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Saturday, May 1, 2021

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Tour de Romandie stage three team reports

We posted the report from stage winner Marc Soler's Movistar team with the results

Here's the report from third-place Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team:

Skirting the Lac de Neuchatel, stage 3 of the Tour de Romandie started and finished in the town of Estavayer, the 168.7km route taking in one third category climb and several uncategorised climbs ahead of a three-lap street circuit before the finish. While the finale was flat, the climbs before the finish line would be the perfect spot for a late attack.

With rain lashing the riders and the roads soaking wet from the start, most of the peloton was happy to let the break go ahead, a group of seven heading off up the road, building their lead to a little more than two minutes at first, before extending this to three minutes with 100km to go. The bunch was holding off until closer to the end of the stage, avoiding late attacks in these miserable conditions, but when the time came, it was BORA-hansgrohe at the head of the peloton, with Ben Zwiehoff, Marcus Burghardt and Jordi Meeus gritting their teeth and pushing on hard through the atrocious conditions to reduce the gap to just twenty-five seconds with 15km left.

A mixture of crashes and the day’s weather conditions taking their toll saw just one rider from the escape left on the front, the catch made with 10km to go, before a solo attack from Soler saw two groups form on the road. On the final climb, Peter Sagan was still in contention, but with the stage win taken by this late attack, all that remained was for the select chasing group to fight it out for the remaining places. Peter claimed third position in this reduced bunch sprint, with Wilco Kelderman coming home in thirteenth position and rising to seventh in the GC standings.

Marc Soler

Marc Soler wins the stage.

From the Finish Line:
"Thanks to all my teammates for their work today, they put in a very strong effort to bring back the break and shut the attacks. Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to catch Soler when he went off in the last climb, so the stage win got away today. I'm feeling better and I see my form improving, even under such awful conditions as the ones we had today." – Peter Sagan

"To say it was a horrible day would be an understatement but it is on stages as hard as this that the team's work stands out. Ben, Jordi and Burgi did a great job in controlling the race and catching the break while at the same time I was kept safe under these treacherous conditions and slippery roads. I finished with the select reduced group and will now focus on tomorrow's queen stage." – Wilco Kelderman

"Today, our goal was the stage win with Peter, so our strategy was the same one we used on the first stage. Firstly, we had to make sure there wasn't a big break and then control it in order to catch it. The break had a number of very strong riders but we managed to bring them back.  Burgi and Jordi did an amazing job, shaving nearly two minutes off the break's lead, up to the final climb where Ben took over to work for Peter. He was aiming at the stage win but, unfortunately, Soler's move stuck all the way to the finish. When the bunch came, Peter was a bit closed in, so he launched his sprint a bit late but still was second in the bunch." – Jan Valach, Sports Director

Here's the report from Team INEOS-Grenadiers:

Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte sit second and third overall ahead of a decisive final weekend at the Tour de Romandie.

The duo finished in a reduced peloton after a soaking wet stage around Estavayer. Overnight leader Rohan Dennis was not so lucky, crashing on the descent off the penultimate climb. The Australian was able to remount and finish the stage, but would relinquish the yellow jersey.

Thomas and Porte now sit 14 seconds back on Marc Soler, who pushed clear to take a solo victory in difficult conditions. Saturday sees a mountainous queen stage, albeit with some questions around the conditions on the day, before Sunday's time trial decider.

Geraint Thomas:
"It was a crazy little start. It’s always different when it’s raining because everyone has got black jerseys on and it’s hard to differentiate anyone. We controlled it well, had one climb to go, and then on the descent before that Rohan crashed. I was able to avoid him and stayed upright. I was at the back of the peloton which split a bit on the descent – so I had to make a little effort to get back to the front as we started the climb. Then there were a few attacks, but I got up there as easy as I could, trying not to do too much. It was a solid day for sure.

"Obviously we don’t have to ride tomorrow which is a bonus for the other guys in the team. We’ll leave it to Movistar to control and it will likely come down to the last climb. We’ll see how the legs are there, and obviously we’ve still got me and Richie up there. It’s all to play for."

Richie Porte:
"Rohan as he showed yesterday is a huge team player. If he was there he would have controlled things and he was already doing a job. So it’s a massive shame but it speaks volumes about the guy. G and I were there in the final and everybody was looking at us – I guess that’s just how it is. Today wasn’t a disaster but it could have gone a little bit better. Tomorrow is a new day and I think it suits us well."

Team Deceuninck-Quick Step posted this Tour de Romandie update:

Filthy conditions and seven classified climbs awaited the peloton just ahead of the two decisive stages of the Tour de Romandie, and contrary to expectations, the spitting rain encouraged seven riders to break clear from the outset of the stage held around Estavayer and put a maximum of five minutes between them and the bunch.

The wet roads helped the attackers carry a significant lead onto the ramps of the penultimate climb, where things began to fell apart, an injection of pace at the head of the peloton reducing their advantage to a mere 40 seconds. Three riders accelerated from the leading group, trying to hold off the chasers, but they were eventually reeled in on the last ascent, which came inside the final ten kilometers.

