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"There, he made a maneuver the judges considered it wasn't to be allowed, and they relegated him. Zakarin surely would have bested me otherwise, but that move made the jury to take action."

Photo: Movistar Team

TOUR DE ROMANDIE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
28.04.2016 @ 22:16 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) got a hugely controversial stage win in the first big mountain stage of the Tour de Romandie after Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) who had initially beaten him in a 2-rider sprint, was relegated for irregular sprinting. The pair had combined forces to put 26 seconds into a select group of favourites that was led to the finish by Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and as Zakarin made a swerve in the sprint, the Colombian was awarded the victory. Quintana moves into the overall lead on a day when Chris Froome (Sky) was taken out of contention by a puncture.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Nairo Quintana: Zakarin would probably have beaten me anyway

A strong, confident attack awarded Nairo Quintana the success on stage two of the Tour de Romandie, 170km from Moudon to the Cat-1 Pas de Morgins. The 26-year-old Colombian knew his time was coming today, and at the final climb, 6.5km from the finishing line, he showed the courage he's proven to have so many times to claim a maiden win on Helvetic soil which allows the Movistar Team to retain the jersey worn by Ion Izagirre, race leader from Tuesday's prologue.

 

The hills, ups and downs of the Valais canton were the ideal terrain for an early, six-man breakaway opening more than four minutes over the field. However, the real racing started with the last 21km of climbing on the Col des Champs (Cat-2), where Silin (KAT), Impey (OGE) and Wyss (IAM) sticked to their chances as the FDJ and Movistar Team riders pulled from behind. Chris Froome (SKY), arguably Quintana’s biggest threat for the Romandie GC, suffered a mechanical failure that prevented him from keeping the pace of the main group.

 

Following fantastic teamwork from Amador, Anacona, Jesús Herrada, Gorka Izagirre, Pedrero and José Joaquín Rojas, only Quintana and Izagirre remained ahead on the final climb of Morgins. Quintana’s time came with 6.5km to go, the Colombian leaving the group behind as only Ilnur Zakarin (KAT) could keep his pace. Looks of fatigue, swerving, pure psychology between the two climbers. As the steepest part of Morgins was covered, the two tackled the final sprint, where the Movistar Team rider eventually prevailed as the race jury considered Zakarin's move was irregular. Quintana obtains the Movistar Team's 15th victory of the 2016 season, the Blues always on top of the leaderboard since the action in Switzerland started two days ago.

 

Nairo Quintana said:

 

"It was a great result for us. The team spent the whole day at the front, just like they did yesterday - all of them were fabulous. Heading into the climbs everything felt OK for me; I knew I had a chance to attack and go for the win and open some big gaps if I moved near the bottom; the rivals here could scare anyone, but I still wanted to try it - and that move was a big success. Obviously, Zakarin proved to be strong, seeing how he reached me down on the ascent.

 

"We kept taking turns to build the gap and keep strong before the sprint. There, he made a maneuver the judges considered it wasn't to be allowed, and they relegated him. Zakarin surely would have bested me otherwise, but that move made the jury to take action.

 

”I'll try to defend this jersey tomorrow with a good TT; depending on Friday's performance, we might as well try and profit from Saturday's climbs. Let's hope we can keep it up after this week's efforts. It won't be easy to win with such an amazing field of competitors; should we do it, it will be a great sign for the 'yellow dream' quest."

 

"We saw that the team worked very well. They rode all day and in the end I pushed hard to get the win. I finally arrived with Zakarin and with this maneuver that the judges considered invalid, they decided to give me the victory. For judges, it was a clear decision but it is true that without this maneuver he would have probably beaten me ... but it is the decision of the judges. We saw what he did and they disqualified him. It’s too bad for him. He is a very strong rival who will do the GC and we will have to keep an eye on him.

 

"I'll try to do the TT as best I can and defend my jersey. Among those behind me, there are many TT specialists but they should not forget that there will be a mountain stage on Saturday.

 

”I am aware that I will lose a few seconds, but then I will not have to worry in the mountains. I have a very strong team.

 

"It is necessarily a good sign to be already in yellow here. It gives me a lot of confidence for the Tour de France where I will have to face many rivals who are at least as strong as those that are here and it will not be easy.”

