Live coverage of the opening road stage of the 2017 Tour de Romandie, with a summit finish at Champéry.
Hello there, and welcome to our live coverage of stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie. The race kicked off yesterday with a prologue but this is the first proper road stage, and a serious one it is, too, with a tough summit finish at Champéry that should have a major impact on the overall classification.
As with yesterday's prologue, today's stage starts in Aigle, home of cycling's governing body, the UCI.
The riders have all signed on and the they'll be rolling out in a matter of moments.
Here's the stage profile
The peloton rolls out of Aigle. There's a short neutralised section to begin with.
The flag drops and two riders head off on the attack at KM0. They are Sander Armée of Lotto Soudal, and Marco Minnaard of Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
We have a group of five looking to bridge up to the two leaders.
In there are Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Matbey Mamykin (Katusha-Alpecin), Oliveiro Troia (UAE Team Emirates), Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data), and Remy Mertz (Lotto Soudal).
As is so often the case at Romandie, the conditions are cold, wet and miserable. Here's a start line shot from our very own Josh Evans.
The leading duo stretch out a decent advantage, which is nearly up at two minutes.
As the race situation settles down, now's a good time to catch up on yesterday's action.
It was only a short prologue but, in wet conditions with several technical corners, it was certainly a test. And it was Fabio Felline, who's having a cracking season, who rose to the top. There were also some interesting first indications from a GC persepctive, with some big names losing time after opting for a cautious approach in the wet. Here's our full stage report:
The chasing group has finally made the bridge to our two leaders. The only thing is that Remy Mertz was dropped in the process. So that gives us 6 riders out front.
148km remaining from 168km
After 20 kilometres of racing, the gap between the break and the peloton stands at 4 minutes 30 seconds.
A reminder of the six riders in the break:
Sander Armée (Lotto Soudal)
Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Matbey Mamykin (Katusha-Alpecin)
Oliveiro Troia (UAE Team Emirates)
Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data)
The riders are covering the flat opening part of this stage, but the climbing will begin shortly, at around the 40km mark. We kick off with a short third-category ascent, and we get another one 20km or so later.
Things ramp up around the half-way point with the longer second-category ascent of Vex, followed by a 40km détente ahead of the end-game. That consists of a short but testing cat-3 climb at La Rasse - which peaks out at 9.6 percent - followed by the significantly more difficult category 1 finish into Champery, where stage 9 of this year’s Tour de France concludes. The final climb is 14.4km long, with really tough gradients that are mitigated by a more forgiving section around half-way up.
5:10 is the gap now.
Yesterday's prologue was a feast for the tech-lovers. Josh Evans spent the day at the buses checking out what set-ups were being used by the different riders and teams. Here's what he found.
128km remaining from 168km
We're heading for the first climb of the day at Chamoson.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 26th Apr 2017 11:58:37
@robhayles1 Wed, 26th Apr 2017 11:47:33
Sander is first to the KOM point, ahead of Burghardt and Minnaard.
Troia dropped from the break on that climb.
118km remaining from 168km
The gap between the breakaway - now with just five riders - and the peloton has moved out to 7 minutes.
Chris Froome is one of the favourites for this race, but he almost didn't come at all, having toyed with the idea of heading to the Tour de Yorkshire to race more on home soil. He talks about that decision, and his cautious time trial performances yesterday, in this latest report from Daniel Benson.
@BORAhansgrohe Wed, 26th Apr 2017 12:06:27
111km remaining from 168km
57 kilometres in and the gap stands at 7:30.
Here's a reminder of the stage profile.
Wilco Kelderman is here to apply the finishing touches to his condition ahead of the Giro d'Italia, which begins next weekend. We caught up with the Sunweb rider in Aigle this morning, and here's what he had to say.
"It’s going to be a hard stage and the weather isn’t great. The final climb isn’t that hard so it’s hard to predict how things will finish. Maybe there will be a group or there will just be a few riders. I don’t think it’s hard enough to really cause a lot of splits. I’m a protected rider for the team, so we’ll see.
"From here I go to the Giro. I’m happy about that. I wanted a different programme this year and the Giro is a nice race. We’ve a big goal with Tom [Dumoulin] and I’ll protect him as best I can. I’m looking forward to it. For this race we’ll see. I broke my finger in Strade Bianche so I was out for a bit. My first races back were Amstel and Fleche and I had some good feelings."
A first shot of the bunch from the race organisers
We'll soon be climbing again, with another short third-category ascent at Ollon.
Sander Armée goes once again for the KOM points, and gets them.
Minnaard was second, Debesay third.
Armée is in the virtual lead of the mountains classification. Plenty more climbs to come, mind.
