22-year-old Thomas Dekker of Team Rabobank powered his way to a win in the concluding time trial of the Tour de Romandie, gathering in the overall title along the way. The final podium reflected the day's results: Dekker winning ahead of Paolo Savoldelli and Andrey Kascheckin, both of Astana.
It was the second consecutive year that the winner of the finishing time trial has moved up into first place to take the victory overall. Last year's winner Cadel Evans finished fourth this year in both the stage and the GC.
"I'm happy but it's also a bit of a surprise because this Tour de Romandie was not on my schedule at the beginning of the season," Dekker said. "Time trialing is my specialty and actually I was sixth in the same stage two years ago." Dekker was the Dutch time trial champion in 2004 and 2005.
"I expected to be on the podium, but not necessarily to win. I did not know I was so strong at that stage of the season. It's pretty big for me to beat big champions like Savoldelli and Kasheshkin today. Now I'll have time to celebrate a little prior my next race in a month," the young Dekker said. He was the first Dutchman to win the race since 1988.
Savoldelli, who wore the leader's jersey for the first few stages after winning the opening time trial, congratulated his young rival, and noted that "My team Astana worked very hard all week to help me and Kashechkin, and we were all a little tired. But Dekker is a great rider."
How it unfolded
121 riders went down the starter's ramp in brilliant sunshine, a welcome change after the heavy rains of the last few days. The riders were thankful for the dry conditions as they rode the 20.4 km over the hilly, winding city course with lots of corners, curbs, traffic islands and narrow lanes, not to mention a few cobblestone sections.
Milram's Sebastian Schwager was the first to go, and the first to come in, with a time of 30.32. He was followed by Laszlo Bodrogi, who rode the course in 28 minutes flat, good enough for an 18th place in the end.
Bodrogi's time stood for nearly 45 minutes, until Liquigas' Charley Wegelius came through in 27.52. Then many quicker times followed, with Marco Pinotti (T-Mobile Team), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), and Eddy Mazzoleni (Astana) bringing in new best times.
Finally, Kascheckin blasted through, 34 seconds faster than teammate Mazzoleni, and becoming the first man in under 27 minutes. His time was good enough to hold off Evans, who also broke the 27 minute barrier, but was 11 seconds behind the Kazahk.
Savoldelli, riding smoothly and steadily, came in with over six seconds advantage for the lead, but Dekker was the next behind him. In contrast, the young Dutchman was a jittery-looking rider, with his long thin legs pumping wildly.
Dekker was so fast that he had ridden into the virtual overall win along the way, but it remained to be seen whether he could keep his speed and strength up the whole distance. Finally, going all out and with his tongue hanging all the way out, he crossed the finish line over five and a half seconds faster than his Italian rival.
Forgotten in the excitement was Euskaltel - Euskadi's Igor Anton, who started the day in second place overall and finished it in seventh, losing 1.53 and coming in 41st on the stage.
The final rider over the line was Chris Horner of Predictor-Lotto, who won the leader's jersey in Saturday's mountain stage. He finished seventh on the day, with a time of 27.31, and fell to fifth overall.
Dekker is now ready for a racing break, having had a full spring schedule. He will return to racing action in the Tour de Suisse in preparation for the Tour de France, where he has his eye on the young rider's white jersey.