Howson sprints to fifth on a punishing day at the Tour de Romandie

Wed 1 May 2019

Australian Damien Howson sprinted to fifth place from a select group of favourites on the opening road stage of the Tour de Romandie after a punishing day of climbing in Switzerland.

The 26-year-old stuck with the reduced bunch over the final climb of the day and then attacked in the closing kilometres before leading out the sprint for the line in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Climbs Ahead

With a tough day in prospect, a host of riders were keen to get into the day’s breakaway and 13 riders were eventually allowed some leeway by the peloton. The escapees’ numbers were reduced by one over the first two climbs of the day, but by the time they reached the Haut-de-la-Côte, their advantage stood at over three minutes.

However, as the race moved inside the final 100-kilometres, the pace back in the bunch was ramped up and the gap to the break soon began to fall. As the bunch passed through the finish line for the first time the advantage stood at just over one minute, with two categorised climbs still to be dealt with.

The remains of the escapees were reeled back in on the final classified climb of the stage as the raced edged into 30-kilometres to go. The bunch being wilted down with a strong tempo being set and veteran Michael Albasini found himself in difficulty off the back.

Race Comes Alive

The attacks began to roll off the front after the summit of the climb with a trio edging clear of the reduced peloton before it was down to just Emmanuel Buchman (BORA – hansgrohe) left dangling ahead of the pack.

There was a reaction from the bunch with 12-kilometres to go as the road ramped up once more with three riders setting off in pursuit of the lone leader. The trio manged to bridge across to Buchman, but the bunch were hot on their heels and it was all back together with five kilometres to go.

Some riders were not content to wait for a reduced sprint as several attacks came and went, including an effort from Howson in the closing kilometres. But with nothing sticking, the stage came down to a bunch kick for the line and it was Howson who opened up the sprint, eventually taking fifth across the line behind winner Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma).

Damien Howson:
“I was feeling quite good today, quite comfortable on the climbs and that gave me some confidence coming into the last 20-kilometres. I tried to play it cool and select my moves, I had two or three digs before the final kilometre, but in the end I just backed myself for the sprint. It’s not something I’m really familiar doing, but it was nice to see the finish line and give it a go.”

“The Tour de Romandie never really has any easy stages as such and today was probably a lot harder than people predicted, myself included. I thought it was going to come down to a group of maybe 70 or 80 riders, but it turned out to be much more selective than that.”

“Over the last few months of racing I’ve put together consistent performances and my form has been quite good, particularly coming out of Fleche and Liege, and now I’ve been given an opportunity here to put a result on the board for myself and today has given me a lot of confidence for the rest of the week.

Tour de Romandie Stage 1 Results:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 4:15:18
2. David Gaudu (Groupama – FDJ) ST
5. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) ST

Tour de Romandie General Classification after Stage 1:
1. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) 4:20:15
2. Rui Costa (UAE-Team Emirates) +0:10
9. Damien Howson (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:18

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.