Botero is back

And Cunego isn't far off...

After two years of bad results, partly caused by recurring illnesses, Colombian Santiago Botero came back to his best level by winning the final stage and the overall of the Tour de Romandie. The Phonak man flew home in the final 20.4 km time trial in Lausanne to beat an improved Brad McGee (Francaise des Jeux) by 25 seconds, with Botero's teammate Oscar Pereiro in third at 35 seconds and overnight yellow jersey wearer Damiano Cunego (Lampre) fourth at 36 seconds.

"Today, I think I'm the happiest man in the world," Botero told Cyclingnews at the post-race press conference. "In the sport, you need everything to be perfect. That hasn't happened the last few years, but now I am healthy and I trained very hard in Colombia during the winter [16,000 kilometres to be exact - ed.]. This is the result of all my efforts."

Botero's last victory was in the World Championship Time Trial in Zolder in 2002, and he was finally able to follow that up with another one today in Lausanne, perhaps the sign of a good season to come. He also gave credit to a more relaxed atmosphere at Phonak compared to his previous team, T-Mobile. "There are no big stars, nobody bigger than all the rest, but everyone on roughly the same level," he said. "This is what I like about this team. Phonak did not put pressure on me; they let me train my own way, and they trusted me."

The final stage was also a good form test for Giro contender Damiano Cunego, who will line up in Reggio Calabria next Saturday with ambitions of winning it a second time, even though his teammate Gilberto Simoni might have something to say about that again. But beside the two Lampre captains, there is 2000 Giro winner Stefano Garzelli, who finished just three seconds behind Cunego in the final time trial, won the points jersey, and looks to be in decent shape coming into the Giro, despite having a bad day on Friday in the mountains. The other main Giro challenger, Ivan Basso (CSC), did not race in Romandie.

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