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Confirming the huge progress he has made over the last few years, Pinot powered to victory in the Tour de Romandie time trial, beating Dumoulin by 2 seconds; Quintana finished 6th and extended the overall lead

Photo: A.S.O.

BOB JUNGELS

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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THIBAUT PINOT

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TOM DUMOULIN

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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29.04.2016 @ 18:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) confirmed that he has turned himself into a bit of a TT specialist by riding to an impressive stage win in the Tour de Romandie time trial. The Frenchman covered the hilly 15.1km course in Sion in 20.21 to put two seconds into pre-race favourite Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and 9 seconds into Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep). The result elevated him to second in the overall standings, 23 seconds behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who did really well by taking sixth and gaining 8 seconds on Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha).

 

At the start of his career, Thibaut Pinot was known as a pure climber who always lost a lot of time in the time trials. The discipline was a big Achilles heel for the strong Frenchman who knew that he had to make a dedicated effort to improve.

 

The results started to arrive in 2014 when he secured himself a podium place at the Tour de France by doing a good time trial on the penultimate day and he continued to make progress in 2015. However, he has taken another step in 2016 and just a few weeks ago he took his first ever TT victory at the Criterium International.

 

Today Pinot faced a big challenge on the hilly course at the Tour de Romandie where he hoped to move himself back into podium contention. However, he did much better than that as he defied all expectations by winning the stage.

 

Pinot was the fourth last rider to roll down the ramp and faced the massive task of beating pre-race favourite Tom Dumoulin who had bounced back from stomach problems by posting the best time of 20.23 which was seven seconds faster than Bob Jungels, Chris Froome (Sky) and Jerome Coppel (IAM) who all set a time of 20.30. However, it soon became evident that a surprise could be in store as the Frenchman crested the summit of the climb in a time that was a massive 10 seconds faster than the Dutchman’s.

 

The final part of the stage consisted of a real power descent which suited the big Dumoulin a lot better and so it was evident that it would be close. However, Pinot maintained enough of his advantage to reach the finish in 20.21, shaving two seconds off the mark.

 

Pinot still faced a nervous wait as two of the biggest favourites, Ion Izagirre (Movistar) and Ilnur Zakarin, were still to arrive. However, they both had disappointing rides and had to settle for 8th and 7th respectively.

 

Surprisingly, it was race leader Nairo Quintana that suddenly emerged as a threat. The Colombian was just 8 seconds behind Pinot on the top of the climb, positing the second fastest time. However, he was unable to maintain the speed on the descent and lost another second on the descent, settling for sixth place in the end.

 

It was a great outcome for the Colombian as he gained 8 seconds on Zakarin on a day when he had expected to lose time and so he comfortably defended his overall lead. In fact, Pinot moved into second and now sits just 23 seconds behind the Movistar captain while Zakarin has dropped to third, 3 seconds further adrift, with Izagirre now in fourth at 29 seconds.

 

The other big winner was of course Dumoulin who moved into fifth overall while local hero Mathias Frank (IAM) had a fine ride with 19th which allowed him to defend his 6th place. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) also bounced back from yesterday’s disappointment to make it back into the top 10.

 

The big losers were specialists Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Simon Spilak (Katusha) who had expected to gain time today. They had to settle for 24th and 17th respectively and even though they both stayed in the top 10, they had certainly hoped for a different outcome.

 

While Froome bounced back from yesterday’s disappointment by taking fourth, it was another bad day for his teammate Geraint Thomas who failed arrived almost a minute back in 36th.

 

Quintana now faces the biggest test of the entire race in the queen stage. After a flat start with just a small category 3 climb, the riders will tackle the big Col des Planches at the midpoint before going up another category 3 climb. In the end, they face a difficult 32.3km that includes an 8.9km category 1 climb with an average gradient of 7.8%. The riders will go up the climb twice, with the top coming just 4.1km from the line. The final part has a small descent before the final 400m are uphill at 4.7%.

 

A difficult time trial

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, it was time for the next big GC test in the 15.11km time trial around the city of Sion. After a flat start along the river, the riders tackled a tough climb before they powered down a descent to a short, flat section in the end.

