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Tour de Suisse: German team win first stage as Swiss hopeful wanders off course

The Telekom team celebrate their victory

(Keystone)

Cyclists from Germany's Telekom team have finished first in the opening stage in the Tour de Suisse. Telekom crossed the finish line in the 24-kilometre team time trial in Uster five seconds ahead of the Dutch squad, Rabobank.

There was a Swiss victory of sorts as Telekom's Steffen Wesemann led his team across the finish line. The German rider lives in canton Aargau with his Swiss girlfriend and on Wednesday will ride through his home region wearing the leader's yellow jersey.

But more genuine Swiss riders had less good fortune during the time trial, with Laurent Dufaux suffering more than most. Dufaux's Saeco team were led five kilometres off course by one of the official tour motorbikes and will start the second stage more than a minute behind the Telekom riders.

A furious Dufaux said afterwards, "Our rhythm was completely broken. The team's organisation was utterly destroyed."

Team Rabobank's second place finish was at least good news for their two Swiss riders, Markus Zberg and Niki Aebersold - but with just five seconds separating them from the Telekom team they too may have felt that Tuesday's event was a great opportunity narrowly missed. Switzerland has not won even a stage of the country's biggest road race since 1997, when Oscar Camenzind briefly wore the leader's jersey.

Camenzind was in no danger of repeating that feat on Tuesday when his Lampre team finished back in seventh place, two places and four seconds behind Switzerland's best-placed team, Post Swiss.

Switzerland's Phonak team were well adrift of the leaders in sixteenth place, with only the hapless Saeco team finishing behind them.

Wednesday's second stage is the longest on this year's tour, comprising the 197-kilometre ride from Uster to Rheinfelden in northeastern Switzerland.

The new organisers of the Swiss tour have been keen to toughen up this year's course in an effort to bring it out from the shadows of the sport's biggest event, the Tour de France. "Longer, further, harder" has been the motto adopted by director, Marc Biver whose company, IMG, has taken charge of the race's financial running.

As well as drawing up a formidable course, involving a distance of 1,358 kilometres with an overall height difference of 18,395 metres, IMG appears to be getting the race back on the road financially. Following last year's heavy losses, the tour has secured Feldschlösschen as its new sponsors, and increased its overall sponsorship from three to five million Swiss francs. The tour will be broadcast in twelve countries, with Japan and South Africa amongst the first-time viewers.

The cyclists hit the mountains during stage four.

Following their arrival in Verbier and the individual time trials in Sierre, the form of the riders and the ambitions of the favourites should become apparent. The 103km Alpine stage on 18th June will be one of the toughest, taking the cyclists through the Nufenen, Gotthard and Furka passes.

After the traditional detour into Lugano, the race is likely to be decided in Graubünden. The route from Locarno to La Punt sees the cyclists negotiate the passes of San Bernardino and the Albula. The subsequent climb to Arosa on the penultimate day of the tour marks the stage where Casagrande effectively sealed his win last year.

Tour schedule:

13th June Uster-Uster 24km (team time trials)
14th June Uster-Rheinfelden 197 km
15th June Rheinfelden-Fribourg 182km
16th June Fribourg-Verbier 156km
17th June Sierre-Sierre 30km (individual time trials)
18th June Ulrichen-Ulrichen (Alpine stage)
19th June Locarno-Lugano 171km
20th June Locarno-La Punt 170km
21st June St.Moritz-Arosa 150km
22nd June Herisau-Baden 175km

swissinfo with agencies








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