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Lithuanian surprises faster rivals by opening an early sprint and narrowly holds off Enrico Gasparotto and Gianni Meersman to take first win of his career

Photo: Sirotti

EF EDUCATION - EASYPOST

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ENRICO GASPAROTTO

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GIANNI MEERSMAN

RIDER PROFILE
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RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS

RIDER PROFILE
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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

RACE PROFILE
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25.04.2013 @ 18:15 Posted by Jesper Johannesen

Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin) surprised all of his faster rivals at the end of today's second stage of the Tour de Romandie and opened up an early sprint from a 50-rider peloton. Nobody managed to catch the Lithuanian who took his first win as a professional ahead of Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) and yesterday's winner Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

 

Garmin-Sharp is enjoying plenty of momentum these days after Daniel Martin's win in the Liege-Bastogne-Liege and with most of the team's GC riders on the start line in the Tour de Romandie the American team were expecting to be in the mix in this week's race. Few had, however, expected the squad to shine in the sprints but that was exactly what they did as Ramunas Navardauskas won the second stage from a diminished peloton.

 

The sprint came at the end of a surprisingly hard stage. The top of a category 3 climb was located with 17,3km remaining and the ascent turned out to be much tougher than expected. GC riders like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Steve Morabito (BMC) and Robert Gesink (Blanco) all used the opportunity to attack leader Chris Froome (Sky) who had to use his trusted domestique Richie Porte to close down the dangerous move.

 

The fast tempo had reduced the size of the peloton and only around 50 riders remained in the group as they headed down the descent. The pure sprinters had all been dropped and riders like Gianni Meersman and Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) fancied their chances.

 

However, they were almost foiled by a gutsy move from Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) who used the fact that Sky slowed down the pace somewhat to attack with 6km remaining. They were joined by Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) and Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) and the quartet built up a gap of more than 10 seconds.

 

Behind Blanco showed their might as most of their team had survived the climb. They wanted to set up Stef Clement for the sprint - and maybe also regarded Dyachenko as a GC threat - and they set a hard tempo. With less than 2km to go the Dutch team - assisted by Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) - closed down the move and instead Astana hit the front with Dyachenko and Gasparotto lined out ahead of Gavazzi.

 

Moments later BMC took over with the team's fast man Dominik Nerz placed in the wheel of teammate Mathias Frank but in a sharp corner with 400m to go Navardauskas surprised the American team and moved to the front. Exiting the bend he opened up his sprint and with Gavazzi lost behind Gasparotto tried to catch the Lithuanian himself.

 

He got close and Meersman approached rapidly from behind but at the line the Garmin rider still was still ahead and he took his first ever professional victory. Froome finished safely in the bunch and kept the leader's jersey ahead of another lumpy stage tomorrow.

 

Starting at 16.00, you can follow all the action in CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

A rapid start

The 190,3km stage from Prilly to Granges was a tricky one with a very steep category 2 climb at the midpoint of the race and a difficult category 3 climb inside the final 25km. Many riders wanted to go on the attack and the aggressive racing saw the riders cover no less than 46km during the first hour.

 

The stage finished just ahead of the BMC headquarters and hence it was no surprise to see Marcus Burghardt (BMC) create the first serious gap. He was later joined by Matthias Brändle (IAM) and Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) and the trio built up an advantage of more than 4 minutes.

 

Sky in control

As it was the case yesterday Froome's Sky team kept the race under firm control and the break did never have much of a chance. Today it was Chris Sutton and Peter Kennaugh who were responsible for the early pace-setting and as they approached the day's final climb with 25km to go, the gap had been reduced to 1.30.

 

On the lower slopes Burghardt dropped his companions while Astana hit the front of the peloton to make the race hard as their sprinter Gavazzi is a good climber. Jose Rujano (Vacansoleil) attacked and he managed to catch Burghardt but moments later Josh Edmondson (Sky) had brought it all back together.

 

The GC riders attack

This was the signal for Pierre Rolland (Europcar) to attack and the Frenchman was really strong as he created a gap of more than 30 seconds. Meanwhile, the hard pace by Edmondson had severely reduced the size of the peloton and the pure sprinters had all been dropped with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) one of the first to let the peloton go.

 

Midway up the climb BMC hit the front to prepare an attack from Matthias Frank who went off the front with 18km still to go. The Swiss was joined by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

 

Moments later 3rd placed Robert Kiserlovski (Raidoshack) shot out of the pack and he quickly managed to catch the duo and only Pinot was able to follow the fast Croatian. Attacks now went off in large numbers and Steve Morabito (BMC), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Robert Gesink (Blanco) and an Astana rider all joined the Kiserlovski group whick caught Rolland just after the top of the climb.

 

In the peloton Froome only had Porte left in support and the Australian had to go really hard to close down the move. With 15km to go it was, however, all back together. A number of short-lived attacks followed before Sørensen and Astarloza escaped to signal the start of a thrilling end to the stage.

 

Result:

1. Ramunas Navardauskas

2. Enrico Gasparotto

3. Gianni Meersman

4. Luka Mezgec

5. Dominik Nerz

6. Francesco Gavazzi

7. Jan Bakelants

8. Stef Clement

9. Michael Albasini

10. Manuele Mori

 

General classification:

1. Chris Froome 13.15

2. Andrew Talansky +0.06

3. Robert kiserlovski +0.13

4. Richie Porte +0.15

5. Rui Costa +0.16

6. Thibaut Pinot +0.17

7. Stef Clement

8. Alejandro Valverde

9. Tom Danielson

10. Wilco Kelderman +0.18

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