 

It was great sunshine when Songezo Jim (Dimension Data) rolled down the ramp as the first rider but it was his teammate Youcef Reguigui who was the first to reach the finish in a time of 22.41. That allowed him to lead the race for a few minutes until Martin Kohler (Roth)went 11 seconds faster.

 

Westra takes the lead

The first specialist on the course was Steven Lammertink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and he lived up to expectations by stopping the clock in 21.20 to significantly lower the mark. His first challenger was Anthony Roux (FDJ) but the Frenchman was 21 seconds off the mark.

 

Julien Bernard (Trek) slotted into third with 22.16 which was a bit better than Peter Velits (BMC) and Gatis Smukulis (Astana) but it was Lieuwe Westra (Astana) who became the rider to beat Lammertink. The Astana rider went five second faster to move into the lead before Patrick Gretsch (Ag2r) slotted into foyrth with 21.46.

 

Best time for Devenyns

Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEDGE) narrowly missed out on the lead by just a single second while Jack Bobridge (Trek) had a disappointing ride with 21.47. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) was far off the pace but Andre Talansky (Cannondale) got close as he was just 7 seconds off the pace in fourth place.

 

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) both made it into the top 10 as did Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) who had hoped for more than 21.42. Instead, it was Dries Devenyns (IAM) who managed to beat Westra significantly by posting a time of 20.54.

 

Froome bounces back

Specialists Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) and Jos van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo) had to settle for minor places in the top 10 with 21.36 and 21.32 respectively and Tom Bohli (BMC) wasn’t much better with 21.31. Instead, it was Froome that everybody was waiting for and he made up for yesterday’s disappointment by moving into the lead with 20.30.

 

Jeremy Roy became the first FDJ rider to do well as he slotted into third with 21.06 but Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin) was even better as he moved into second with 20.51. He was quickly pushed into second by Manuele Boaro (Tinkoff) who was five seconds faster while Anton Vorobyev (Katusha) had to settle for 21.12.

 

Best time for Jungels

Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) had a great ride to move into fifth with 20.57 but it was Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) that everybody was waiting for. The Luxembourger was 4 seconds behind Froome at the time check but powered to the finish in a time that was fractions of a second faster than the Brit’s.

 

Reto Hollenstein (IAM) was the next rider to make it into the top 10 with 21.01 and Jesus Herrada (Movistar) was not much slower in 21.09. Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) was also among the 10 best with 21.05.

 

Near-miss for Coppel

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) underlined FDJ’s huge progress in the discipline by posting the fourth best time, just 17 seconds off the mark, and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) was another Giro rider who did well by slotting into 8th with 20.59. The good FDJ continued as Steve Morabito (FDJ) moved into third with a time of 20.43.

 

As expected, Jerome Coppel (IAM) was flying and he seemed to be on track for a great performance when he passed the time check in the second best time, just one second off Froome’s mark. However, it ended as a frustrating near-miss as he had to settle for third, just 0.66 second behind Jungels.

 

Disappointment for Kelderman

Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Brent Bookwalter (BMC) both made it into the top 20 while Damiano Caruso (BMC) had to settle for 15th after he had seemed to be on track for a top 20 finish. Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE) narrowly missed out on the top 10 with 21.00.

 

A disappointed Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) could only manage 21.15 and it was van Garderen who was the next big challenger. The American slotted into sixth with 20.46 before Sebastien Reichenbach became the next great FDJ rider in 10th with 20.54.

 

Dumoulin takes the lead

Thomas was far off the pace so it was Dumoulin that was expected to be the next challenge. He fully lived up to expectations as he beat Jungels by seven seconds and moved into the lead.

 

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) could only manage 17th and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale) was far off the pace in 60th. A disappointed Spilak could only manage 9th before Frank crossed the line in 15th.

 

Costa was hugely disappointed to reach the finish in 20th and he had not even caught his breath before Pinot came flying, surprisingly beating Dumoulin by just two seconds. The Frenchman was pleased to see Izagirre slot into 6th, 18 seconds off the mark, and when Zakarin and Quintana both posted the sixth best time too, it was enough to win the stage.

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