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With a hugely dominant sprint performance, Albasini powered clear of a reduced bunch to win his second consecutive stage at the Tour de Romandie, extending his overall lead to 20 seconds

Photo: Orica GreenEdge

DAMIANO CARUSO

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JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE

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MICHAEL ALBASINI

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MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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30.04.2015 @ 17:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) confirmed his excellent condition and his love affair with the Tour de Romandie when he made it two in a row in his home race. Having survived the tough climbing, he did everything right in a hectic finale to power clear of a 60-rider group, hold off Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) and Damiano Caruso (BMC) and extend his overall lead to 20 seconds.

 

After several years of near-misses, Michael Albasini finally broke the drought in the Tour de Romandie in the first road stage of the 2014 edition of the Swiss race. As soon as he had broken the ice, he was unstoppable as he won all road stages apart from the queen stage.

 

This year he may be on the verge of making a similar feat as he has now won the two first road stages after having narrowly missed out on the leader’s jersey in the team time trial where his Orica-GreenEDGE team was beaten by Sky by just 0.63 seconds. Today he added the win in stage 3 to the victory he took yesterday and again he relied on his great climbing legs, his experience and his impressive sprint to come away with the goods.

 

Like yesterday a number of tough climbs had significantly whittled down the peloton and it was a 60-rider lead group that crested the summit of the final climb with 25km to go. Albasini had made it into the group as one of the only really fast riders and was joined by teammates Simon Gerrans, Ivan Santaromita and Simon Yates in the group.

 

Most teams had lost their domestique ressources and so it ended up as a festival of attack. Over the top of the climb, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) made his expected attack, followed by Damiano Caruso (BMC), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). However, they didn’t get clear and it was Astana who took control with Grivko on the descent.

 

The attacking soon started again and Romain Sicard, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michele Scarponi, Pavel Kochetkov, Tobias Ludvigsson, Danilo Wyss, Winner Anacona, Riccardo Zoidl and Chris Anker Sørensen were all involved in the action. Maxime Mederel (Europcar) tried to make the race hard on a small climb and this set the scene for the attack which looked promising when Darwin Atapuma (BMC) took off.

 

Atapuma was joined by Mederel and Anacona and the trio got a 10-second advantage. However, Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) had both made it into the reduced bunch and so they asked their teammates Georg Preidler and Tsgabu Grmay to attack. Their work paid off and with 18km to go, it was back together.

 

Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) was the next rider to take off and while Stefan Küng, Grmay and Andrey Amador formed a short-lived chase group, the Belgian opened a solid gap. Martin was the next to try to bridge and then he started to chase, bringing Bakelants back with 14km to go.

 

Danilo Wyss made the next move and he was quickly joined by Nairo Quintana and Andrey Zeits. However, the latter refused to work and so Wyss took off on his own before he was again brought back.

 

Vincenzo Nibali made the next move before Küng, Scarponi and Step Clement got a small advantage. This was the signal for Giant-Alpecin to take control and now Preidler started to ride on the front. Grivko and Rigoberto Uran made a short-lived attack but now no one were able to escape Giant-Alpecin’s clutches.

 

Preidler continued to set the pace until Lampre took over inside the final 3km. Matteo Bono took a huge turn before Jose Serpa took over, leading the group under the flamme rouge.

 

Serpa swung off too early, leaving Rui Costa in the wind. When he slowed down, Etixx-QuickStep kicked into action with Martin, Uran and Julian Alaphilippe lined out on the front.

 

Albasini had always been well-placed on Simon Gerrans’ wheel but in the finale he opted to move into the position behind Alaphilippe. Meanwhile, Gerrans moved up to take over for Martin, followed by Uran, Alaphilippe and Albasini.

 

Albasini didn’t wait for Alaphilippe to launch his sprint and instead he anticipated from a long way out. The young Frenchman reacted immediately but he was no match to the unstoppable Albasini who took a hugely dominant victory. Damiano Caruso completed the podium.

 

With the win, Albasini scored another 10 bonus seconds and so he now leads his teammate Santaromita, Chris Froome and Yates by 20 seconds. Tomorrow he has a chance to make it three in a row in stage 3 which has a flat first half and a category 2 climb at the midpoint before the riders will tackle two climbs in the finale. The final category 3 ascent comes with 15.8km to go and then it is a descent and a flat stretch to the finish where another sprint is expected.

