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After he had beaten the Colombian in a 2-rider sprint, Zakarin was relegated and so Quintana was given th win on stage 2 of the Tour de Romandie; the Movistar rider leads overall while Froome was taken out of contention by a puncture

Photo: Movistar Team

ILNUR ZAKARIN

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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28.04.2016 @ 17:49 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.

 

With an impressive performance in the prologue, Nairo Quintana had firmly proved that he is ready to go for victory in the Tour de Romandie. On the opening day, he had been the only rider among the late starters to finish in the top 20, showing great condition despite riding under torrential rain.

 

Today Quintana confirmed his status as one of the big favourites as he won the first mountain stage of the race but he would definitely have preferred the win to have come in a less controversial manner. After the pair had emerged as the best climbers in the race, Ilnur Zakarin had initially beaten Quintana in a 2-rider sprint but the Russian was relegated for irregular sprinting.

 

Quintana had proved his class by attacking from afar and looked like he had made the race-winning move when an impressive surge for Zakarin saw him bridge across. The pair worked well together for the final part of the climb but there were no friendly gestures after they had crossed the line, with Quintana signaling his frustration over a late swerve from the Russian. After a long discussion, the Colombian was given the win.

 

The stage ended with a category 2 and a category 1 climb in quick succession as they were just separated by 4km of descending and after the top there were only 2km of slightly uphill roads. At the bottom of the first of the ascents, a 6-rider break with Egor Silin (Katusha), Daryl Impey (Orica), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Marcel Wyss (IAM) and Jaco Venter (Dimension Data) were still around 2 minutes ahead but they had lost ground quickly as the peloton was fighting hard for position inside the final 40km.

 

Jeremy Roy hit the front for FDJ and immediately sent several riders out the back door, including Marcel Kittel, Moreno Hofland and Fabio Sabatini. Meanwhile, Wyss set a brutal pace in the front group, dropping De Gendt, Beppu and Venter who were quickly brought back.

 

Kenny Elissonde took over from Roy with 20km to go where the gap was down to one minute. This is when disaster struck for Froome. The 2013 and 2014 winner suffered a puncture and after receiving a wheel from Nieve, he chased on his own, sprinting past Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) in the process.

 

While Froome was chasing, Elissonde whittled the peloton down to around 50 riders and reduced the gap to 30 secondsbefore Joe Dombrowski and Pierre Rolland launched a double attack for Cannondale. FDJ didn’t react and so they quickly got a big advantage.

 

Froome regained contact as Peter Stetina took over the pace-setting for Trek and as he created a massive selection, the Brit suddenly found himself behind several splits. He was in a big group that lost contact and even though he tried to bridge across alongside Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep), it soon became apparent that it was all in vain.

 

Dombrowski and Rolland made it across to the leaders and the American sacrificed himself completely for his leader. However, Stetina had nearly brought it all back together as they approached the summit. Hence, Impey and Rolland attacked and it was the South African who led the Frenchman over the top. The rest of the group was caught, with Wyss leading Mathias Frank (IAM) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) across the line. Froome crested the summit more than 30 seconds later.

 

Rolland and Impey continued to press on 10 seconds ahead of the peloton that was still led by Wyss. The Frenchman dropped his rival on the descent where Andrey Amador took over the pace-setting for Movistar.

 

Impey rejoined Rolland while Amador and Damiano Caruso (BMC) got a small gap before joining the leaders at the bottom of the descent. However, it was all in vain as Steve Morabito (FDJ) brought it all back together with 10km to go.

 

Morabito led a 30-rider group onto the climb while Froome gave up. The Brit sat up alongside Nieve and the pair was distanced from the big group that had gathered around them.

 

Rein Taaramae (Katusha) hit the front and created a massive selection, sending Morabito and Amador out the back door, but apart from Froome and Romain Bardet (Ag2r), all the favourites were still there as they entered the final 7km. That’s where Quintana made his move and as no one could respond, he immediately got a big gap.

 

Simon Spilak (Katusha) led the chase of the splintering group but Quintana increased his advantage. This was the signal for Zakarin to take off and after Thibaut Pinot and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) had tried to follow, he soloed clear. In a matter of just a few hundred metres, he closed a 10-second gap.

 

Zakarin and Quintana started to cooperate while Geraint Thomas (Sky) led the chasse behind Pinot and van Garderen. Mathias Frank (IAM) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) bridged across but the fur riders were brought back with five kilometres to go.

 

The main group had been whittled down to Pinot, Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ), Rui Costa, Frank, Ion Izagirre (Movistar), Rigoberto Uran, Rolland, Davide Formolo (Cannondale), Majka, van Garderen and Spilak while riders like Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Thomas and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL) were distanced. Uran took over the pace-setting 13 seconds behind the leaders but it was the ever-aggressive Pinot who surged clear alongside Costa.

