Darwin Atapuma put in an incredible ride on Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse to solo to victory on the first mountain stage of the race.
It was a day of redemption for Atapuma, who dedicated the win to his late mother, after a string of near-misses at the Giro d’Italia.
Atapuma formed part of a strong 24-rider breakaway after 20 kilometers of racing. As the breakaway reached the final climb of the day, it was down to a small group of riders to battle it out on the climb.
Atapuma attacked solo with six kilometers to go, and managed to hold off the General Classification group who were closing in, in the final hundred meters.
Tejay van Garderen showed his form in the GC group, crossing the line to take fourth place on the stage and move into fifth place on GC, 18 seconds behind new race leader Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale).
The Winner’s Interview with Darwin Atapuma
Was this a stage you had targeted before the race?
“Four days after the Giro d’Italia I came and did a recon of the final climb as I thought it would be a good stage for me. I was confident after the Giro d’Italia because I had really good legs. I looked at the stages of the Tour de Suisse and as this one finished at a high altitude and the two climbs before were also high, I knew it would suit me. If the altitude is more than 2000m it suits me well. I trained at altitude in the lead up to race to stay focused and motivated.”
When you reached the final climb did you believe you were in a position to win?
“I was confident when the breakaway reached the final climb as we still had a reasonable gap. I knew that there were two possible scenarios that were good for the team. If Tejay attacked from behind, then I would be there to help him. Or, in case I got close to the finish as we eventually did, I would attack for the win.”
You looked incredibly strong when you attacked solo, what was going through your head?
“I knew it was possible to win but I needed to stay focused. I had good legs, the others had dropped and I know the climb well. I was waiting for the right moment to attack and when I went I managed to develop a good gap, and it paid off. I had to dig deep in the final kilometer as I knew there were riders getting closer. But I just wanted the win so badly.”
After missing out on a couple of stage wins at the Giro d’Italia, does this give you confidence going into the next part of the season?
“For sure my results at the Giro d’Italia gave me confidence as I know I have good form. The fact that I missed out on a stage win there gave me more motivation and kept me focused for this win. I did everything possible to stay in good form. I’m especially happy because I know how important this win is for BMC Racing Team and our title sponsor BMC Switzerland. To take the win at the Tour de Suisse is really something special for me and the team.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“The plan for today was to try and put Silvan Dillier and Philippe Gilbert in the breakaway, to hopefully gain a good gap of five or six minutes. But when we saw the strong guys that went in the break, Darwin knew that he had to jump in. A 24-rider breakaway is dangerous so it was good to have Darwin there to put the pressure on.”
“If Tejay wanted to attack and was in the position to do so, then Darwin would be there. Team Sky set a tempo but there wasn’t a really strong chase which worked well for Darwin. For Tejay this was also a great result. He had good legs and gained a couple of seconds back on some of the GC guys, so he is well positioned going into the next mountain stages.”
Tour de Suisse (2.UWT)
Stage 5 Brig-Gils > Cari 126.4km
Top 3: 1. Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing Team), Warren Barguil (Team Giant Alpecin), Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
BMC Racing Team Top 3: 1. Darwin Atapuma, 4. Tejay van Garderen, 46. Michael Schaer