 

Ilnur Zakarin: This wrong decision will make me more mad and motivated for the time trial

In a jury decision that can best be described as controversial, Team KATUSHA’s Ilnur Zakarin was relegated to second place after earning the stage win in a two-up mountain sprint against Nairo Quintana in stage 2 of the 70th Tour de Romandie on Thursday. A slight movement to his right resulted in a protest from the Movistar team and a jury decision to gift the win to Quintana. Zakarin was moved to second place.

 

”Of course I am sad and disappointed with this decision. I think the decision was wrong. But all I can do now is just be better tomorrow. This situation makes me mad and gives me motivation for tomorrow’s stage – I think I can do a good ITT. I hope tomorrow I can answer what has happened today with the bike,” said team leader Ilnur Zakarin.

 

An attack from Quintana on the final climb was easily responded to by Zakarin, who rode across to the Colombian rider for the last 6 km of racing. Coming into the last few turns before the finish line in Morgins, Ilnur Zakarin was positioned perfectly and came around Quintana in the closing meters to win the stage with a clear set of wheels. A protest was filed in regards to the movement from Zakarin and a jury decision modified the stage results, giving Quintana the stage win. He also wears the yellow jersey by 18-seconds to Zakarin.

 

“I completely disagree with the decision of the jury. Ilnur did a small deviation which was nothing, maybe 10 cm. If he had done this movement slowly there would be no discussion, but he did it quickly and now there is talk. In our head and in front of everyone, we won this stage. As best we can understand from the jury’s decision is that they say ‘maybe’ Quintana could have won without the small maneuver from Zakarin,” said a clearly disappointed team directorDmitry Konyshev.

 

The 173,9 km stage began in Moudon and saw Team KATUSHA rider Egor Silin in the day-long break that pulled out more than five minutes on the road. But by the last two climbs the main GC contenders were in the front with KATUSHA’s Rein Taaramäe driving the pace and making the race hard. In addition to Zakarin’s result, teammate Simon Špilak was tenth. 

 

”The team was working very well today. We saw Silin in the breakaway and Rein impressive on the last climb. Plus I was not expecting such a strong performance from Ilnur today. He’s in preparation for the Giro, so today was just a small test for things to come,” said team directorDmitry Konyshev.

 

Optimistic Rui Costa the best of the rest in Romandie

Rui Costa was once again on the podium after the third place which was obtained in Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

 

Four days later, the Portuguese champion was 3rd in the 2nd stage, confirming his good form and his quality of being always competitive. Rui Costa beat the other riders of his group on the finish line, obtaining the 3rd place at 26 seconds from Quintana.

 

It was also a good performance by Meintjes, who was 18th at 57″ and there was perfect support to the captains from Polanc and Grmay.

 

In the overall classification, Rui Costa is 5th at 36 seconds.

 

"The performance and the result of today's stage pleases me,” says Rui Costa. “Quintana and Zakarin aside, I managed to precede all the best GC riders, outdistancing even some strong climbers.

 

“I want to thank the team, because all the teammates have moved very well, allowing me to always be in a great position.”

 

Rigoberto Uran gets confidence from strong ride in Romandie

On a day when the conditions were much friendlier to the racers, the Tour de Romandie tackled the first big mountain stage. After a long climb to the finish, Rigoberto Uran claimed fourth place to earn himself a big jump in the overall classification to 10th.

 

Pierre Rolland crossed the line with the same time as Uran to finish ninth, earning him a trip up the leader board to eighth.

 

 

"I'm really happy with today because it is an important test for me ahead of the Giro,” Uran said. “Almost everyone here is part of the Giro team and everyone is in good condition. For the Giro, Davide has shown he will be good support for me, and here in Romandie we will be helping Pierre on the next mountain stage.”

 

Davide Formolo ready for the Giro after taking white jersey in Romandie

Finishing a handful of seconds behind Uran and Rolland was Davide Formolo. The young Italian finished 13th on the stage and now sits in 11th overall and also earned the white jersey as the tour's Best Young Rider.

