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"Tomorrow will be maybe the most important time trial in my life. I will start as the last rider in the yellow jersey. I know some strong riders are close in GC and they will fight for the victory."

Photo: Sirotti

ILNUR ZAKARIN

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TOUR DE ROMANDIE

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02.05.2015 @ 21:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

It was a strong display of tenacity and riding with heart for Team Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin on Saturday’s stage 5 as the 25-year old Russian rode himself into the yellow jersey of the 69th Tour de Romandie. A keen eye to the attacks of others put Zakarin in the right place when Thibault Pinot (FDJ) made what proved to be the winning move with Zakarin quick to jump after him from the reduced group of favorites. While Pinot stayed away for the stage win, Ilnur Zakarin rode himself into the race lead by six-seconds to Pinot and 14-seconds to 2-time defending Tour de Romandie champion Christopher Froome (Team Sky).

 

"Today’s plan for the team was to help Simon and me on the final climb. Everything went ok. Later I saw my chance to attack and in the last few kilometers I gave everything I had in my legs. I was a little bit surprised that I took the jersey and I’m very happy. This is really an honor for me. Tomorrow will be maybe the most important time trial in my life. I will start as the last rider in the yellow jersey. I know some strong riders are close in GC and they will fight for the victory, but I will do my best to fight for the best possible place. I hope to do well tomorrow. In País Vasco I did a good TT but I was nervous there. Here I can start relaxed because I have already done a nice thing," said race leader Ilnur Zakarin.

 

"We were planning to go in the breakaway today with Max for the jersey and then we ended up with three riders near the front in the final. Trofimov is not quite at 100% but he was just behind the group of Nibali so he is doing quite well. Špilak and Zakarin played their cards in the final. First we had the attack from Špilak and then Zakarin. It was such a good result for him to put on the jersey. He is a young rider and doesn’t have so much experience yet, but today he showed us he’s on very good form. He will try to keep it in the TT – he is not so bad in the TT but of course neither is Chris Froome. Zakarin has 14 seconds - if he can keep even one second, that will be good enough," said team director Dmitry Konyshev.

 

Not to be outdone by his teammate, Maxim Belkov went in a long break over 3 category one climbs to secure other general classification jerseys, keeping the mountains jersey and earning the sprint jersey, too. With Zakarin leading and teammates Simon Špilak and Iurii Trofimov in fourth and 10th places on the classification, Team Katusha also lead in the team classification as best-placed team overall.

 

Stage 5 at 166,1 km started under clear skies from Fribourg to cross three category-1 climbs before the summit finish at Champex-Lac. Belkov went clear to secure the mountain jersey and in the process swept up enough sprint points to add the green jersey to his growing collection. Belkov stayed away until the top of the penultimate climb with 24 km to go when the general classification riders moved to the front and began the long ride up. Attack after attack came on the wet and slippery roads with Zakarin and Špilak initiating or responding to all of them. When Pinot attacked it was Zakarin who was able to mount the chase, almost catching the Frenchman to earn second on the stage at 7-seconds. 

 

"In the beginning of the season I marked the Tour de Romandie as my main goal for this part of the season. So I built my form in the Vuelta al País Vasco and through two training camps at altitude. I was able to come here in good shape, ready to fight. I know that our team has some good traditions here in Romandie but this is my first time here. I will do my best tomorrow to carry on the team’s traditions here," concluded Ilnur Zakarin.

 

The Tour de Romandie comes to an end on Sunday with an individual time trial. The 17,3 km race against the clock will be held in Lausanne. Wearing the yellow jersey gives Zakarin the honor of starting last on tomorrow’s stage. 

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