Leader's jersey changes hands
By Susan Westemeyer
Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) won the first stage of the Tour de Romandie, out-sprinting Michael Albasini of Liquigas and Markus Zberg of Gerolsteiner on a difficult uphill sprint. Albasini, who had finished third in the prologue, took over the leader's jersey with a one-second advantage over Iglinsky.
"Today I was really very cold at the beginning," Albasini said. He noted that in the finale, "I succeeded in being near the front to avoid a possible crash in the final tight turn. I would have preferred to win the stage, but you can't have everything..."
The 27 year-old Swiss rider was thrilled to take over the leader's jersey in his homeland race. He has done well in Switzerland in the past, winning a stage and the sprinter's jersey in the Tour de Suisse in 2005, and both the mountain and sprinter's jersey in that race in 2006. Albasini turned pro in 2003 for the Swiss team Phonak before joining Liquigas in 2005.
It was the first season win for Iglinsky and his sixth as a professional. The Kasaskstan national champion, who has won stages in the Dauphiné Libéré and the Deutschland Tour, pointed proudly to his national jersey after crossing the line, and said, "I am so happy with the confidence that the team gave me today. My personal ambitions for the next days are the team ambitions. In theory Andreas Klöden is our leader. We will know more after the time trial."
Astana Directeur Sportif Alain Gallopin said that the stage went as planned. "Already this morning we decided to do everything for Max", he noted. "On the last climb, I told our best rider today, Andreas Klöden, not to cooperate any more in the leading group, because Max was coming closer with a group that included three other Astana Cycling Team riders. When the two groups came together, I felt confident. I explained to Max that he had to take the last corner as the first rider, which he did perfectly. I am so glad for our riders and Kazakh sponsors." Astana now has four riders in the top 11 overall.
The stage, which led over three categorised climbs, was marked by a long escape group by Patxi Vila (Lampre), Morris Possoni (High Road) and Matti Breschel of CSC, but the category one climb Le Gruyere with 20 kilometres to go was their undoing. Astana led the charge to catch them, and as the 38-man strong group neared the finish line, last year's champion Thomas Dekker started the sprint. Iglinsky was able to take advantage of a momentary hesitation by the young Dutch rider and shot by him on the final tight corner to take the lead. He was followed by Albasini and Zberg with the same time, putting two Swiss riders on the podium. Dekker came in fourth, two seconds later.
For the full report, results and photos click here.