Tour de Romandie review: Zakarin for the win

Despite a heart-stopping forced bike change in the crucial last stage time trial, Ilnur Zakarin held his nerve to claim the top step of the podium. His Katusha teammate Simon Spilak leapfrogged into second place, with Sky’s Chris Froome making the podium for the third time in three years.

Rider of the race

Don’t we all LOVE it when a lone rider holds off the baying chasers to snatch a fantastic win. When that rider is only 21 years old, in his first year as a professional rider, and it’s his first WorldTour win it is even more heart-warming. Oh yes, step up to the podium for flowers and kisses Stefan Küng of BMC.

The talented Swiss rider thrives on tough parcours and filthy weather and had already earmarked stage four as one that might suit a solo strike. He instructed the mechanics to put on the 54-tooth chain ring in the morning, got himself into the four-man break of the day, and then with 25km to go picked the perfect moment to strike out. With the peloton chasing hard behind him, he went into TT mode and powered his way to the line with 38 seconds to spare. Comparisons to his Swiss compatriot Fabian Cancellara are hard to ignore, I mean  I could practically hear The Scared Haunches ™ saying this himself…

“I was thinking about how I could win. … When it was the moment, I went.

Stefan Kung WINS

Cometh the stage, cometh the neo-pro! Stefan Kung takes a superb solo win at the Tour de Romandie (Image: Tour de Romandie)

Just look at the sheer delight on his face and that of the cameraman. It’s moments like these that bring home how great this sport is. Just when we needed it most. #chapeau

Three things we liked

1. Monsieur Romandie. The home Swiss fans had a lot to cheer for at this edition of the race as Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) added to his tally of stage wins. Winner of three stages in 2014, he bagged two more this time out. My favourite was the well-worked team victory on stage three, where Simon Gerrans negotiated a tricky, twisty run in along the streets of Porrrentruy to deliver Albasini perfectly.

2. #WeAllWantPinot. The French rider from FDJ delivered his first win of the season on a cold and rain-soaked queen stage. Taking advantage of the tactical cat-and-mouse game between Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), he attacked with 5km to go and stayed ahead on the final gradients of the Champex-Lac. I only wish Marc Madiot had been in the team car to celebrate with him. This performance and the fantastic team time trial by FDJ, should give him great confidence for the summer.

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Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) scored a splendid solo win on Champex-Lac (Image: Tour de Romandie)

 

3. TT Tony back in charge. I have to admit it has been strange to watch Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) this year. I have loved watching him work with Michal Kwiatkowski, bossing the peloton, driving or catching the breaks as only he can. But I have missed his WorldTour time trial victories. Today he was back in his natural element and all felt right in my time trial world again. Now I just need him with the rainbow stripes on his skin suit.

General classification

1. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) 18:36:30

2. Simon Spilak (Katusha) +0:17

3. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:35

4. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +0:49

5. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:20

6. Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1:21

7. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) + 1:24

8. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +1:42

9. Romain Bardet (Ag2l La Mondiale) +1:43

10. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) +1:54

Link: Official race website

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