 

"It was very selective on the last climb. We had already gone fast on the previous climb and the selection was made from the back. In the end, when I started to pull to try to bring Quintana and Zakarin back, I did not succeed. However this was the first uphill finish after a long training camp on Teide and we were three in front for the team. Now we look with confidence to the next stages and the next races, especially next month. The TT is a bit of my Achilles heel but it is always good to test myself and prove to myself that I have improved,” Formolo told Spaziociclismo.

 

Thibaut Pinot: I missed that little bit extra to go with Zakarin

"We wanted to make the race hard,” Thibaut Pinot told L’Equipe. “It's nice to see a group like this. I was too far back when Quintana attacked and I missed the little trick to follow Zakarin when he took off in pursuit. I'm fourth, I have to make a big TT as I hope to be on the podium overall.There is a piece of flat, then a climb into the vineyards for 3, 4 kilometers and then it ends with a very fast descent to Sion. " 

 

Tinkoff: Rafal Majka is where he needs to be for the Giro

The Tour de Romandie had its first mountain stage today. The 173.9km route took in three categorised climbs and a mountaintop finish. After strong support from his teammates, Rafal Majka finished the stage in a group of ten that broke away on the final climb of the day. Twenty-six seconds after the stage winner, Majka finished in a strong seventh position, ready to fight for the podium in the later mountain stage.

 

After such a hard effort, Sport Director, Patxi Vila was pleased with the team’s performance in positioning Rafal towards the front of the race.

 

“The team worked well in keeping Rafal near the front ahead of the climb. It was made hard as the tempo on the last two climbs was really high but they got him to where he needed to be so he could test himself on the last climb.”

 

In this group, Rafal Majka looked calm and comfortable behind, and while the gap increased, he waited to see how the chasing group would react, rather than waste energy trying to bridge to the escape himself without support.

 

In the first mountain stage, Vila understood Majka’s reluctance to bridge.

 

“I think that we can be happy. We knew that Rafal was coming from altitude so the first racing test is tricky. He felt ok on the climb, but was missing perhaps a bit of confidence to go with Zakarin and Quintana when they went.”

 

With 4km to go, patches of snow by the side of the road were signs of the altitude the climb was reaching, and as the gap reached 25 seconds and the escapees were working together to increase the gap, Rafal’s group of ten started upping the pace. As a two-man sprint unfolded up the road for the win, the chasing group prepared for the finish, with the Polish Tinkoff leader taking seventh place, crossing the line 26 seconds after the stage winner.

 

After the race, Vila summed up the day’s racing, and looked ahead to the coming stages.

 

“Rafal is where he needs to be and where he expected to be at this point before the Giro. We always want to win but we can be happy ahead of tomorrow and then the next climbing test on Saturday – seventh on the stage and still within touching distance of the podium on GC. He felt ok in the leaders’ group, which is good, and we can look forward to tomorrow now for the next test.”

 

After working hard to support the team both at the Tour de Romandie and the early season races, Adam Blythe pulled out of the race today, as Vila explained.

 

“Adam Blythe had to stop today. He was struggling a bit with sickness and I think after a long, hard classics period his body could still be a bit tired.”

 

On stage 3 tomorrow, the mountain stages are punctuated by a time trial. Longer than the prologue, at 15.11km, the time trial represents another opportunity to test bikes and positions in advance of next month’s Giro d’Italia. Vila was looking forward to the opportunity that a longer time trial route would present.

 

“Tomorrow will be an important test ahead of the Giro in the time trial. It will be a good opportunity to test the positions on the bikes and also to get into the rhythm of a longer TT than the prologue, and then we’re climbing again on Saturday.”

 

Strong Mathias Frank regrets not having tried to follow Quintana and Zakarin

“This is good for my confidence,” Mathias Frank commented while he was beginning his recovery after a hard stage.  “I have to thank my teammates who really did do everything possible to put me in a perfect position as we were approaching the final two climbs.  Looking back, I am almost disappointed that I did not try my luck also when Zakarin and Quintana attacked.  But I would have been risking exploding at the end.”

 

It was a perfect passing of the baton between Marcel Wyss and Mathias Frank on the last meters of the ascent of the Champs.  Wyss had been in the escape since the tenth kilometer of the stage, and managed to stay in the lead in order to act as a bridgehead for his leader, and to take him onto the descent in the direction of Troistorrents.