@TrekSegafredo Wed, 26th Apr 2017 12:52:04
@XylonVE Wed, 26th Apr 2017 12:50:16
Yesterday wasn't a great start for BMC, as Tejay van Garderen crashed on the slippy course, returning to the BMC bus to throw his helmet to the ground in frustration. The team also has their Tour de France leader, Richie Porte, here, who put in a solid display. Here's a story from the BMC camp.
87km remaining from 168km
We're approaching the third climb of the day, and things are going to get serious. This handy graphic from our friends at Sporza shows the gradients of the second-category ascent.
This season is mostly about domestique duties for Mathias Frank, signed by AG2R to support Romain Bardet, but he has a shot at leadership this week on home soil. We caught up with him this morning to get his thoughts on the prologue and what lies in store today.
"I was happy with yesterday. It’s not my favourite discipline but I didn’t lose too much time," he said.
"I’ve ridden the recon. It’s not a massive final climb but it’s still tough with the low temperatures and the weather. It’s going to be a hard day and a tough finale. I don’t know what to expect. It could be big group, it could be guys going away. For AG2R we have Latour and me. It’s important that we’re up there and that we try something."
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 26th Apr 2017 13:14:00
83km remaining from 168km
Burghardt is dropped from the break as the climb begins.
The peloton is on the climb now, too.
Of the breakaway riders, Armée won the mountains classification here 12 months ago, but you'd argue that Mamykin is the most natural climber in there. The 22-year-old won stages at the Tour de l'Avenir and Giro Valle d'Aosta in 2015 before turning pro with Katusha and enjoying a solid debut campaign.
Rain capes for all out there today. Here's a shot of Owain Doull from the Team Sky car.
7 minutes is the gap, still, as both groups make their way up the climb in steady fashion.
78km remaining from 168km
The breakaway riders are on the upper slopes of the climb now. All calm in the bunch behind. The hostilities will come later on.
74km remaining from 168km
Armée once again comes to the fore as the KOM banner comes into focus. But it's Debesay who comes through to take the full eight points. The Lotto Soudal man still collects six to maintain his virtual lead in the KOM standings. Mamykin crossed the line third.
And now the peloton passes over the summit, 7:35 behind our four leaders.
Burghardt is still in between the break and the peloton. Can he make it back up there on this descent? It's a tricky one. We don't have a time check on the Bora rider at the moment.
We also caught up with Quick-Step's young and cheerful talent, Bob Jungels, this morning. The Luxembourg champion shone at the Giro d'Italia last year and he's aiming to do so again this time around.
"I’m here for stage wins rather than the GC - hopefully. The shape is good but with the hard Giro coming up I think that it would be a bit too much to try and go for GC here," he said.
"I’m here to support David de la Cruz but also try for a stage win. I won’t go home without a fight. It’s the first road stage and we’ll see how the final climb is. I think it will be a small group but we’ve a few cards to play."
63km remaining from 168km
The gap goes out to 8 minutes now after 105km.
@Lotto_Soudal Wed, 26th Apr 2017 13:49:20
Here's a shot of the peloton on that last climb from the race organisers.
50km remaining from 168km
The four breakaway riders continue to collaborate nicely. The gap is still up at over 7 minutes - a very handy advantage indeed with 50km to go.
LottoNL-Jumbo lead the peloton at the moment, taking over from Trek-Segafredo, who have been prominent throughout today, protecting the leader's jersey on the shoulders of Fabio Felline. Lotto have Primoz Roglic as a candidate for the overall, the Slovenian having put some time into the other GC men on yesterday's prologue.
40km/h is the average speed so far after three hours of racing.
The breakaway quartet is heading towards the first of two intermediate sprints on today's stage. Plenty of points on offer.
45km remaining from 168km
Panic in the peloton?
The pace has really ramped up, and LottoNL's work has caused the gap to come down to 6:20. They've left themselves with plenty of work to do.
Minnaard took the maximum 15 points at the intermediate sprint, ahead of Debesay and Mamykin.
42km remaining from 168km
The gap comes down to 5:50 and the firepower in the peloton over the tired legs in the break is really becoming evident on this long flat stretch in the valley between the climbs.
It's windy out there and it looks like a cross-head. Riders towards the back of the bunch having to be very much switched on.
40km remaining from 168km
5 minutes is the gap now with 40km to go. LottoNL still drilling it on the front of the bunch, joined by there by a lone Cannondale.
With a less mountainous parcours here than in previous editions, the battle for the yellow jersey looks set to be a close-run affair, and riders like Primoz Roglic will be a big threat to Tour de France champion Chris Froome.
The LottoNL man is developing nicely as a stage racer and was the best of the GC contenders on yesterday's prologue. Dan Benson caught up with him - here's the story.
Roglic lays down Tour de Romandie marker with prologue performance
37km remaining from 168km
The breakaway quartet continue to shed time in the valley. 4:05 is how it stands at the moment.
