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Tour de Romandie 2018: Prologue


Hello and welcome to a warm and sunny Switzerland for the Tour de Romandie prologue time trial.

As we fire up the Cyclingnews blimp, the first riders have already started the fast and intense 4km prologue. However all the big names are still to ride.


What is the 72nd edition of the Tour de Romandie has attracted an impressive field with defending champion Richie Porte lining up alongside a strong BMC Racing squad that includes Tejay van Garderen and Rohan Dennis. 

However BMC Racing are not the only squad looking to win the overall. Team Sky arrive with Geraint Thomas and neo pros Egan Bernal and Pavel Sivakov on each of the Welshman’s flanks.

Thomas De Gendt and Steve Cummings will surely feature in breakaways, while Dan Martin, Rui Cosa, Primoz Roglic, Pierre Latour, and Jakob Fulgsang are among the GC contenders.

Fernando Gavira and Elia Viviani will lead the line for Quick-Step Floors in the sprints, and should face opposition from Michael Matthews, Sonny Colbrelli, and Pascal Ackerman.



In a repeat of last year’s race, the Tour de Romandie begins with a short individual test against the clock, this time in Fribourg.

There are few opportunities for the sprinters, with the route heavily stacked towards the GC contenders and strong all-rounders.

There may not be any true mountain summit finishes in the race but every stage, bar the time trials, has over 1,000m of climbing with the queen stage in Sion set to shape the fight for the leader’s jersey. The individual uphill time trial to Villars will be just as important.


Cyclingnews will have complete live coverage from the race, as well as news, reactions, analysis and podcasts from Philippa York and editor-in-chief Daniel Benson.


Click here to listen to the special pre-race podcast, with Philippa York catching up with old friend and former pro Allan Peiper.




Simon Spilak of Katusha sent an early fast time of 5:54.


However he was soon beaten by Dan Martin (UAE), who handled the twisting, cobbled course well to set 5:52.


Martin is a GC contender this year bit is no TT specialist. Indeed his time was soon beaten by Will Clarke (EF), who set 5:39. 



Clarke is fastest after 12 riders have finished.


The riders are off at one-minute intervals today as there's little risk of catching the rider in front.



The prologue takes place around the streets of the medieval city of Fribourg.


It is a fast, but technical course that features both sharp and sweeping bends that could catch some out.


Fabio Felline took a surprise victory in last year’s prologue in Aigle, beating Alex Dowsett by two seconds on the similarly long course.


Here's Dowsett as he follows a Katusha teammate in the team car to see how they handle the technical course. 


The British rider will have to take some risks later if he hopes to win the TT. 



Dowsett starts his ride at 17:08 local time. 


Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) has opted to ride the Tour de Romandie as final preparation for the Giro d'Italia this year and should be in strong form with the Corsa Rosa less than two weeks away.


Dennis sets off at 15:50 and will be one of the favourites for the stage win. His teammate Porte, who sets off at 17:25 local time, could also come away with the stage win.


The start times are stacked in such a manner that Dennis could have a long wait to see if his time will be strong enough to take the victory, with most of the time trial specialists amongst the final 30 riders to start.



Other potential stage winners are Jonathan Castroviejo (16:38), Stef Clement (16:54), Paris-Roubaix runner-up Silvan Dillier (16:58), Tejay van Garderen (17:06), Alex Dowsett (17:08), Stephen Cummings (17:09), Primoz Roglic (17:13), Mathias Brandle (17:15, Geraint Thomas (17:16) and Ion Izagirre (17:20).


Roglic, Thomas and Izagirre will be particularly interesting to watch as they are likely to be up there in the fight for the overall classification at the end of the week, as is Gorka Izagirre (16:23) and Jakob Fuglsang (17:18).


For a full TT start list, click here.


New beat time! Swiss rider Tom Bolhi of BMC sets 5:34.


That's an average of 43.3km/h for the twisting course. 


Unfortunately Trek's Matthias Brändle is already out of the race.

He crashed in the warm-up and is out of the race. 


This is the current top ten for the prologue.


1 Tom Bohli (Swi) BMC Racing Team 05:34.1
2 William Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:05
3 Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:10
4 José Gonçalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:13
5 Daniel Martin (Irl) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:18
6 Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates 0:00:19
7 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin 0:00:20
8 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:23
9 Nico Denz (Ger) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:24
10 Brendan Canty (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:25


Rohan Dennis is off!



As national champion, Dennis is racing in his Australian green and gold today.



Dennis is fast but not fast enough. He sets 5:34 but is second to Bohli by a few hundredths.


Dennis crossed the line in 5:34.64 and sits second behind Bohli’s time of 5:34.07.


That is close but no cigar for the BMC rider.


To see the top ten for the TT, check out our situation column on the right.  