 

The IAM Cycling climber perfectly understood and executed his instructions from Rik Verbrugghe and Thierry Marichal, the directeurs sportifs for the Swiss professional team at Romandie. 

 

“I accelerated on a little climb in a village that had lost of turns, and then was just gone.  But I never imagined we would make it first to the finish.”

 

“To say I am happy today is putting it mildly,” Rik Verbrugghe, the sports manager for the Swiss World Tour team explained.  “Even though Mathias Frank isn’t happy with his result considering the fact he had great legs – which is a good sign – the team worked perfectly.  Everything went as expected: we had a man in the break and then the other teammates were there to help place Mathias Frank beautifully before the final.”

 

Mathias Frank gained 14 places in the overall classification on account of his 8th place at the arrival in Morgins.  That result means that he has moved up to 6th place, just 37 seconds behind the overall leader, Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

 

Bauke Mollema digs deep to rejoin elite group in Romandie mountains

Bauke Mollema dug deep in the final kilometer and latched back onto the chasing group that finished 26 seconds behind Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in stage two of the Tour of Romandie, Thursday.

 

In the two-up sprint, Zakarin bolted around Quintana for the win but was later relegated for an illegal sprint, handing the victory to Quintana.

 

The nine-rider group contested the minor places moments later, and Mollema finished 11th after being distanced in the final uphill and fighting back in the final meters.

 

"I had good power all day," said Mollema. "I am more a guy with power not like the little climbers who are lighter than me and have an advantage on the steep parts, so I am better when it is a little flatter – like 4 to 5 percent. Today, I still had something extra at the end, and luckily I came back.

 

"The first climb was hard but not full gas, and then I asked Peter (Stetina) to go faster to make the race hard. I felt good, and the second climb when Quintana attacked it was really fast. And after I was in a small group, and then in the last kilometer of the climb I still had a small gap but came back on the flat part on the top. Everything is still possible between 15 guys on GC. Tomorrow an uphill TT and then one more uphill finish to go."

 

Fumy Beppu rode strong out front all race, joining five others to form the day's escape group that was eventually reeled in on the penultimate climb, leaving the team's top climbers to tackle the final work.

 

"Honestly, Fumy in the break was not in the plan, because I wanted the maximum amount of guys to work for Bauke today," explained director Alain Gallopin. "But him being there is never a bad thing; it is still good for the team. At the second to last climb, Peter and Ryder (Hesjedal) were there with Bauke. It was a crosswind ahead of the last climbs, and the team did a good job there.

 

"On the last climb near the end, Bauke was at his limit, but he did a great job to come back to the group on the flat part. In the road book it looked like it was still climbing, but when I saw it on TV, I told Bauke it is flat after the GPM line.  I said, 'Bauke, Bauke, it's flat, go full! full! full!' He made a big, big effort to come back and like this, he is still in the game for the next days."

 

Trek-Segafredo is down to seven men as Julian Arredondo abandoned, a result of ongoing back pain.

 

"Julian said he had a back problem," explained Gallopin.  "I am not sure and will have to check with him, but it is not good news."

 

Mollema climbed into 9th place overall, 44 seconds behind the new race leader Nairo Quintana. Tomorrow the Tour of Romandie continues with a 15-kilometer time trial, followed by the queen stage, Saturday.

 

Strong Pierre Latour takes over form ill Romain Bardet in Romandie

"Romain [Bardet]] was ill (he suffers from grasto-enteritis, ed.) and our team was a bit disorganized early in the stage,” Ag2r sports director Stephane Goubert said. “Pierre Latour was up there and this is a confirmation of his enormous potential (he was 14th, ed.). Regarding Romain, there is a TT tomorrow which can allow him to do well. There are two stages, including one in the mountains, to end Romandie with a smile.”

 

In-form Louis Vervaeke crashes out of the Tour de Romandie

Unfortunately for Louis Vervaeke a crash forced him to withdraw from the race. The young Belgian has muscle contusions and abrasions on both hips. He was leading the best young rider classification.