The breakaway riders probably can't wait for the next climb. It's only a couple of kilometres long but features double-digit gradients. They'll be there in a few kilometres' time.
@TrekSegafredo Wed, 26th Apr 2017 14:41:16
The rain is starting to come down once again. Champéry awaits, bathed in thick low-level cloud.
The breakaway quartet turn onto the climb of La Rasse. Mamykin bobs out of the saddle as the riders stick together before the gradients ramp up.
28km remaining from 168km
Froome's Sky teammates come to the fore now, with LottNL, Bahrain, and BMC all lined up across the front of the peloton. 2:25 is the gap as they come to the climb now.
The peloton tackles the climb in steady fashion. Teams are keeping their GC riders up in strong positions but there's no real action for now.
The KOM banner is in sight, and that means Armée is off to top up his points tally.
26km remaining from 168km
The Lotto Soudal rider begins the descent, and the other three should be back up with him shortly. The peloton continues its advance, however, and the gap is now just 1:51.
Problem for Jungels.
The Quick-Step rider is seen getting a wheel change from a teammate by the side of the road. No waiting for the team car, and he should have little trouble getting back on.
23km remaining from 168km
Minnaard takes maximum points again at the second intermediate sprint as the breakaway quartet rolls through, just a few kilometres ahead of the final climb.
'We’re not going to see the winner overall today but there could be a lot of damage'
Speaking of the final climb, BMC's Nico Roche has been to check it out, and he told Cyclingnews this morning what we might expect.
"It’s really two different climbs in one with a hard start, then it levels out a bit with short descent in the middle. It’s going to be important to be there at the foot of the climb and then be at the front for that descent.
"I think it’s a test for the GC guys. It’s the riders who make the race and sometimes even a drag like today can make the difference. We’re not going to see the winner overall today but there could be a lot of damage. A lot depends on which team want to put the pressure on. I would have expected Movistar to do it but they’ve got three guys who can rider GC, so who is going to ride for who? They don’t have Quintana or Valverde here. Some guys will need to come back and gain time after yesterday too. There’s not many chances for the GC guys."
20km remaining from 168km
The break rediscovers a few seconds now on the run to this final climb. 2:20 with 20km to go.
It's BMC driving the peloton with three men at the head of affairs. Bora-Hansgrohe are up there in numbers now, too. They have a promising young GC rider in Emanuel Buchmann.
The weather is getting grimmer and grimmer.
16km remaining from 168km
Orica-Scott are also up there now. They have Simon Yates for the overall.
15km remaining from 168km
The gap is down to 1:25 and we're about to begin the final climb.
The road ramps up and the hostilities commence almost immediately. It's Debesay who takes flight, the others having to rise out of the saddle and sprint to get back on terms.
15km remaining from 168km
Armée is quickly up with the Dimension Data man. Minnaard is fighting and will make it eventually. Mamykin is dropped and it doesn't look like we'll be seeing him again.
BMC lead the peloton onto the climb. Less than a minute to the leaders up the road.
14km remaining from 168km
Minnaard is dislodged once again. The Wanty rider is fighting, but his legs are seizing up and he looks to be really struggling now.
It's all calm in the peloton at the moment as BMC set a strong but steady tempo on the early slopes.
FDJ are also up there alongside BMC. They have Sebastien Reichenbach here, along with the hugely talented neo-pro David Gaudu.
12km remaining from 168km
Mamykin has found another gear and has clawed himself back up to within sight of Debesay and Armée. Those two kick again, though, and it'll be tricky for him to make the wheel.
12km remaining from 168km
12km to go now and the gap is 45 seconds.
11km remaining from 168km
Mamykin is back. What a turnaround. The Katusha rider looked done for when the accelerations began at the start of the climb.
11km remaining from 168km
The peloton is thinning out but the GC men and stage hunters are biding their time for now. 30 seconds to the head of the race.
Armée accelerates up front, and Debesay is immediately on his wheel. Mamykin shakes his head - dropped again.
The TV cameramen are having to wipe dry their lenses with increasing frequency. It's grim out there, but the jackets and gilets are off for most as we're well into the business end of this stage.
9km remaining from 168km
The gap is holding at 30 seconds with 9km to go. The riders are on those gentler gradients around the middle of the climb.
Still it's BMC on the front of the bunch with three men.
8km remaining from 168km
And now the gap comes crashing down. 12 seconds.
Lots of looking round at the head of the bunch as we enter the final portion of this climb. The leaders are in sight.
161km remaining from 168km
LottoNL kick off the hostilities.
It's Robert Gesink who has gone on the attack, and he's dragged a few riders with him.
It's Damien Howson (Orica), David Gaudu (FDJ), Tsgabu Grmay (Bahrain), along with a rider from AG2R.
