Until today Christopher Juul-Jensen‘s trophy cabinet lacked the win it so richly deserved, but on the rain-drenched Gstaad airfield, the 28-year-old Dane delivered in impressive fashion to win stage 4 of the Tour de Suisse.
One of the most respected and equally liked riders in the bunch finally tasted an individual victory after a career that has often been spent in the service of others. It was telling that several of the riders who congratulated Juul-Jensen at the finish line came from other teams. They stopped, despite the atrocious conditions, before seeking the sanctuary of their team buses to pause and congratulate a rider who is essentially a rival. Few riders can say that has happened to them.
Juul-Jensen had gone on the attack on stage 3, but a day later, as the heavens opened up through the Swiss valleys and mountains, everything seemed to come together for the Mitchelton-Scott rider. First, he infiltrated the early break that contained Silvan Dillier, Nans Peters (AG2R La Mondiale), Nathan Brown (EF Education First-Drapac), Mark Christian (Aqua Blue Sport) and Paul Ourselin (Direct Energie), and the group quickly established a lead of more than six minutes on a bunch that only had BMC Racing working on the front.
Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team later joined the fray, but by the time the leaders hit the second category climb before the descent into Gstaad they still had a two-minute advantage. The rain continued to fall but the slopes were never in line with the second category status issued by the organisers, and when Peters accelerated from the break it was Juul-Jensen who made contact. The AG2R leader kicked once more before the summit and Juul-Jensen looked to be fading, but with the bunch still over a minute in arrears, the stage was still in the balance.
On the descent to the line, Juul-Jensen rallied. He nullified Peters’ aggression as the road dipped into the finale, and when the road flattened the Dane sensed that his French counterpart was beginning to crack. With four kilometres remaining, Juul-Jensen jumped, but with the bunch pressing from behind the win was far from secure.
A lap of the airfield lay ahead, but through the rain the Mitchelton worker powered towards the line. With 200m to go the win was his, and he could afford to look around, savour the moment and enjoy his first individual win as a pro rider. Until today his palmares included wins in the Tour of Denmark and a national time trial championship – both important from a personal point of view but not on the same scale as the Tour de Suisse.
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