 

Vervaeke said: “I think that the injuries I sustained today are okay, so it isn’t that bad. However, I felt that they just made riding the bike more difficult, particularly with the uphill finish on today’s stage. I found that I couldn’t produce that much power anymore, and my hips in particular really hurt.

 

”But I think it hurts much more mentally and psychologically, because I came to the Tour de Romandie this year trying to achieve a top ten result in the general classification, and I also had good form and good legs coming into the race. So in that respect, it’s very disappointing to have a crash at this time.”

 

Servaas Bingé, team doctor Lotto Soudal, added: “The crash caused some abrasions, especially on Louis’ knee and hips, as well as bigger contusions on both of his hips. This meant that he wasn’t able to put force on his legs anymore after the crash. As a result of the injuries he sustained, he was unable to continue riding, so he decided to abandon the race in the feed zone.”

 

His teammate Thomas De Gendt chose to get in a breakaway today. On the penultimate climb, about twenty kilometres before the finish, De Gendt disappeared from the front. Rafael Valls was the Lotto Soudal rider who remained in the group the longest. He would eventually become fifteenth at 57 seconds of stage winner Nairo Quintana. He is seventeenth overall at 1’07”.

 

Stomach problems set Tom Dumoulin back in Romandie

On the slopes of the final climb of the day, Tom Dumoulin was well positioned near the front of a reduced peloton. With 5km remaining, attacks started to take place and only around 12 riders were left with two leaders up front. For Tom Dumoulin, the tough uphill finish was a bit too much in the end as he rode his own pace on the final ascent.

 

Tom Dumoulin managed to limit losses as he finished in 16th place, 57″ behind the winner. Nairo Quintana is the new the overall leader and Dumoulin is now 13th in the overall classification before tomorrow’s time trial.

 

Tom Dumoulin said: “We hoped for more today, but I could not give everything on the final climb as I had some stomach problems. I am of course slightly disappointed but now I will focus on tomorrow’s individual time trial.

"The climbers had only two stages to make a difference, so we could expect a big fight today and it was just like that. For me it did not go well. I expected to be better. When Quintana went, I could not follow the peloton. It was shit. I set my own tempo and then it was better. I did not lose too much time but I was hoping to be in the group that sprinted for third. Normally I think it would have been possible.

 

"The TT could have been longer ... I hope to win tomorrow and get back time. I think the course suits me perfectly. There is a difficult climb which will make it more exciting.”

 

Coach Hans Timmermans added: “The plan was to protect Tom and to make the first step for a good general classification. The team did a good job in bringing Tom in a good position before the key moments. On the penultimate climb, Tom was at the front of the peloton and he could keep up with the pace of the bunch. Unfortunately, on the tough uphill finish, he had some difficulties and he had to set his own pace to eventually finish in 16th place.”

 

Wilco Kelderman suffers from prologue crash in Romandie

Wilco Kelderman finished 17th in the second stage of the Tour de Romandie today, 57 seconds behind winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man followed the first group for a long time on the final climb, but lost contact when Quintana attacked. The Colombian also grabbed the overall lead.

 

The second stage of the Tour de Romandie was the first one with an uphill finish. The riders had to climb two mountains in the last 22 kilometres. Kelderman’s team-mates delivered him to the foot of the first of the two climbs.

 

“What went wrong yesterday ran better today,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “The team led out Wilco and supported him. Wilco was in good position until Quintana attacked. We wanted a little more than this 17th place, but we can’t blame anyone. We didn’t make a mistake, Wilco wasn’t good enough to stay with the best, unfortunately.”

 

Kelderman feared this scenario already before the race. The Dutch climber was still suffering from his crash in Tuesday’s prologue.

 

“My tibia is still swollen and it’s quite painful,” he explained. “I didn’t want to accept that and gave it all today regardless. I can live with it, but I want to improve in the coming days. I was already pushing through my limits when the first group was together today. When Quintana accelerated, I had to let them go, though.”

 

Friday’s time trial gives Kelderman an opportunity to win back some time.

 

“It’s a time trial that ideally should suit him,” Verhoeven said. “The climb in it will be decisive. The climbers will also be on the top of the result sheet tomorrow. Wilco won’t be able to win back much time on the climbers, but he has to give it his all. We’ll see what his position is afterwards.”

