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Simon Špilak (Katusha) in the race lead
Slovenian aiming at second overall victory
The third and queen stage of the Tour de Romandie played out in a way that was remarkably similar to the penultimate stage of last year's race, with Slovenian Simon Spilak out-sprinting Chris Froome (Sky) to win the stage on a cold and rainy day. What was different was that the Katusha rider seized the race leadership, thanks to the time bonuses on the line, rather than Froome.
"It was a very difficult stage today with the rain, but I like it when it rains, and the cold doesn't bother me either," Spilak said. "In the beginning of the stage I did not feel very well, because it was a high pace and the mountains were really hard. But in the second part of the stage I felt much better."
The duo counter-attacked a move by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who was expected to be the main protagonist on the stage, but who instead was caught and distanced by the two, not even able to make up ground on a tricky, wet descent.
"I saw the moment when Chris Froome attacked and I knew I had to follow him because it was the right moment. I didn't force it, and took my own pace to reach Nibali and then Froome. I had a good collaboration with Chris on the climb and after on the dangerous descent."
Although Spilak was on his way to earning the race leadership - something he has not yet achieved in the course of his WorldTour career, he only kept his mind on the race rather than the necessity to win and gain the critical time bonus.
"Of course, I thought about the victory, but Chris Froome is a strong rival and I'm happy I took the stage victory in the sprint."
Spilak now leads the race by a margin of a single second ahead of Froome. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) is third, at a distant of 1:02 minutes.
Although Spilak has never previously worn the Tour de Romandie yellow jersey, he does have its overall title on his résumé : in 2010 he was second to Alejandro Valverde, who was subsequently disqualified as the result of his doping conviction for the Operación Puerto affair.
"This is a great pleasure for me to wear the yellow jersey after such a great stage as today. We still have two days in front of us with the decisive time trial on Sunday. Of course, myself and the entire team will do our best to try to hold the lead and to win the race. It won't be easy at all because Froome and other riders are really strong, but we will do all we can for it," Spilak said.
Two stages remain in the Tour de Romandie – Saturday's road stage at 173 km in Fribourg and the final 18.5 km time trial on Sunday.