Albasini Wins Shortened Second Stage of Tour de Romandie
Michael Albasini (GreenEdge) has become the first Swiss to win a stage of the Tour de Romandie in 10 years. Albasini took a sprint to win the 88-km stage from Ancona to Sion in 2:11:11. Jesus Herrada (Movistar) finished second, and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp-POC) took third. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) remains the overall leader.
The stage was shortened from 199 km to 88 km because of snow on the Category 1 Simplonpass. The stage began at Brigerbad. The course change made for aggressive racing, with Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling), Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing Team), and Boris Vallee (Lotto-Belisol) sallying off of the front. The peloton, kept the three on a short leash, however, and reeled them in midway up the only climb on the course.
Counterattacks ensued. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) got clear and forged a lead on the descent. With seven km to go, the Italian led the field by 0:25.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step led the pursuit on behalf of race leader Kwiatkowski. The Belgian squad’s pacemaking dropped a number of riders, including Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank). Nibali’s advantage was down to 0:13 with four km left.
With less than two km remaining, Nibali was reeled in. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) countered, and Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) joined him, but the bunch caught the break with 1.3 km left.
Just inside the one-km banner, Voeckler, who had fought his way back to the peloton, attacked. Dennis overtook the Frenchman. Albasini, who was on the Austrialian’s wheel, jumped him with 150 m left.
The course change was difficult and should have worked against Albasini, but the finale developed as Orica-GreenEdge expected it to. “The changes were a bit of a hassle really,” said Team GreenEdge directeur sportif Neil Stephens. “In staying that, we know it was a hassle for everyone in the whole peloton. We went to sleep last night with many unanswered questions. We didn’t know if the stage was on, what time it would start, or how we would get to the start.
“As it was, we got up earlier than necessary and our meal times were out of whack. We drove a long period in the car to the new stage start, and we arrived three hours before the stage. It was the same for the whole peloton. We were all adversely affected in the same way.
“I was worried the route change would work against us. We knew it was a hard punchy sort of finish, but I was hoping we would do the big mountain pass or at least ride around the mountain. I thought Michael needed a more select group or a harder race to win today. As it turned out, the speed was quite high and a small group came to the line anyway. My worries at the start about the shortened stage proved unjustified.”
In the overall, Kwiatkowski leads Albasini and Navardauskas by 0:05. Stage 2, a 166.5-km ride from Sion to Montreux, will feature two Category 3 ascents and will end with an uncategorized climb. Who will win? How will the GC be affected? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!