 

Disastrous day for Froome and Thomas in Romandie mountains

Team Sky endured a difficult day on the second stage of the Tour de Romandie, with Chris Froome puncturing at the worst possible time and Geraint Thomas unable to affect the outcome.

 

The team had been perfectly positioned heading into the final two climbs, but Froome suffered a flat tyre just before the road ramped upwards, and with the racing well and truly on, he was unable to regain his place in a quickly-dwindling peloton.

 

Thomas kept battling on, but slipped off the pace in the last 6km, and crossed the line 57 seconds down on the triumphant Quintana.

 

Thomas is in 14th position, 54 seconds back.

 

Everything had looked to be going well as the peloton approached the penultimate ascent, with Alex Peters, Salvatore Puccio and Michal Kwiatkowski all pulling hard on the front to help bring back an early six-man breakaway.

 

Bad luck struck 21km from home though when Froome suffered a flat front tyre and Mikel Nieve stopped to give him a replacement.

 

Despite the duo's best efforts, they were unable to regain contact, and Thomas couldn't keep pace when Quintana jumped clear on the first-category ascent to the finish.

 

Froome and Nieve eventually rolled home over 17 minutes down.

 

”Day to forget here at Romandie... Bad luck for Froomey and my legs disappeared with 5km to go #thatsbikeracingiguess,” Thomas tweeted.

 

"When Froome punctured, Nieve gave him his wheel, the change has taken a long time, and he made ​​a violent effort to try to come back,” sports director Nicolas Portal told L’Equipe. “He came close to the group but they rode fast. If Thomas had waited, he could never defend his own chances.”

 

Crash takes van Garderen out of contention in Romandie

It was a crash-marred Tour de Romandie Stage 2 for BMC Racing Team which made for a tough day of racing on the first stage for the General Classification contenders.

 

Just after the feed zone with around 60 kilometers to go Tejay van Garderen, Tom Bohli, and Peter Velits crashed into a medical car which stopped suddenly during the race. Fortunately the three riders were able to continue racing.

 

Tejay van Garderen finished in 20th place, 1’01 behind stage winner and new race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).

 

Yvon Ledanois, BMC Sports Director, said:

 

“Today was the first of the big stages for the General Classification contenders and with three categorized climbs and a summit finish, we knew it was going to be tough. To have three of our guys caught up in a crash heading into the final part of the race was not good. That kind of thing breaks the focus, especially when you need to focus on the big climbs up ahead.

 

“Now our focus turns to the time trial tomorrow and the race is far from over. A time trial like tomorrow should suit a rider like Tejay and although it’s only 15 kilometers, riders can lose and gain a fair bit of time on this sort of course. And then of course we still have the final two stages on Saturday and Sunday.”

 

Tejay van Garderen added:

 

“The crash was really unexpected and I definitely felt a bit off in the final. We look to the time trial now but you never know how your body is going to respond after a crash. I’m sitting around a minute back on GC so it’s hard to pull that kind of time back, but you have to stay focused.”

 

Merhawi Kudus ready for the Giro with good ride in Romandie

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were part of the early action on today's 174km stage from Moudan to Morgins. South African champion, Jaco Venter, broke away inside the first 20km of the stage with 5 other riders. Venter and his companions combined well to forge out a gap of 5 minutes over the Movistar led peloton.

 

As we approached the cat 2 climb, the African Team were looking to deliver Merhawi Kudus to a good position. Venter and the other breakaway riders were reeled in on the lower slopes while Kudus and Natnael Berhane were looking good on the positive gradient. It was only a small group of around 40 riders that went over the top of the penultimate climb together.

 

The final climb was attacked with some venom by the lead group and the telling move came when Quintana and Zakarin got away with 5km to go. The chase blew the race to bits and each rider was then on their own. Kudus hung on for as long as he could, but got distanced near the top. The Eritrean still rode hard to the line and came home 21st, 1'33" after Quintana and Zakarin. Berhane also had a solid ride on this tough mountain stage, finishing 38th.