 

A lumpy stage

After yesterday’s hilly stage, it was another lumpy affair on stage 3 that brought the riders over 172.5km from Moutier to Porrentruy. After a hilly first part with two uncetagorized climbs, the riders tackled a number of circuits around the finishing city with a total of four categorized climbs. First it was the category 3 Cote de la Bure at the midpoint and then two category 2 climbs with around 50km to go. Finally the riders tackled the Cote de la Bure again with 25.1km to go before they descended gradually to the finish where the finishing straight was slightly uphill with a gradient of 2.25%.

 

There was one non-starter when the peloton gathered in Moutier under a beautiful sunny sky. Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEDGE) who crashed yesterday, was unable to continue his participation in the race.

 

An early break

Many had expected a big fight to join the early break but like yesterday it was an easy affair to make it into the group. Already after 8km of racing, Kristof Vandewalle (Trek), Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin) and Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo) had gone clear and 2km later they had an advantage of 1.28.

 

The gap was growing quickly and after 13km of racing it was already 4 minutes. At the 19km mark, it was 8.10 and this was the signal for the peloton to up the pace. For a while they kept the gap stable before they started to reduce their deficit which was 7 minutes at the 39km mark.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE take control

Unsurprisingly, it was the Orica-GreenEDGE who took control. After 63km of racing, they had brought the gap down to 6.41, with Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEDGE) doing most of the work.

 

Vandewalle beat Bulgac and Ji in the first intermediate sprint at the 69km mark when the gap had dropped to 5.40 and when they passed Porrentruy for the first time, it was 5.15. The advantage was now coming down quickly and when they hit the Cote de la Bure for the first time, it was 4.07.

 

The gap comes down

Bulgac led Vandewalle and Ji over the top while KOM leader Maxim Belkov (Katusha) sprinted out of the peloton to pick up the final climb. The escapees had used the climb to slightly extend their advantage to 4.33.

 

After the climb, Orica-GreenEDGE again upped the pace and they quickly shaved a minute off their deficit. At the 97km mark, they were just 3.42 behind the leaders and at the first passage of the line it was only 2.32.

 

Movistar split the peloton

On the first category 2 climb, Ji was distanced and later Bulgac also had to surrender. This left Vandewalle to press on and he crested the summit as the lone leader, followed by Bulgac and Ji.

 

In the peloton, Movistar had taken control with Rory Sutherland and Andrey Amador and those two riders did a lot of damage. The peloton was exploding to pieces and at the top they had reduced the gap to just 1.10.

 

The break is caught

Bulgac managed to rejoin Vandewalle while Movistar maintained their speed. However, as soon as they hit the next category 2 climb, the Dutchman was again distanced while Vandewalle worked hard to maintain a 30-second advantage.

 

Lots of riders were getting dropped as it was now Anacona doing the damage for Movistar. With 48km to go, Vandewalle was brought back while several riders were suffering at the back.

 

The attacking starts

Quintana passed Anacona to lead his teammate, Scarponi, Nibali and Rein Taaramae over the top and then Scarponi took control on the descent. Moments later, Martin and Grmay started to work and later Lampre-Merida took complete control with Bon riding on the rfont.

 

With 38km to go, the group slowed down and this allowed a few riders, including Mezgec to rejoin the group. At the same time, the attacking started when Pierre Rolland took off and Jesper Hansen, Jonathan Castroviejo, Davide de la Cruz, Quintana, Ryder Hesjedal, Zeits, Maxime Bouet, Mikael Cherel and Nathan Haas were also among the many riders to be involved.

 

Cannondale take control

The group was brought back, allowing Hesjedal to win the intermediate sprint ahead of Haas and Cherel. However, it was now completely uncontrollable as Bakelants, Amael Moinard, Grivko, Pavel Kochetkov, Danilo Wyss, Anacona and Fabrice Jeandesboz all tried to get clear.

 

Preidler briefly took control for Giant before Cannondale-Garmin tried to stop the anarchy with Andre Cardoso and Janier Acevedo riding on the front. They set the pace for most of the final climb before Ivan Rovny took over for Tinkoff-Saxo. Moments later Martin attacked, starting the aggressive finale.

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