Proud performance from Howson on the Tour de Romandie Queen stage

Sat 30 Apr 2016

Another strong ride by Damien Howson for ORICA-GreenEDGE on a mountainous and wet stage five at the Tour de Romandie today saw the young Australian finish just behind leaders as he climbed with some of the best riders in the world.

A wet and miserable penultimate stage in Switzerland was won by a late attack from Chris Froome (Team-Sky) who rode away on the final climb of the day and held on until the finish.

Howson, in the race's best young rider's jersey, produced a fantastic performance to make the final selection and stay with the leaders all the way to the summit finish.

Sport director Neil Stephens praised the 23-year-old's consistency over the course of the race.

“Damien (Howson) has really taken his opportunity here,” said Stephens. “He has been in or around the top twenty everyday and it’s fantastic to see him climbing with the best guys in the world.”

“It was around five degrees all day long and the rain started to fall heavily in the final third of the race but Damien positioned himself really well and rode with confidence throughout the stage.”

“We knew that it was going to be difficult to maintain the young rider's jersey,” continued Stephens. “It is a very close run category with many strong riders in there. Damien is less than two minutes down in second place and he did everyone proud today with his performance.”

“It is another difficult day tomorrow but we will be up there as we were today and we will do our best to give Damien the opportunity to finish strongly.”

How it happened:

The Tour de Romandie Queen stage began in relatively mild conditions with an overcast and cloudy sky and temperatures in the low teens. The stage profile was typically arduous and mountainous including three category one climbs and 3,311metres of elevation before the finish.

The early breakaway formed within the first 20kilometres when Bob Jungels (Etixx-Quickstep) and Romain Bardet (AG2R-Mondiale) created the move which eleven other riders followed.

The group of thirteen stayed ahead of the peloton until the 36th kilometre when they were caught by the bunch.

Jungels was again involved in the second breakaway of eleven riders who developed a lead of over three minutes on the peloton.

This group were together for around 35kilometres before another attack by Jungels split the group on one of the day’s early climbs. Jungels led a trio of riders away up the climb, creating three groups on the road.

After 100kilometres of racing the three leaders had developed a lead of over two minutes on the first chasing group with the peloton a further minute behind.

The trio of leaders built up their advantage over the peloton to nearly five minutes with the chasers still caught in the middle, three minutes behind the Jungel's group. Team Cannondale began to take action at the front of the reduced peloton and slowly started to reduce the gap to the groups ahead.

As the race hit the final climbs of the day the leaders began to falter with the time gaps dropping rapidly between the three groups on the road.

Froome and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) attacked from the peloton and began to bridge across to the first group of chasers. With 35kilometres left to race the peloton were only one minute and ten seconds behind the leaders.

Movistar were now working with Cannondale at the front of the heavily reduced peloton. Froome and Van Garderen caught Jungels and Pavel Kochetkov (Team-Katusha) with 30kilometres reamaining. The four riders were 55seconds ahead of the peloton as they passed the finish in Villars-sur-Ollon for the first time before heading out of town to tackle the climb of Barboleusaz/Villars again.

The final climb up to the finish in Villars is just over nine kilometres in length with an average gradient of over 8% and a maximum of 15%.

Howson had made it into the Movistar led peloton who were still around 50seconds behind Froome and the other three leaders approaching the climb. With 12.5kilometres to go Simon Spilak (Team-Katusha) attacked from the bunch and attempted to bridge across to the leaders.

Froome and Van Garderen had now dropped Jungels and Kochetkov and were moving steadily up the climb. Froome attacked solo with seven kilometres reamaining and immediately opened a gap on the American.

The bunch had also split behind Van Garderen as Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) broke away as the gradient increased.

Froome held onto his advantage all the way to the line as the Quintana and Pinot group closed in rapidly behind him. Quntana took fifth place and held onto the yellow race leaders jersey. Another impressive ride by Howson saw him finish just behind the leaders group.

The Tour de Romandie concludes tomorrow with the fifth and final stage covering 172km from Ollon to Geneva.

Tour De Romandie stage four results:

1. Chris Froome (Team-Sky) 04:44:24
2. Jon Izagirre (Movistar) 00:00:04
3. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) 00:00:04
23. Damien Howson (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:01:57  

General classification after stage four:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 12:07:03
2. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) 00:00:19
3. Jon Izagirre (Movistar) 00:00:23
18. Damien Howson (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:04:21