #GreenArgyle. Paddy Bevin came good on the form he has previously shown glimpses of last season and delivered four top ten results: second, fourth and sixth in reduced bunch sprints and tenth in the final stage time trial.
Ryan Mullen spent three hours in the prologue hot seat before eventually slotting into eighth place. Mike Woods finished in tenth place on a mountain stage he briefly led. Joe Dombrowski climbed to third place on the race’s queen stage. Taylor Phinney continued to recover from a testing spring, and Sep Vanmarcke showed an increasing level of fitness as he builds for the second half of the season.
Tour de Suisse opened with a six kilometer prologue. An early starter, Ryan Mullen stopped the clock at 6:37. The time proved unbeatable until the final 40 riders. Rohan Dennis (BMC) ultimately took the win while Mullen managed eighth place at 13 seconds.
“I’m pretty happy,” said Mullen. “I got the best of myself on the day. I rode the course well. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in the top ten in any prologue in my life. I’m not normally a prologue rider. I prefer a more dieselly effort over high-power spikes.
“I came here with the goal of another time trial top ten,” said Mullen. “To get my name in the top ten on a regular basis for time trials is my goal, and I’m happy to tick that box on the first day.”
The first road stage of Tour de Suisse ended in a reduced bunch finish due to a late race crash that split the peloton just as the pace was picking up in the finale. Mike Woods was part of an escape in the closing kilometers before looking after Paddy Bevin in the finish. The Kiwi opened his sprint at 200 meters to move up from 20th to second place across the line. Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floor) took the win a half-wheel length ahead of Bevin.
“I timed it pretty well,” said Bevin. “It was a very messy bunch sprint, and I came from the group behind, from a long way back. As far as pure sprints go, it was good. It’s been a long time since I’ve sprinted. I’ve done a lot of leading out in the last couple of seasons. It’s was a bit of a recalibration in that sense.”
Another Tour de Suisse sprint stage. Another Tour de Suisse top ten. Paddy Bevin mixed it up with the big guns to finish in sixth place in Bern.
“I’ve come in really well,” said Bevin. “I built through the Tour of Norway, had some solid results there, and I’ve come into Tour of Suisse with some good form. It’s the biggest race I’ve had this year so far. It’s a good week to have a good week.”
— Cannondale-Drapac (@Ride_Argyle) June 13, 2017
Hugh Carthy was top #GreenArgyle in Villars-sur-Ollon in 23rd place, 3:25 down on surprise stage winner Larry Warbasse (Aqua Blue Sport). The American was part of the early breakaway and the lone survivor en route to the summit finish.
The first Tour de Suisse mountain stage marked Ryan Mullen and Paddy Bevin’s first foray into high mountains.
“That was pretty savage,” said Mullen. “I didn’t feel great in the heat. Being a big heavy guy, I think the heat takes a toll out you more than the climbers. It was grim but coming out on the other side makes up for it.”
— Cannondale-Drapac (@Ride_Argyle) June 14, 2017
Paddy Bevin sprinted to fourth place following a long, fast and ultimately wet day in the saddle. Cannondale-Drapac did a solid job setting him up for the sprint that came after 222 kilometers – the longest stage of the race. The day included a mid-race passage of the gorgeous but brutal Simplonpass.
“You’re always going to take results at a WorldTour race, especially when you’re knocking on the door of a win and consistently at the pointy end. For sure, anyone wouldn’t turn down the results that I’ve gotten,” said Bevin. “But I took the scenic route to the finish line today. The finish line was right and I was turning left with 250 meters to go. A week ago, if you had told me fourth place in the sprint, I would have been ok with it, but considering how this week has gone and how the legs are, I didn’t feel like I had the opportunity to capitalize on what was there.”
It took over an hour for the stage six breakaway to form, and when it finally did, Mike Woods was flying the #GreenArgyle flag in the move. The Canadian attacked on the lower slopes of San Bernardino, the first of two big mountain passes on stage six, to make the 10-man escape.
