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Albasini wins his second consecutive sprint in the Tour de Romandie when he makes use of Nizzolo to get back from a poor position and takes the leader's jersey off the shoulders of Kwiatkowski in the process

Photo: Orica GreenEdge








01.05.2014 @ 18:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) is unstoppable in his home race Tour de Romandie and today he added his second consecutive victory in the race just 24 hours after breaking a 10-year Swiss drought in the race. He made use of Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) to get back from a poor position before taking a very narrow win that also allowed him to take the overall lead away from Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).


With stage victories in races like Paris-Nice, Tour de Suisse, Volta a Catalunya, Vuelta a Espana and Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Michael Albasini has long been known as the number one stage hunter in WorldTour races and now he has also got the ball rolling in the Tour de Romandie. Just 24 hours after taking his first win in his home race, he doubled his tally when he sprinted to the victory in today's second stage of the race.


Albasini had clearly shown his intentions early in the race when he asked his teammates to assist in the chase of the early escapees Pirmin Lang (IAM) and Martin Kohler (BMC) that proved to be a very strong dup. In fact, the peloton had to dig deep to get them back and they were only brought back less than 3km from the line.


The many climbs in the finale had spelled the end for Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) who were some of the riders to fall off the pace in the hectic finale, but the peloton still contained plenty of fast finishers when they powered towards the line in Montreux. In the hectic run-inm however, most of them seemed to be poorly positioned as Tony Martin set a hard pace to set up race leader Michal Kwiatkowski for the sprint.


Albasini was one of the many rider to find himself too far back but it was his lucky day as he was on the wheel of Giacomo Nizzolo who did a long sprint from far behind. While Kwiatkowski launched his sprint from the front, Nizzolo had brought Albasini back to the front end of the group just in time to make his final effort.


The Swiss put down the hammer but unlike yesterday his win was not a convincing one. He narrowly held off a fast-finishing Tony Hurel (Europcar) while Nizzolo had to settle for third.


Kwiatkowski faded back into 5th and as he had only started the day 5 seconds ahead of Albasini, the 10 seconds on the line were enough for the Swiss to take over the lead. Hence, he heads into tomorrow's queen stage with a 5-second lead over Kwiatkowski.


However, it will be a tough ask for him to defend the jersey. The riders will go up 4 big category 1 climbs on the stage and even though it is a downhill and flat run down to the line in Aigle, the stage is set to open up some massive time gaps that will have a big impact on the final overall classification.


The easiest stage

After yesterday's shortened stage, the Tour de Romandie continued with another hilly affair but the 166.5km stage from Sion to Montreux was widely regarded as the easiest of the race. After a flat start, the riders went up two category 3 climbs in the second half and faced another uncategorized ascent that preceded a 30km downhill run to the finish.


Rain had been predicted for the stage but again the riders were pleasantly surprised as it stayed dry by the time they rolled out from the start in Sion. Two riders failed to make the start as Bart De Clercq (Lotto Belisol) and Matej Mohoric (Cannondale) who crashed in the finale of yesterday's stage are now out of the race.


Two riders take off

The stage was widely tipped to be one for the sprinters and so it was no surprise to see that very few riders had any intention on going on the attack. Right from the gun, Pirmin Lang (IAM) and Martin Kohler (BMC) took off and the two home riders were immediately allowed to build up a gap.


At the 7km mark, they were 57 seconds ahead but 5km further up the road, the gap was already 5 minutes. The peloton showed no interest in the chase and when they reached Martigny, the escapees were a massive 12.56 ahead.


OPQS in control

The gap reached a maximum of 13.10 before Omega Pharma-Quick Step started to control the situation. Like yesterday Serge Pauwels and Julien Vermote assumed their position on the front and they kept the gap stable between the 12- and 13-minute marks for some time.


When they hit the first climb of the day, the peloton started to speed  up and 2km from the top, they had reduced their deficit to 9.20. At the top it was down to 7.50 as Lang beat Kohler in the battle for the points while KOM leader Johann Tschopp (IAM) beat Edward Beltran (Tinkoff-Saxo) in the sprint from the peloton to score another 2 points and so extend his lead.


Orica lead the chase

In the first sprint of the day, Kohler beat Lang while Reto Hollenstein (IAM) took the final point on offer to add to the ones he already took in yesterday's stage. At the 96km mark, the gap has come down to 6.52 and with 50km to go, the escapees were only 5.30 ahead.


The riders had now started the final category 3 climb and it was Albasini's Orica-GreenEDGE team that led the chase. While Brett Lancaster, Nino Schurter and Svein Tuft swapped turns on the front, riders started dropping off the back and the gap was constantly coming down.


Belkin up the pace

With 46km to go, Jack Bobridge wanted to up the pace for Belkin that had big hopes for Moreno Hofland in the stage. Unintentionally, he got a gap with Tschopp and Christopher Juul (Tinkoff-Saxo) but when he realized it, he slowed down to set a hard pace on the front.


Over the top of the climb, Lang was allowed to take maximum points while Bobridge had now been replaced by Tinkoff-Saxo on the front of the peloton. As they neared the summit, Tschopp hit the front to lead the peloton across the line with a 3.15 deficit.*


Kittel gets dropped

Kittel and Lobato had both been dropped by Tinkoff-Saxo's and Belkin's acceleration and the two teams continued to set the pace on the descent, with Stef Clement, Edward Beltran and Pawel Poljanski doing the work. However, Tinkoff soon stopped their work, leaving it all to Bobridge who took another big turn.


OPQS took over with Jan Bakelants leading the peloton onto the final uncategorized climb where Bobridge again tightened the screws. At the back of the peloton, Nizzolo appeared to be struggling but he made it over the climb with the best.


Belkin fail to make a difference

Bobridge was unable to make much of a difference as the gap was stable around 2.40 and so OPQS again hit the front, with Tony Martin even taking a turn. On the descent, Belkin again took over as Clement and Paul Martnes started swapping turns on the front.


The gap had come down to 1.45 but it was only coming down every so slowly. 18km from the line, ti was still 1.35 and the other sprint teams realized that something had to be done.


Katusha kick into action

With 15km to go, Pavel Brutt and Egor Silin hit the front for Katusha and that made a big difference. When Kohler led Lang over the line at the intermediate sprint 12km from the line, they were only 1.10 ahead.


Tinkoff-Saxo now took control of the chase and they brought the gap down to 30 seconds 7km from the line. As they started to fade, they got some assistance from Orica-GreenEDGE but the gap seemed to have frozen at around 20 seconds.


Lampre bring back the break

That changed when Lampre-Merida hit the front and Elia Favilli led the peloton onto the final small rise 3km from the line. Bjorn Thurau (Europcar) but as he had a Garmin rider and Rui Costa on his wheel, he never got clear.


The action, however, ended the day for the breakaway and now Martin hit the front with Kwiatkowski on his wheel. The German led the peloton all the way to less than 500m from the line where the race leader launched his sprint. At that point, however, Nizzolo had already gone from afar and when Albasini came off his wheel, he took a narrow win to make it two in a row.



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