De Gendt holds off Schleck
Serfaus - Belgian Thomas De Gendt held off the pressure of Luxembourg's Andy Schleck in the final climb of the day to claim victory in the Tour of Switzerland seventh stage on Friday.
Italian Damiano Cunego retained the race leader's yellow jersey after his rivals failed to put him to the sword in the 222.8km ride from Vaduz in Liechtenstein to Serfaus, the final climbing stage of the race.
Leopard rider Schleck, a two-time runner-up in the Tour de France, finished 35 seconds adrift of Vacansoleil rider De Gendt with Cunego leading home a small group containing all his rivals 4:39 later.
On the final climb neither of Cunego's rivals for overall victory launched convincing attempts to loosen his grip on the yellow jersey.
He finished the day with his advantage intact, with a lead of 1:23 and 1:36 on Dutch pair Bauke Mollema and Steven Kruijswijk of Rabobank.
Defending champion Frank Schleck (Leopard) remains fourth at 1:41 while American Levi Leipheimer of RadioShack is fifth at 1:59.
With Saturday's stage set aside for the sprinters, the race will be decided by Sunday's final stage time trial over 32.1km in Schaffhouse, an exercise Leipheimer is well versed in.
"I don't have the same capacities in the time trial as some of my big rivals, but we'll see how I go," said Cunego.
"I've trained specifically on a time trial bike and improved my position. Leipheimer is probably my biggest rival. Today I simply had to keep an eye on him."
De Gendt was a deserving winner, having attacked into a headwind 22km from home and with a 13km climb to the finish line up ahead.
With Cunego's peloton out of contention at over six minutes in arrears, it was left to the riders who had been in a 15-man breakaway with De Gendt to stop him from riding to victory.
Despite Schleck eventually taking things in hand 10km from home, De Gendt dug deep to hold the Luxemburger off and come over the finish line triumphant, but in disbelief.
"I was really thinking he was going to catch me in the final kilometres. I just had to give it full gas to try and stay in front," said De Gendt, Vacansoleil's second winner this week after Borut Bozic sprinted to victory on stage five.
Asked to compare it with his last major win, the first stage of Paris-Nice, De Gendt added: "In Paris-Nice it was only 150km and mostly flat.
"This is a mountain stage, over 220km long and the second place finisher was Andy Schleck, not Jeremy Roy, so this is so much more important."
Two-time Tour de France runner-up Schleck had suffered an unexpected slump Thursday early on the final climb to Malbun in Liechtenstein.
He appeared keen to make amends and, after a failed earlier attempt by a group of 17 riders, he got into a 15-man group which broke free 84km into the race.
They took their lead to a maximum of 8:25, with Schleck leading the group over the unclassified summit of Fluelapass to take all the mountain points.
The Rabobank team of Laurens Ten Dam, wearing the green jersey as leader of the climbers competition, finally smelled the danger and took command of the peloton in what became a vain bid to chase Schleck down.
Fifty kilometres further on Schleck soloed over the category two Norbertshohe climb to close to within a point of Ten Dam, and the Luxemburger's second place finish was sufficient for him to take the green jersey.Results from the Tour of Switzerland seventh stage, held over 222.8km between Vaduz (Liechtenstein) and Serfaus on Friday:Stage
1. Thomas De Gendt (BEL/VCD) 5hr 38min 42sec
2. Andy Schleck (LUX/LEO) at 35secs
3. Jose Joaquin Rojas (ESP/MOV) 48
4. Christian Vandevelde (USA/GRM) 51
5. Alberto Losada (ESP/KAT) 54
6. Sergey Lagutin (UZB/VCD) 1min 33sec
7. Jan Bakelants (BEL/OLO) 1:34
8. Marco Marcato (ITA/VCD) 2:30
9. George Hincapie (USA/BMC) same time
10. Manuele Boaro (ITA/SBS) s.t.Selected:
17. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 4:39
18. Bauke Mollema (NED/RAB) s.t.
22. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/RAB) s.t.
23. Frank Schleck (LUX/LEO) s.t.
25. Levi Leipheimer (USA/RSH) s.t.
61. Luke Roberts (AUS/SBS) s.t.,
1. Damiano Cunego (ITA/LAM) 27hr 09min 49sec
2. Bauke Mollema (NED/RAB) 1:23
3. Steven Kruijswijk (NED/RAB) 1:36
4. Frank Schleck (LUX/LEO) 1:41
5. Levi Leipheimer (USA/RSH) 1:59
6. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN/LEO) 2:38
7. Laurens Ten Dam (NED/RAB) 3:10
8. Giampaolo Caruso (ITA/KAT) 3:11
9. Mathias Frank (SUI/BMC) 3:20
10. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/THR) 3:22Selected:
11. Tom Danielson (USA/GRM) 4:51
20. Andy Schleck (LUX/LEO) 16:18