Tour de Suisse: Ayuso conquers Albulapass as Skjelmose takes yellow

 Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) celebrates winning stage 5 at the Tour de Suisse
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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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Juan Ayuso won stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse
Juan Ayuso won stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team  Yellow Leader Jersey competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team Yellow Leader Jersey competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Soudal QuickStep competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Soudal QuickStep competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team  Yellow Leader Jersey competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team Yellow Leader Jersey competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 LR Xandro Meurisse of Belgium and Team AlpecinDeceuninck Daryl Impey of South Africa and Team IsraelPremier Tech Simon Geschke of Germany and Team Cofidis and Fabio Felline of Italy and Astana Qazaqstan Team competing at the Col de la Furka 2429m passing in front of the Htel Belvdre during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Soudal QuickStep competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Soudal QuickStep competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 LR Felix Gall of Austria  Yellow Leader Jersey and Clement Berthet of France and Ag2R Citron Team compete during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 LR Felix Gall of Austria Yellow Leader Jersey and Clement Berthet of France and Ag2R Citron Team compete during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 A general view of the peloton competing at the Oberalppass 2044m during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 A general view of the peloton competing at the Oberalppass 2044m during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Michael Schr of Switzerland and Ag2R Citron Team competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Michael Schr of Switzerland and Ag2R Citron Team competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team JumboVisma  Black Points Jersey competes in the breakaway during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Wout Van Aert of Belgium and Team JumboVisma Black Points Jersey competes in the breakaway during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 A general view of the peloton competing during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 A general view of the peloton competing during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Stan Dewulf of Belgium and Ag2R Citron Team competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Stan Dewulf of Belgium and Ag2R Citron Team competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 LR Tom Pidcock of United Kingdom Magnus Sheffield of The United States Jhonnatan Narvaez of Ecuador and Team INEOS Grenadiers and a general view of the peloton competing at the Col de la Furka 2429m passing in front of the Htel Belvdre during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Michael Schr of Switzerland Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team  Yellow Leader Jersey with teammates lead the peloton passing through a tunnel during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Michael Schr of Switzerland Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team Yellow Leader Jersey with teammates lead the peloton passing through a tunnel during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 LR Antonio Tiberi of Italy and Team Bahrain Victorious Neilson Powless of The United States and Team EF EducationEasyPost and Rui Costa of Portugal and Team IntermarchCircusWanty compete in the breakaway during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 LR Antonio Tiberi of Italy and Team Bahrain Victorious Neilson Powless of The United States and Team EF EducationEasyPost and Rui Costa of Portugal and Team IntermarchCircusWanty compete in the breakaway during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates attacks during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates attacks during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates attacks during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates attacks during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Cian Uijtdebroeks of Belgium and Team BORAHansgrohe competes in the chase group during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Cian Uijtdebroeks of Belgium and Team BORAHansgrohe competes in the chase group during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Soudal QuickStep competes in the chase group during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Soudal QuickStep competes in the chase group during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates attacks during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates attacks during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team  Yellow Leader Jersey competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Felix Gall of Austria and Ag2R Citron Team Yellow Leader Jersey competes during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Juan Ayuso of Spain and UAE Team Emirates celebrates at finish line as stage winner during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

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LA PUNT SWITZERLAND  JUNE 15 Mattias Skjelmose Jensen of Denmark and Team TrekSegafredo celebrates at podium as Yellow Leader Jersey winner during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m  UCIWT  on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
LA PUNT SWITZERLAND JUNE 15 Mattias Skjelmose Jensen of Denmark and Team TrekSegafredo celebrates at podium as Yellow Leader Jersey winner during the 86th Tour de Suisse 2023 Stage 5 a 211km stage from Fiesch to La Punt 1696m UCIWT on June 15 2023 in La Punt Switzerland Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images

Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) claimed the biggest victory of his young and immensely promising career, soloing to victory on the queen stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse.

The 20-year-old Spaniard attacked on the upper slopes of the Albulapass - one of three high-mountain passes on the 211km menu - and made no mistake on the 10km descent into La Punt.

He raised his arms for his second WorldTour win after taking a stage of last month's Tour de Romandie, with a performance that also put him back into overall contention after struggling on the previous stage.

Almost a minute after Ayuso had crossed the line, Mattias Skjelmose (Trek-Segafredo) led home a chase group of GC contenders to take second place, six bonus seconds, and - having given it up on Wednesday - the yellow jersey.

Race leader Felix Gall (AG2R Citroën) was in that group and indeed ripped the race apart on the Albulapass but conceded four seconds in the final dash for the line, and with it, the yellow jersey.

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious) claimed the final spot on the podium as Rigoberto Urán (EF), Romain Bardet (DSM), and Wilco Kelderman (Jumbo-Visma) made up the rest of that group.

A rollercoaster race issued a fresh blow to Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-QuickStep), who was distanced in a split at the top of the Albulapass and conceded 26 seconds - plus 10 bonus seconds - to Skjelmose.

"Yesterday, I had no legs and just had to suffer, but today I felt much better," Ayuso said. "It was a hard stage, long with lots of climbing and altitude, but in the end, when the pace increased, I started feeling better and better."

The 211km queen stage took the riders over the Furkapass (16.5km; 6.4%) and Oberalppass (10.7km; 5.6%) in the opening half of the route, before a long approach to the Albulapass (17.4km; 6.8%) and the short drop into La Punt.

After a chaotic start, things were calm until the final 7km of the final climb, where Gall's AG2R teammates suddenly shredded the peloton, and the Austrian climber quickly opened the race.

