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June 20 update: The Tour de Suisse often ends with an individual time-trial and that's what we'll have this year. Bern in 2006, 2007 and 2009 hosted a final time trial ranging in distance from 30 to 37 km. This year's stage 9 will be a 27 km loop in the south part of Liestal.

The course climbs for the first half with a gradual 250m gain over 11 km. That's a 2.2% average grade, easy enough for an old steam locomotive. The second half of the loop is a even more gradual. Judging by yesterday's circuit around Liestal, there should be lots of narrow and/or technical sections.

Robert Gesink will go into the final day of a stage race in the unfamiliar position as race leader. The next eight riders trail by 29 seconds to one minute and some of them are better time trialers than Gesink. Expect some reshuffling of the GC.

So how good of a time trialist is Gesink? His only other time trial this year was at Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco which also featured a final day TT with a similar distance (22 km) and general profile although the climb was harder. This was the TT that Chris Horner won to claim the overall win on the last day. Gesink finished 15th, 1:06 back of Horner's winning time. Today's stage 9 will be 5 km longer than the Orio TT course in the Basque country. At the Vuelta a Espana in 2009, Gesink lost over 2 minutes to the winner on the final day 26 km time trial, although a bad crash in the latter half of the three week race would have effected his performance. At the 42 km Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré time trial in June 2009, he finished 15th, 1:43 behind the winner Bert Grabsch. So, he's not a bad time trialist but his 29 second lead is surmountable. The highest place rider on GC who may be a better time trialist is Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez in 5th place (+ 0:42), the overall winner this past March at Volta a Catalunya. Rodriguez finished well ahead of Gesink at the Pais Vasco ITT, but that was March and we are now in the run up to the Tour de France and Gesink has shown he's in great shape. Other riders to watch out for include Matteo Carrara (6th, + 0:54), Lance Armstrong (7th, + 0:55). Jacob Fuglsang (9th, + 1:17) and Thomas Lövkvist (10th, + 1:38) have an outside chance of capturing a podium spot. Steve Morabito, being the top Swiss rider in 3rd position will have some extra motivation and is the rider Gesink is most worried about.

It is well-known that wearing Yellow in a time trial also gives a rider an added boost. — Steve

Gesink determined to fight for Tour de Suisse victorycyclingnews
Morabito motivated for race against the clockcyclingnews
Stage 9 ITT Start Order and Times (CEST)

(Y! 2010 Edition)