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Having been part of a formidable 10-rider break, Albasini stayed calm in a hugely confusing finale to narrowly hold off his companions and the peloton in the final stage of the Tour de Romandie; Quintana took the overall win

Photo: Sirotti

ANDREY AMADOR

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ION IZAGIRRE

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MICHAEL ALBASINI

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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THIBAUT PINOT

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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WILCO KELDERMAN

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01.05.2016 @ 16:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) kept his streak of stage wins in the Tour de Romandie running by taking a victory for the third year in a row on the hilly final stage of the race. Having spent the day in a formidable 10-rider breakaway, the Swiss stayed calm in a hugely confusing finale to neutralize a late attack from Tom Bohli (BMC) and hold off both his breakaway companions Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and the fast approaching sprinters to take his sixth stage win in just three years. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) retained his 19-second advantage over Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) while his teammate Ion Izagirre completed the podium.

 

In the last two years, Michael Albasini has won five out of eight road stages in the Tour de Romandie but this year it looked like he was running out of time. Despite being in the form of his life, a harder course had left him with fewer opportunities and when he missed out on the first stage, it was always evident that his only chance was the final stage.

 

For once, the GC was no longer up for grabs on the final day when the riders tackled a lumpy course that was tailor-made for Albasini’s characteristics and he immediately showed his intentions in the very aggressive early part of the race. Greatly helped by the fact that pre-race favourite Marcel Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) had fallen ill, he knew that a breakaway had a good chance and so he went on the attack when a formidable 10-rider break with the likes of Chris Froome (Sky), Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) was formed. In the end, he showed his class by coming away with the win in a hugely confusing finale.

 

In addition to Froome, Bardet, Albasini, Kelderman and Amador, Jerome Coppel (IAM), Carlos Verona (Etixx-QuickStep), Sander Armee (Lotto Soudal), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) and Moreno Moser (Cannondale were part of the 10-rider group that entered the final 50km with an advantage of 2.12. Cameron Meyer, Kantstantsin Siutsou, Jaco Venter and Natnael Berhane shared the pace-setting for Dimension Data who had done all the work in the peloton and they were making progress. Hence, the gap was down to 1.50 as they entered the final 40km.

 

With 35km to go, Froome launched the first attack from the breakaway but after Albasini and Verona had joined him, 9 riders again gathered as only Armee was left behind. However, the acceleration had the effect that the gap went out from 1.35 to 1.50.

 

Dimension Data were losing firepower and with 30km to go, it was only Merhawi Kudus working on the front for Dimension Data, 1.45 behind the leaders. Venter returned to the front and they got some welcome assistance from Brent Bookwalter (BMC).

 

The chase now got organized as Peter Velits, Amael Moinard, Bookwalter (BMC), Rafael Valls, Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Kudus and Venter all traded pulls on the front. That had a big effect on the gap which was down to just a minute with 16km to go.

 

Verona realized that something had to be done and so the Spaniard attacked. He briefly got clear in a solo move but Albasini quickly joined him with Kelderman on his wheel. Amador also made the junction and the quartet worked well together to keep a one-minute gap when Verona led Amador and Albasini across the line in the final intermediate sprint with 13km to go.

 

The chase got even more momentum as Frederik Veuchelen hit the front for Wanty but the gap was no longer coming down. With 10km to go, the front quartet were still 50 seconds ahead while the five chasers had already been distanced by 30 seconds.

 

With 6km to go, the chasers were brought back and Froome and Moser slotted right into the front positions to contribute to the chase. The gap was down to just 45 seconds but the four leaders were working excellently together.

 

Geraint Thomas (Sky) took a huge turn as they entered the final four kilometres and he had brought the gap down to 30 seconds as they entered the final 3km. Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) also came to the fore and it was evident that it would be a very close affair.

 

The front group worked well together until they passed the flamme rouge where they finally started to watch each other. Albasini was riding on the front when Tom Bohli (BMC) suddenly came flying from nowhere, easily passing the trio.

