Michael Albasini takes third on stage one of the Tour de Romandie

Wed 27 Apr 2016

After finishing second in Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège and crashing in yesterday’s prologue Michael Albasini has today produced another storming performance for ORICA-GreenEDGE by finishing third on stage one of the Tour de Romandie.

After race organisers decided to shorten the length of stage one due to heavy snow, a fairly uneventful 100kilometres unfolded before the peloton came back together in the last ten kilometres in anticipation of a sprint finish.

Albasini, a multiple stage winner here over the years, used all of his strength and experience to hold off the chasing bunch as he sprinted to third behind stage winner Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep).

Sport director Neil Stephens complimented Albasini and the team’s performance.

“It was a sensible decision by the race organisers to adapt the stage route today,” said Stephens. “It was obviously the safest option although it meant that we had to change our race plan with the absence of the harder climbs.”

“Nevertheless the team were outstanding with the way they rode especially Michael (Albasini) in the finale. We decided to commit ourselves to bringing back the breakway which we did very well and then Michael was our man up there for the final kilometre and he came very close to taking the stage win.”

“Having a crack at stage results is our priority here. We haven’t come with any ambitions for the overall but Damien (Howson) has ridden himself into a good position in the general classification. We are realistic about our chances over the rest of the race of the race but it will be a valuable experience for Damien to test himself in the mountains against the big grand tour guys.”

How it happened:

The first issue for the organisers of the Tour De Romandie arrived the morning of stage one.

With freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall in the start town of La Chaux-de-Fonds the decision was taken to deviate from the original parcours and begin the stage 60kilometres into the route. Thus avoiding the worst of the snow but reducing the stage distance to 109kilometres and leaving only three categorised climbs in the stage profile.

The race finally got underway at 2.50pm CEST with the breakaway forming immediately after only two kilometres. Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal) attacked alone and gained an advantage of nearly four minutes on the bunch. Two riders followed Armee and after 20kilometres of racing they had two minutes on the peloton but were two minutes behind the lone leader.

All of the climbs that remained in the shortened parcours of stage one were classified third category. The first of these up to the village of Arissoules came after 25kilometres. On the road the race was still split into three groups with Armee maintaining his four-minute advantage over the peloton.

After an hour of racing the riders had covered 42kilometres with Movistar and Team Sky now beginning to take control of the chase at the head of the peloton. ORICA-GreenEDGE, represented at the front by Christian Meier and Jens Keukeleire, were jostling for position between Team-Sky and Movistar.

With under 40kilometres to go ORICA-GreenEDGE had moved up to the front of the peloton in force with Meier and Jack Haig stringing out the bunch behind them.

The lone leader Armee had been out front for over 70kilometres and his lead was now falling. With 30kilometres left to race he had just over three minutes on the peloton who had now caught the chasing duo of riders and were fixing their sights solely on the Lotto-Soudal rider.

Armee was caught with 13kilometres left to race and a now compact peloton fast approaching the finishing town of Moudon.

Howson and Meier exchanged pulls for ORICA-GreenEDGE at the front of the bunch with Albasini tucked in just behind his teammates over the tense final kilometres. Etixx-Quickstep were attempting to match ORICA-GreenEDGE pedal stroke for pedal stroke heading into the finishing straight.

Albasini exploded away from the bunch with 400metres to go and was alone for a few seconds before Kittel with Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) on his wheel, burst past the ORICA-GreenEDGE rider. Kittel held on for the win over the final 50metres with Bonifazio taking second and Albasini holding off the pack for third place.

Howson finished just behind the leaders and moved into 18th position on the provisional general classification.

Stage two takes place tomorrow covering 173.9kilometres from Moudon to Morgins.

Tour de Romandie stage one results:

1. Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) 2:27:46
2. Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) ST
3. Michael Albasini (ORICA-GreenEDGE) ST


 General classification after stage one:

1. Jon Izagirre (Movistar) 2:33:19
2. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) 00:00:06
3. Geraint Thomas (Team-Sky) 00:00:07
18. Damien Howson (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:00:17