 

Pinot and Costa increased the advantage until Frank managed to bring them back with Reichenbach, Majka, Izagirre and Uran on his wheel. Reichenbach sacrificed himself for Pinot and went straight to the front but he lost ground to the leaders who quickly increased the advantage from 13 to 20 seconds.

 

Spilak and Rolland rejoined the peloton which was 20 seconds behind when Quintana led Zakarin over the top. Reichenbach, Pinot and Costa were next but it was evident that they would not get back. Instead, Mollema and Formolo rejoined them on the descent.

 

Zakarin and Quintana worked well together until they passed the flamme rouge where the Russian refused to take more turns. The Colombian continued to ride on the front until he opened his sprint in the steepest section with 300m to go. He tried to push Zakarin towards the barriers in the final turn but he had to response when the Russian passed him with apparent ease. However, Zakarin made a late swerve and this would ultimalely cost him the win. 26 seconds later Costa beat Uran, Pinot and the rest of the group in the sprint for second.

 

With his second place, Quintana moves into the overall lead with an 18-second advantage over Zakarin. He faces another stern test tomorrow in the 15.11km time trial in Sion. The course I by no means easy as it includes a 4km climb after 5 flat kilometres. From there it is downhill almost all the way to the line, meaning that the climbers should be able to defend themselves well in the race against the clock.

 

A big mountain stage

After yesterday’s lumpy stage, it was time for the first big battle in the mountains on stage 2 when the riders tackled 173.9km from Moudon to Morgins. There was an uncategorized climb right from the start and then the terrain levelled out until the riders hit a category 2 climb at the midpoint. In the end, the riders tackled a category 2 and a category 1 climb in quick succession, separated by just 4km of descending. The final ascent averaged 7.1% over 7.3km and the summit was located just 2km from the finish from where it was slightly uphill all the way to the line.

 

Unfortunately, an ill Richie Porte (BMC) was absent when the peloton gathered in Moudon, and Jens Keukeleire and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) also stayed in the hotel when the riders took the start. The rest of the field got a tough start to the stage that started with a hard climb, and it gave rise to many attacks. Five riders got clear early and was chased by a trio, but as many continued to ride aggressively, Movistar brought it back together.

 

Six riders get clear

Instead, Egor Silin (Katusha), Daryl Impey (Orica), Fumiyuki Beppu (Trek), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Marcel Wyss (IAM) and Jaco Venter (Dimension Data) got clear, and they had built a gap of 17 seconds after 7km of racing. The field was pleased with the situation, and therefore it grew to more than a minute during the next 9km. Jesus Herrada quickly started to chase for Movistar, but the gap continued to grow until it reached 3.13.

 

Under the sunny sky the riders covered 40.8 km during the first hour, and it was Movistar that kept the gap at around 2.45 for several kilometers, while Sky, Astana and Cannondale all remained near the front. After 50km of racing, they allowed the advantage to grow, and as they hit the last 105km, the escapees had increased it to 3.55.

 

Vervaeke abandons

After another hour with an average speed of 38.3 km/h, the sextet hit first climb with a lead of 4.26. Wyss beat Impey and Silin in the KOM sprint before the peloton reached the top with three riders less as Julian Arredondo (Trek), Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) and Mark McNally (Wanty) had all abandoned. The gap had dropped to 4.03, but the peloton had still not in a hurry, and therefore it went out to 5 minutes with 70km to go.

 

Impey beat De Gendt and Beppu in the first intermediate sprint where a bruised Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) had to retire after an earlier crash. The gap had stabilized at around 5 minutes.

 

A big fight for position

Entering the final 60km, the chase finally got organized and the gap had been reduced to 3.50 just 10km later. The escapees had bad luck to lose 10 seconds due to a closed railroad crossing after a third hour at an average speed of 42.9km/h.

 

It was the Movistar trio of Herrada, Jose Joaquin Rojas and Antonio Pedrero that set the pace until the fight for position really started with 35km to go. Here Sky, BMC and Movistar almost sprinted against each other.

 

Things briefly calmed down a bit as Movistar hit the front with Herrada and Winner Anacona but very soon the fight again became intense. With 27km to go, the big teams were again sprinting on the front and the gap was down to just 2.45.

 

Sky took control with Michal Kwiatkowski, Alex Peters, Ben Swift, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Mikel Nieve lined out but it was Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) and Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida) that won the battle as they approached the penultimate climb. Meanwhile, Impey led Venter and Beppu across the line in the final intermediate sprint before they turned onto the ascent where the real action started.

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