“The first kilometers were ballistic,” said Woods. “Everyone was attacking like crazy. In the team meeting, [DS] Juanma [Garate] told us to follow the very first attack and then after that wait until kilometer 16. Joe, myself and Hugh followed attacks in the first kilometer. Then we waited. At kilometer 16, I went all out – attacked, attacked, attacked for two kilometers straight but didn’t get away. And I was completely cracked.
“I went back to the group, chilled for a little bit, tried to recover as much as possible and then as we approached the climb, I tried a few more attacks,” said Woods. “Still nothing went. We hit the climb, and I had one more match to burn, and I used it to get into what proved to be the decisive move.”
With the gap tumbling on Albulapass, Woods attacked his breakaway companions – first as part of a leading trio and then in a solo bid for glory. For an exciting 16 kilometers, Woods pushed pedals alone at the front of the race.
“I hoped I’d finish over the top first, but it was such a long climb that I knew it was a lofty goal,” said Woods. “I was going to throw everything at it and go down in a flame of glory trying. Once I got away and my gap was growing, I started thinking ‘Oh man. This is not great. Now I have to suffer. This is going to hurt a lot more than I thought.’ ”
Woods was caught first by Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) and then the remnants of the yellow jersey group on a wet descent. He ultimately rounded out the top ten. The result belies his effort.
“There’s a bit of frustration,” said Woods. “I got on the bus after the stage and just yelled. I was pissed that I couldn’t seal the deal. I was not good on the descent in the rain. At the same time, I haven’t had a ride like that, I haven’t tried to win like that, I put it all the line with 20 kilometers out, which I’ve never done before.
“If the finish line was at the top of the mountain, I would have won,” said Woods. “It’s a disappointment that I still haven’t gotten that win at the WorldTour level, but at the same time, I’m still learning. It still builds confidence. I now have another card I can play in races.”
Joe Dombrowski climbed to third place in Sölden on the queen stage of Tour de Suisse. He was part of an elite selection on the leg-crushing climb in Austria and briefly led the race alongside Katusha pair Simon Spilak and Rein Taaramäe. Taaramäe was the first to fall off the pace. Dombrowski followed suit at kilometer eight. He was caught and eventually passed by Ion Izagirre (Bahrain Merida) on the uphill slog to the line.
“I was close to staying with Spilak until he put me in the red,” said Dombrowski. “After that, I couldn’t recover. I had a rough spring this year with some injuries and missing some races. It’s good to be back at a good level.”
— Cannondale-Drapac (@Ride_Argyle) June 17, 2017
Six of the seven #GreenArgyle starters for the penultimate stage of Tour de Suisse climbed onto the Tacx Neos ahead of the start of the 100-kilometer circuit race in Schaffhausen. Cannondale-Drapac expected a fast start and non-stop action. Heavy legs upended expectations. The start was relatively calm with a five rider move dominating the early action. It was gruppo compatto before the last eight-kilometer lap. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the sprint. Paddy Bevin finished in 24th place, on the same time as Sagan.
“It was faster than we thought it would be,” said Bevin. “But it wasn’t the start that was fast, it was the finish. I think the mountains took a toll on everyone, so they were happy to let a small break slip off the front and stay away.”
All eyes were on Ryan Mullen and American time trial champion Taylor Phinney for the final stage time trial. Mullen, again an early starter, briefly had the fastest time, 38:29, until Rohan Dennis (BMC) set a new standard nearly two minutes quicker. Dennis ultimately took the stage win. Paddy Bevin posted the best time for Cannondale-Drapac, 1:04 slower than Dennis, good for tenth place.
“I had a poor spring where I got sick, and it’s been a rebuild since then,” said Bevin. “I’m happy that I’m in a position to show what I can do. It’s been a long process with lots of ups and downs, but I think everyone at this level – it’s just so hard. You have to be so on top of everything to be in picture, in the frame. I’ve worked really hard to be here.”