Near the top, Marc Soler (Movistar) attacked sensing a lull in pace and went on to win the stage, some 20 seconds ahead of a small group that included Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s Mattia Cattaneo and Fausto Masnada. Despite the big attacks lacking on this wearing day, the GC witnessed some changes, as several riders dropped out of the top 10. This helped Cattaneo climb in the standings up to sixth ahead of the race’s only summit finish, Thyon 2000.

And here's the report from Groupama-FDJ:

On Thursday, Stefan Küng tried to do a “Stefan Küng” on stage 3 of the Tour de Romandie. With some bad weather and a slightly hilly course, everything was reunited for the Swiss rider to give it a go. On the route around Estavayer, the Swiss champion did believe in his chances but a spectacular crash on the penultimate downhill put an end to his ambitions. However, the European time trial champion escaped any serious injuries and completed the stage, being also awarded the day’s “combative” prize. Jake Stewart placed 25th on the line.

Stefan Kung

Stefan Küng racing at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico. Sirotti photo

After he woke up this Thursday morning and took a brief look at the weather forecast in the area, Stefan Küng knew what to expect from stage 3 of the Tour de Romandie. “My goal today was to be in the breakaway,” he said. “With the day’s weather and route, there was a good chance that the break would make it”. The Swiss champion thus aimed to succeed from a breakaway for the fourth time in his career in the event. However, as he probably suspected himself, all eyes were on him at the start. “Everyone knew he wanted to be in front and that he rarely misses out in these conditions,” said Yvon Madiot. “Several sports directors actually told me at the finish: “We knew he was going to break away.” Still, he managed to do it thanks to his power. He followed all the moves, so there was a good chance he would end up in front.” “I really did my best to be up there, and I succeeded,” said the Swiss man, who got the company of Sander Armée (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Kobe Goossens (Lotto-Soudal), Mathias Reutimann (Swiss Selection) and Charlie Quatermann (Trek-Segafredo). In his own words, the group initially “cooperated well” though it never managed to get more than four minutes on the bunch. “Ineos always rides like that,” explained Yvon. “They never leave much room for breakaways, even when they are not dangerous.”

In the second lap around Estavayer, the leading group lost three men through the two climbs of the circuit. However, it only had a two minute-gap when crossing the line with about 35 kilometers to go. “There were only four of us left and, in my opinion, we were not working well enough from that point on,” said Stefan. “Everyone wanted to keep energy for the last two climbs. In the first one, I attacked immediately, and I had to because the bunch was coming back. There were two of us at the top”. “We wanted to try something today, so we had to try until the very end,” added Yvon. “We also suspected that there would be fewer riders to pull behind once we got to the climbs. Stefan gave what he had left”. Only Kobe Goossens was able to follow the Swiss champion and the two men then started the downhill leading to the final climb of the day. That’s where the turning point of the race occured for the Swiss man, as he spectacularly hit the ground and slid for several meters. “I only saw later on the TV that I actually slid on the white stripe,” Stefan explained. “I couldn’t see anything with the glasses”. “He thinks he made a small mistake by not removing them,” added Yvon.

Fortunately, the Swiss champion was able to continue without major injuries. “On TV, it looks like it’s a very brutal crash, but I’m doing fine,” he said. “I have a few abrasions but overall I got lucky. More than anything, I’m frustrated because we were still thirty seconds ahead of the bunch when I crashed. It’s a shame because with a final like this, perhaps I could have done it. I still had good legs. The goal was to win the stage, but because of my own mistake, I couldn’t get the win. It wasn’t my day, I’m disappointed about that, but I’m happy that I escaped any serious injury. I will now try to recover as much as possible to tackle the last time trial on Sunday in the best possible conditions”. “It’s frustrating because we’ll never know if he could have made it or not,” said Yvon. On the finish line, Groupama-FDJ’s man of the day still held on well as he finished in the second group, 1’21 behind Marc Soler who got away in the last climb. Stefan Küng even obtained the “most combative rider” award. “It’s not so important as he was clearly aiming for the stage victory,” Yvon said. “However, he was already combative this morning. We could then say he was so from start to finish today.”

In the same group at the finish, Jake Stewart outsprinted a dozen men to take 25th on the day. “At the top of the last climb, he is 200m behind Sagan, who is one of the few who managed to join the first group,” said Yvon. “The punchers-climbers’ group is twenty seconds ahead of him at the top. It’s really promising, especially since he’s still young and he’s just coming back to competition. These are certainly the types of races that will suit him going forward”. Matteo Badilatti and Sébastien Reichenbach could not go with the best on Friday and crossed the line four minutes after the winner. “We know that rain and cold are not what suit them the most”, added Yvon. “These were not ideal conditions for them, and when they got distanced, they were told to take it easy, thinking about tomorrow. They will be on their terrain and it will be up to them”. From Sion to Thyon, the big mountain stage of the Tour de Romandie will feature two first-category climbs, but above all a mountaintop-finish at Thyon 2000 after more than twenty kilometers of climbing averaging 7.5%.

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