SAMUEL PETREQUIN,AP Sports Writer FRUTIGEN, Switzerland (AP) Marcus Burghardt of Germany won the fifth stage of the Tour of Switzerland following a long breakaway on Wednesday.
Burghardt launched an attack over the final stretch of the 107-mile, rain-soaked stage from Wettingen to Frutigen to drop his two remaining breakaway companions.
Germany’s Marcus Burghardt from BMC Racing Team, raises his arms after crossing the finish line to win the 5th stage, a 172,5 km race from Wettingen to Frutigen, in the 74th Tour de Suisse cycling race, in Wettingen, Switzerland, Wednesday, June 16, 2010. (KEYSTONE/Jean-Christophe Bott)
Tony Martin of Germany retained the overall lead, 1 second ahead of Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong finished in the main pack and is 21st overall, 30 seconds back.
Armstrong is gearing up for the Tour de France and concerned the bad weather could disrupt his preparations. The Texan, who is riding his last race before the three-week July event, said it’s almost useless to race in such difficult conditions.
“In the run-up to the Tour, certainly for the condition, for losing a bit of weight, it’s better if it’s sunny,” Armstrong told the Associated Press. “But I haven’t met the person who can control the weather.”
Burghardt, who won a Tour de France stage two years ago, celebrated his first win of the season. He was a late entry in Switzerland after breaking a bone in his elbow at the Tour of California earlier this season.
“Finally we took the right decision by coming here,” Burghardt said. “I’m 100 percent motivated.”
Burghardt, a former Gand-Wevelgem winner, broke away with Daniel Oss, Angelo Furlan, Javier Aramendia and Martijn Maaskant at the 6-mile mark. They had a maximum lead of 5 minutes before the pack started to chase but failed to close the gap on slippery roads.
Furlan and Aramendia were caught about 6 miles from the line before Burghardt took advantage of the slight uphill finish to surprise Maaskant and Oss, who finished the stage second and third, respectively.
Robbie McEwen of Australia won the peloton sprint, 47 seconds back.
Gerben Lowik of the Netherlands crashed about 25 miles from the finish and hit a woman and her four children who were watching the race on the side of the road. Lowik had to withdraw and the family was taken to a hospital with minor injuries, organizers said.
The start of the stage was delayed by two minutes after riders held a mini-strike to protest against British sprinter Mark Cavendish.
Organizers and riders blamed Cavendish for the mass crash that marred Tuesday’s finish after the HTC-Columbia star suddenly changed his line. Cavendish was handed a 30-second penalty for his move.
While Heinrich Haussler, Arnaud Coyot and Lloyd Mondory withdrew from the race following the spectacular crash, Cavendish escaped serious injury and started the stage Wednesday.
The sixth stage Thursday and queen stage is a 132½-mile ride from Meiringen to La Punt that includes three big climbs in the Alps, with the last ascent only 8 miles from the finish.
“Tomorrow is a real test,” Armstrong said. “And hopefully, this weather will move out. Days like tomorrow, especially before the Tour, it’s just so much better for everybody’s preparation when it’s a hot day, when it’s sunny and you can really test yourself.
“If it’s like today, it’s gonna be a really long slog for all of us.”