Ayuso was one of only four riders who could follow - along with Bilbao, Kelderman, and Bardet - and after a kilometre or so, it was clear he had another gear as he issued a searing attack.

He flew across the gap to the three remaining riders from the day's large breakaway and extended his lead over his GC rivals to a minute by the summit.

Skjelmose, who was reluctant to chase on Wednesday, was forced into defence mode after being unable to react to Gall's opening salvo, but he managed to rescue the situation as his group came back to the Gall group and even distanced Evenepoel over the top of the final climb.

However, Ayuso had flown the nest and moved up to third overall at just 18 seconds, very much a danger man given the strength of his time trialling. Gall slips to second at eight seconds as Evenepoel drops to fourth at 46 seconds, now giving himself a huge ask to bank on Sunday's final-day time trial. Bilbao rounds out the top five at 57 seconds as the only other rider within a minute of the yellow jersey.

How it unfolded

The queen stage of the Tour de Suisse started out in suitably chaotic fashion, with the major climbs of the Furkapass and Oberalppass coming back-to-back after barely 25km of flatter introduction.

It was just ahead of the Furkapass (16.5km; 6.4%) that things kicked off, and it wasn't so much a breakaway as a full-on peloton split. No fewer than 39 riders managed to get themselves out in front for the lower slopes of the climb. The carnage continued as the climb bit, and that 39-man move shattered, with a similar shelling-out process in the peloton, which remained at a high pace and not far behind.

At the top of the Furkapass, there were 12 riders left in the lead, but that swelled to 18 by the end of the descent and to 19 on the lower slopes of the Oberalppass (10.7km; 5.6%). Establishing itself as the breakaway of the day, the full composition of that 19-man group was: Wout van Aert (Jumbo-VIsma), Michael Gogl (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Antonio Tiberi (Bahrain Victorious), Sergio Higuita and Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe), Neilson Powless (EF), Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ), Rui Costa (Intermarche-Circus-Wanty), Gorka Izagirre and Oier Lazkano (Movistar), Ewen Costiou (Arkea-Samsic), Matteo Sobrero and Chris Juul-Jensen (Jayco-AlUla), Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo), Marc Hirschi (UAE), Hugo Houle and Krists Neilands (Israel-Premier Tech), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Lotto-Dstny), Yannis Voisard (Tudor).

At the top of the Oberalppass after 71km, that group had opened a lead of 2:45 over the main peloton. Eenkhorn, having been second to the top of the Furkapass, took maximum KOM points to take the provisional lead of the mountains classification.

There was then a long lull, with a good 100km before the next major difficulty. The descent soon shallowed out into a long period of gentle downhill, with a run through the valley interrupted only by a small uncategorised climb. This portion of the race saw a stable situation, with the 19-man breakaway continuing to ride together just over three minutes ahead of the peloton.

After that short climb, there was some action in the break as Simmons attacked and Kung and Van Aert followed, splitting the large and unruly group with 40km to go. 13 riders made this first selection, the ones missing out being Juul-Jensen, who soon dropped back to the bunch while a group of five chased at a minute: Izaguirre, Neilands, Costiou, Voisard, Haller.

In amongst the action, Van Aert claimed the intermediate sprint, as the injection of pace saw the gap rise above four minutes as AG2R controlled the peloton. The road was already dragging up towards the Albulapass (17.4km, 6.8%), and the gap dipped back down to 3:30 as other GC teams started to battle for position towards the front.

The final climb

On the lower slopes of the final climb, Hirschi and Eenkhoorn were the first to be dropped from the break. After a brief plateau following the first few kilometres, things started to heat up. QuickStep took command of the bunch, while Powless attacked up front to draw out Rui Costa and Tiberi. The rest of the group fragmented, and it properly burst open when Simmons piled on the pressure, dropping Kung, Van Aert, Houle, and Lazkano as he made his way toward the leader with Higuita in tow. However, just as he was making contact, the US rider blew up and slipped back, just like the Colombian.

In the bunch, with the gap at 2:20 8km from the summit, DSM assisted in the pace-making, followed by a fiercer turn by AG2R, and it soon blew the peloton apart. Less than a kilometre later, 6km from the summit, Gall attacked. The damage continued as only four riders could follow: Ayuso, Kelderman, Bardet, and Bilbao. They soon found Van Aert from the break, who drove it on - in the interests of Kelderman - for a kilometre before dropping. Behind, Skjelmose was forced into chasing in a group that also contained Evenepoel.

Powless, Costa, and Tiberi survived out front for the 'Tissot Kilometre' on the upper reaches of the climb, taking the bonus seconds out of the equation of the GC battle. However, Ayuso attacked from the first GC group and flew across the gap. He first picked off Powless, who faded after a volley of accelerations, before easing clear of Tiberi and Costa 1500 metres from the summit.

Bardet dropped from the Gall/Kelderman/Bilbao group as Ayuso opened a lead of 50 seconds, while Simmons turned to helping Skjelmose limit the damage. Evenepoel even lost contact as that group split when closing in on the Gall group.

At the top of the Albulapass, with just a 9.6km descent to go, Ayuso led solo with a 35-second lead over Tiberi and Costa, 1:00 over Gall, Kelderman, and Bilbao, 1:12 over Skjelmose, Bardet, Sheffield, and 1:20 over Evenepoel and Uijtdebroeks.

On the descent, the first two chase groups stitched back together, with the exception of Magnus Sheffield, who crashed. But Ayuso was well clear, and he maintained his advantage all the way to the line, where he celebrated by pointing to his right leg, a possible nod to the tendinitis issue that delayed his season start but doesn't seem to be holding him back in any way now.

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