Jarlinson Pantano leads the chase, but David de la Cruz attacks now to bridge up to the leaders.
The breakaway men were immediately swallowed up as the attacks started.
5km remaining from 168km
Things come back together but Roman Kreuziger puts in a big dig.
Gesink sets off in pursuit of the Orica rider but it's coming back together again.
4km remaining from 168km
Howson goes now. Orica are really trying to soften up the rest of the field here.
Van Garderen on the move.
The American crashed yesterday but is off in pursuit of Howson and quickly makes the bridge.
Izaguirre joins Van Garderen as several others jump on board.
3km remaining from 168km
This group of about 10 has a small gap. Just a couple of km's left of the climb, with a run to the line of just over a kilometre.
3km remaining from 168km
There's not enough collaboration in this lead group as Sky lead the chase.
It comes back together but now it's Roglic who puts in a dig.
2km remaining from 168km
Howson, De la Cruz are up there, as is Simon Spliak.
There's not much of a gap, but it's strung out.
Roglic drives again and now Izaguirre jumps on it.
No big gaps here but the final part of this climb is being ridden aggressively.
Richie Porte comes to the fore now as there's another brief moment of détente.
1km remaining from 168km
1.5km to go now, and still there are plenty of riders in contention for the stage win.
The riders enter the clouds. Yates hits the front but it's all rather controlled for now.
1km remaining from 168km
An FDJ rider puts in a brief acceleration. No one really wants to take it on.
Race leader Felline is up there. Ulissi too.
Here we go!
Orica take it up...
That's Michael Albasini and he takes it!
Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) wins stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie
The Swiss rider simply loves racing on home soil. That's his seventh win at the Tour de Romandie as he capitalises on his Ardennes form. He timed it perfectly coming into the final bend.
Ulissi was second, with Jesus Herrada in third.
Here's the top 10
1 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott 04:33:10
2 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Team UAE Abu Dhabi
3 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Natnael Berhane (Eri) Dimension Data
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
8 David De La Cruz (Spa) Quick-Step Floors
9 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team
10 Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
Felline was safely up there and keeps hold of the race lead.
General Classification after stage 1
1 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 04:39:07
2 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 00:00:08
3 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team
4 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo 00:00:09
5 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 00:00:12
6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors
7 JosŽ Gonalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin 00:00:13
8 Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott 00:00:14
10 Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar Team
So, that climb was ridden aggressively but it didn't prove to be very selective as a group of around 60 came to the finish together.
The first finish line shots are in
Michael Albasini has won 27 races in his career, and just under half of them (12) have come on Swiss soil.
It's double delight for Orica as Simon Yates takes the King of the Mountains jersey. The Australian was only really thinking about setting the pace and teeing things up for Albasini, but he'll take it, even if it is slightly cruel on Sander Armée. The Lotto Soudal man spent all day in the break and mopped up points over four different climbs, but the wealth of points on offer atop the final ascent means he doesn't enjoy the privilege of wearing the jersey he won outright last year - at least not yet.
Here's our stage 1 page, where you can find full report, results, photos etc.
A notable performance there from Maximilian Schachmann, the Quick-Step neo-pro who came through their development team.
The 23-year-old was fourth on the prologue and up there in 14th today, and pulls on the jersey of best young rider for his troubles.
Our man in Champéry Daniel Benson grabbed a word with Richie Porte at the BMC bus.
"It was a good day to pass through. It was so cold everyone was struggling to change gears. We all felt equally as fatigued as each other so it wasn’t the most exciting. The next couple of days don’t look great weather wise but it’s nice to get the race started," said the Australian.
On his teammate Van Garderen's attack, he added: "That was pre-planned. If he had the opportunity to attack he would do it. He’s really strong at the moment and his move drew a few GC guys out. It’s a good card for Saturday."
And there is Porte earlier in the day
Monsieur Benson also caught up with Chris Froome at the Team Sky bus. He has become a dab hand at putting himself up there in fast finishes and took fifth on the stage today.
"I just felt like having a go," he explained. "I got within sight of the finish line and felt like I had something to give so I thought I’d go for it seeing as it wasn’t a typical sprint. Most of the big sprinters had been dropped by that point. Especially if there were to be any time gaps, it’s good to be on the front side of those.
On the weather, he added: "It’s hard work and something I don’t do much of but I think today we actually got quite lucky, it could’ve been a lot worse than it was but thankfully up on the main climb of the day it was pretty dry for us."
That's all from us today. Thanks very much for your company. You can find a full gallery of photos, along with the full results, in our stage 1 report. We'll have news and reactions from the key protagonists coming in shortly and, of course, we'll be back here tomorrow for full live coverage of stage 2. See you then!
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