 

Sports director Oli Cookson said:
 

“It was a really hard stage. We got Jaco into the break which was obviously part of our plan today. He obviously did a superb ride and it was great to get the South African jersey in the break. It was a good test for his legs and a nice workout before the Giro. He showed he has the condition so it was nice to have the team and South African colours on T.V. for most of the day.

 

”Obviously when that came back together the main aim was to put Kanstantsin Siutsou, Merhawi and Natnael in a good position but it was very difficult to do that. From the result Merhawi showed how good he is and how good his legs are. The others had to fight maybe a bit too much to get into position, the roads were really narrow particularly that descent from the cat 2 to the final climb. It was interesting to see some big name riders getting dropped.

 

”It is a hard race and it's still cold up here so to see Merhawi up there and leading that group across the line, it looks good for the Giro. For tomorrow's TT we will see how we go with Siutsou and Cameron Meyer but in all, we are happy with today after Merhawi and Jaco's good rides.   

 

Strong ride by Daryl Impey, sick Simon Gerrans abandons

It was a long 150kilometres in the breakaway for South African time trial champion Daryl Impey on stage two of the Tour de Romandie. The 2014 Tour of Alberta winner got into the early attack and stayed at the head of the race going into the final climb to Morgins.

 

Impey went with five other riders after only six kilometres of racing had taken place and performed aggressively for the next 150kilometres, winning the award for the day’s most combative rider.

 

Unfortunately ORICA-GreenEDGE were forced to start stage two with a team reduced in numbers due to a recurring Achilles tendon problem for Jens Keukeleireand illness for Simon Gerrans. Both riders left the race today.

 

Sport director Neil Stephens praised the gutsy ride by Impey.

 

“It was a really strong ride by Daryl (Impey) today,” said Stephens. “He got himself in the early move after Christian (Meier) had been pretty active over the first few kilometres and from then on he was always working and riding aggressively.

 

“From the team’s perspective it was a great move by Daryl because it meant that we could sit in the bunch for a big chunk of the stage and keep ourselves relatively fresh for the last climbs.

 

“Damien (Howson) did a good job again trying to stay up near the front in the finale,” continued Stephens. “He was just outside the top twenty on the stage and also on the overall. Like we said yesterday this a great experience for the younger guys like Damien and Jack (Haig) and it’s good to see them getting out there and testing themselves.”

 

Marcel Kittel defends point jersey in the Tour de Romandie

For Marcel Kittel, the Tour de Romandie is the 21st different stage race in which he scored a win since turning pro, and following his victory on Wednesday afternoon, he jumped to first in the green jersey classification. One day later, a tough stage (Moudon – Morgins, 173.9 km) awaited the peloton, with an uphill finish which was expected to see the GC favourites come to the forefront. For the 27-year-old German, it was more a matter of survival, and helped by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates he came to the finish comfortably within the control time and kept the lead in the ranking, with a 15-point advantage over Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge).


Andrey Zeits ready to support Nibali in the Giro after good performance in Romandie

Alongside Luis Leon Sanchez, Andrey Zeits was the best for Astana

 

“I always do my best, while training at home and when I’m in the race. It’s true that most of the times I have to work for my captain but I’m proud of this because I know that my work and my dedication is appreciated and I can be very helpful even in the hottest race situations,” said Zeits.

 

“Then it can also happen that I have my chance to play for the victory but this is not the most important thing… what really matters to me is that the Astana Pro Team wins the race with the colours of our jersey on the top step of the podium,” explained the Kazakh.

 

“Today I arrived together with my strong team mate Luis Leon Sanchez only 1 minute and 49 seconds behind the stage winner: I’m satisfied with this result because it means that my condition is growing in the hoped way, to be at the top at the Giro d’Italia that will start in 8 days and I will be helpful for Nibali and the team” continued Zeits.

 

“I will do the Giro and then we will see how my condition will be: last year I did the Giro and the Vuelta helping Fabio Aru who finished second and first respectively, both great satisfactions for me. Now my focus is 100% on the Giro and then together with the Team Management we will decide between the Tour or the Vuelta… I can promise only one thing: I will do my best to help my team mates,” concluded the Kazakh athlete.

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