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Having made it into a 6-rider breakaway, Küng attacked on a slippery descent before time trialling his way to a solo win on stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie; Albasini defended the overall lead on the eve of the queen stage

Photo: ©Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

BERT JAN LINDEMAN

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JAN BAKELANTS

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MICHAEL ALBASINI

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STEFAN KÜNG

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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01.05.2015 @ 18:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than a month after taking his first professional victory at the Volta Limburg Classic, Stefan Küng (BMC) confirmed that he is destined for a big future when he took a huge home win in stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie. Having made it into a 6-rider breakaway, Küng attacked on a slippery descent before time trialling his way to a solo win while Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) beat Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) in the sprint for second. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) defended the overall lead on the eve of the qyeen stage.

 

Last year Stefan Küng excelled on the U23 scene where he won the European championships in both the time trial and the road race and finishing on the podium at the World TT championships. With an outstanding performance in the Swiss TT championships, many even drew comparisons between the young Swiss and his compatriot Fabian Cancellara.

 

His performances earned him a contract with the BMC team for the 2015 season and after a slow start to the road season where he focused on the track and won the Worlds title in the individual pursuit, he has fully lived up to his huge promise. Less than a month ago he time trialled his way to a solo win in the Volta Limburg Classic and today he topped that performance by taking his first WorldTour win on stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie.

 

The win was taken in a very similar win to the one he took in the Netherlands. Again he found himself in a strong breakaway on a very hilly course and again he attacked on a descent before going into time trial mode to hold off his chasers.

 

Early in the stage Küng made it into a 6-rider group alongside Lieuwe Westra (Astana), the Katusha pair of Anton Vorobyev and Pavel Kochetkov, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo). Westra and Vorobyev were quickly dropped and so four riders were left to press on.

 

In the peloton, no one showed any interest in organizing a chase on a very rainy day and it was the Sky and Movistar teams who did most of the work in the second half of the race. They were only intent on keeping their captains safe and as neither Michael Abasini’s Orica-GreenEDGE team nor the sprint teams did anything, it soon became clear that the break had a good chance.

 

At the top of the penultimate climb with 33km to go, Kochetkov led Bakelants, Lindeman and Küng over the top while Maxim Belkov (Katusha) was first from the peloton 2.05 later. That’s when Küng made his move on the slippery descent as he distanced his companions who did not want to take any risks in the treacherous conditions.

 

Bakelants was briefly distanced from the chasers but made it back. For a while, the trio was dangling 15 seconds behind Küng while Ian Stannard (Sky) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) were setting a steady pace in the peloton. They didn’t accelerate though and so Küng could enter the final 20km with an advantage of 2.40.

 

Küng hit the bottom of the final climb with 16km to go with an advantage of 15 seconds after he had won the final intermediate sprint ahead of Kochetkov and Bakelants. At this point, Tinkoff-Saxo hit the front in the peloton with Christopher Juul-Jensen and it was Ivan Rovny who made a big acceleration for the team on the climb. As a consequence, the gap melted away and several riders were dropped.

 

However, Kung still had an advantage of 1.25 when he crested the summit while Kochetkov had been dropped from the chasers. As he went down the descent, he extended his advantage over Bakelants and Lindeman and it was clear that he would take the win.

 

On the descent, Tony Martin and Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) attacked from the peloton and this forced Movistar to react. Jonathan Castroviejo hit the front and kept the gap to the two attackers at 15 seconds for a while.

 

However, there was no one catching Küng who extended his advantage in the final flat section and had plenty of time to celebrate his win. 38 seconds later Bakelants easily beat Lindeman in the sprint for second. Martin had dropped Alaphilippe and managed to take fourth before his teammate Gianni Meersman won the sprint for fifth.

 

For most of the day, Kochetkov was the virtual leader of the race but as he was caught in the finale, Albasini defended his overall lead. Hence, he takes his 20-second advantage over teammates Ivan Santaromita and Simon Yates and Chris Froome (Sky) into tomorrow’s queen stage where he is likely to lose the leader. After a flat start, the riders will go up four big climb, with the final one leading to the finish in Champex-Lax.

 

A hilly course

After two hilly days, it was another lumpy stage on day 4 of the Tour de Romandie when the peloton tackled 169.8km from La Neuveville to Fribourg. After a flat first part, the riders reached the hilly finale where they would first go up a category 2 climb at the midpoint. With 37km to go, they hit the bottom of another category 2 climb before they tackled a category 3 climb whose summit was located 13km from the line. From there it was a descent and a short flat section to the finish.

 

The riders had horrendous weather conditions when they gathered for the start as rain was falling heavily. As everyone was expecting a sprint finish, there was no big fight to get into the early break and already from the gun Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Stefan Küng (BMC), Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL) attacked. They were quickly joined by Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) and after a short chase Pavel Kochetkov (Katusha) also made it across.

 

A big ga

The peloton was content with the situation and after 6.5km of racing, the gap was already 56 seconds. At the 13km mark, the gap had grown massively to 4.03 and it was Sky riding slowly on the front of the group.

 

Sky lead the chase

Orica-GreenEDGE started to work with Sky but they could not prevent the gap from reacing 5.40 after 23km of racing. That was as much as they would get though as the gap was kept stable between 5.00 and 5.30 for  a while, with Sky doing the majority of the work.

 

At the 50km mark, the gap was still 5.30 but 11km later it had dropped to 6. It went back up to 5.50 after 75km of racing while Danny Pate, Luke Rowe (Sky) and John Gadret (Movistar) set the pace.

 

The break splits up

Moments later, Bakelants attacked and he managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds. He was later rejoined by Kochetkov, Vorobyev, Lindeman and Küng but Westra had now been distanced.

 

Vorobyev led Kochetkov and Küng over the line at the first intermediate sprint while Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) left the race. At this point, the gap had come down to 4.50 as Orica-GreenEDGE were now leading the chase.

 

Sky in control

While Westra was caught and Marco Coledan (Trek) abandoned, Vorobyev was dropped from the break as they went up the first climb. Here Bakelants took maximum points ahead of Kochetkov, Lindeman,  Küng and Vorobyev. At this point, the gap was 4.20.

 

Sky were now in complete control with Ian Stannard and Rowe setting the pace. As they entered the final 60km they had brought the gap down to 2.55 and it seemed that the break would get caught.

 

Movistar come to the fore

With 50km to go, Movistar started to work too as Imanol Erviti traded pulls with Pate, Rowe and Stannard. While the riders tried to stay safe in the wet conditions, they steadily brought the gap down. As they hit the bottom of the second climb, it was only 2.05.

 

No one showed any interest in making the race hard and so Stannard and Erviti set the pace all the way up the climb. When they reached the summit, they were still 2.05 behind and moments later Küng made his race-winning move.

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