 

Bohli had a solid advantage with 500m to go and looked like he was riding to the win but Albasini kept his composure and slowly reeled him in. Amador and Kelderman could only hang on as he passed the fading Swiss less than 100m from the line and maintained the speed to take his sixth stage win in his home race. However, it got very close in the end as the sprinters came flying, with Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek) holding off Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo) and the Italian would have won the stage if it had been just a few metres longer.

 

A big crash in the finale split the field but Nairo Quintana finished safely and so added the Tour de Romandie to his impressive list of stage race wins. Thibaut Pinot was 19 seconds adrift in second while was another 4 seconds behind in third. Albasini won the points jersey and Sande Armee (Lotto Soudal) was the best climber. Pierre Latour (Ag2r) was the best young rider and Movistar won the teams classification.

 

With the Tour de Romandie done and dusted, the next WorldTour race is the Giro d’Italia which starts on Friday. The next major Swiss races are the GP Kanton Aargau and the Tour de Suisse in June.

 

A lumpy stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, the terrain was significantly flatter in the final stage which brought the riders over 177.8km from Ollon to Geneve. The first part was hilly and included two category 3 climbs but the second half was mainly descending and had a completely flat finish on the shores of the Lac Leman.

 

Marcel Kittel (Team Quick Step) had caught a cold and so the big favorite chose not to start when the rest of the field gathered in Ollon. In general, the list of non-starters was long since not Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Mikel Nieve (Team Sky), Rigoberto Uran, Davide Formolo (Cannondale), Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff), Andrey Zeits ( Astana) and Julien Bernard (Trek Segafredo) didn’t show up.

 

A formidable break

Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) did not have much luck as he was set back by a mechanical already in the neutral zone. He was hardly back when the flag was dropped for the real start, and the attacks started immediately. For a long time it was impossible to get clear, and only after 17km of racing was it possible for Carlos Verona (Team Quick Step) and Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) to get a gap. After another two kilometers, Chris Froome (Team Sky), Moreno Moser (Cannondale), Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale), Marc Marcato (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) made the junction, and thus a formidable group was established. Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal), Brent Bookwalter (BMC), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) and Andrey Amador (Movistar) also made it across and while Marcato was dropped, Jerome Coppel (IAM) was the final rider to close the gap.

 

The peloton was not far behind, and so Verona and Bardet tried to get away. They were joined by Froome, Amador and Albasini. Coppel, Kelderman, Moser, Grmay and Armee also made it back while the rest of the group was caught. The peloton then slowed down and after 27km of racing, the 10 riders were 1.43 ahead of the peloton.

 

Dimension Data start to chase

While Bob Jungels (Team Quick Step) left the race, Armee beat Moser, Kelderman and Verona in the first KOM sprint where the peloton reached the top two minutes later. The gap even went out to 2.25 when Brent Bookwalter (BMC) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) tried to bridge across the gap, but they never got more than 25 seconds before they were waiting for the peloton that was now 3 minutes behind

 

Dimension Data and Movistar took charge and kept the gap at about 3 minutes after the first hour that had been done at an average speed of 40.3 km/h and quite quickly it was all left to the South Africans who had reduced the gap to 2.25 after 62km of racing. It was as down to 2 minutes when they hit the last 100km. Albasini beat Verona and Froome in the first intermediate sprint.

 

Thiabut Pinot and William Bonnet (FDJ) were both involved in a relatively harmless crash, and they were thus back in the peloton after 2 hours at an average speed of 40.3km/h. From here, the lead again started to grow, and thus it was 3 minutes when they hit the day's final climb with 85km to go. Dimension Data increased the pace and when Armee won the KOM sprint ahead of Coppel, Amador and Grmay, the gap was reduced to 2.07. After three hours the average speed had dropped to 39.8km/h, and the gap was just 2.12 with 50km to go. Moments later, Froome started the attacking but it was Albasini who won the stage.

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