The sun is out in Fribourg with the temperatures pretty warm for a Swiss spring. 


That should see some fast times later.



Bohli is a big rider and used his power and TT to blast around the technical course. 


Euro TT champion Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal) is coming in now. 


He sets 5:38, suffering on the final steep cobbled climb up to the finish. 


Riders are staying tucked over their aero bars to safe watts and keep their speed.

Some riders have opted to use a modified road race bike but the TT will probably be faster.


Danilo Wyss (BMC Racing) is giving it all on the climb. 


Wyss sets a time of 6:07. He gets a special cheer as a local Swiss rider.


50 riders have finished the 4km TT but Bohli the fastest with a time of 5:34.


Pavel Sivakov (Sky) is off next. He's one of the most promising  young riders of his generation. 


Sky also have Bernal in their line up here at Romandie.


This is Bohli in the hot seat. He is pointing to the special armband the BMC riders are wearing to remember team owner Andy Rihs who died last week. 



Britain's Pete Kennaugh stops the clock in 6:06 on his return to racing with Bora after an illness.


Sivakov sets 5:50. Some big-name power riders are still to ride.


Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) stomps on his road bike up the climb but is off the pace.


Michael Morkov of Quick-Step is off. He could do a good time if he's keen to go for it and take risks.


De Gendt comes in and sets a time of 5:46.


De Gendt finished 8th fastest and so sneeked into our new top ten. 


1 Tom Bohli (Swi) BMC Racing Team 05.34.07
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team
3 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:04
4 William Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:05
5 Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:05
6 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:08
7 Andrey Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:10
8 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:12
9 Alexis Gougeard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:12
10 Davide Martinelli (Ita) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:13


No rider can go slow today because the 4km time trial is short and intense. Ride too easy and a rider could finish outside the time limit 


Daniel Felipe Martínez sets 5:49. That's good considering he was in hospital just a few weeks ago after being attacked by a car driver. 



GC contender Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) is racing. He's targeting the Tour de France this season rather than the Giro d'Italia and so could be looking to end his spring campaign on a high here in Romandie.


Spanish national TT champion Jonathan Castroviejo (Team Sky) is out on the course. He could be a real contender on this hilly, technical circuit.


Castroviejo is 2.5 seconds at the time check. He is perhaps not going full gas.


Castroviejo sets 5:44 but that's only seventh fastest.


Britain's Geraint Thomas is warming up. He could be a threat today unless he wants to avoid risks.


Local hero Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) could be a threat today. He always performs well here.


Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) is off now. He's back racing after missing all the cobbled classics.


Gaviria is number 13 and so wears his number upside down to ward off any bad luck. 


He rides steady and sets 6:21.


Tom Bohli is still in the hot seat and spoke about his ride. 


"It’s pretty unbelievable. It was my first chrono for the entire year. I was really nervous, I had stomach ache and so I can’t explain why it went well. Perhaps the nervousness helped me to get into the flow," he told Eurosport.  


This is a shot of Bohli during his TT today.



Stef Clement sets 5:57. The Lotto is a TT specialist but is more suited to a flat power rider's course. 


Here comes Pierre Rolland. He is only ten seconds slower than Bohli.


Bernal is fast! He sets 5:44 and is 8th fastest. That's pretty good for a climber. Of course he is Colombian TT champion.


Dilier is also fast, setting  5:47 but he can't get close to Bohli.


Tejay van Garderen is off. Can he do a ride today? 


The American is quickly into his aero tuck and up to speed.


Dowsett is iff too. He could threaten Bohli's time today. He's been training at altitude lately.


Here's Bernal after his ride.



Dowsett dives through a cobbled curve and is quickly in his tuck again.


Here comes Tejay. He sets 5:55. 28th fastest for him.


Could today be for the sprinters. Michael Matthews will soon show us. 




We're at the sharp end of the start list now, with Roglic starting his ride. 


He must be a real threat to Bohli's time.


Dowsett is only 20th fastest. 


Roglic looks faster as he handles a nasty speed bump.  


Boom! Matthews sets a new fastest time! 5:33!


He beats Bohli by less than a second but dips below the 5:34 mark.


Here comes Roglic but he's slower than Matthews in 5:34.


The hundredths of seconds count back but Bohli second and Roglic third behind Matthews. 


This is the new top ten. 


1 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb 05:33.1
2 Tom Bohli (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:01
4 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
5 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:00:05
6 William Clarke (Aus) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:06
7 Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:06
8 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:06
9 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:09
10 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 0:00:11


Here comes Thomas. He suffers on the climb to the line but sets 5:38. 


Thomas needed time to recover from his effort.




Viviani is off next. Can he emulate Matthews and set a fast time thanks to his speed?


Richie Porte is last rider off as 2017 winner of the Tour de Romandie.


Amador sets 5:52. That's not fast but keeps him in overall contention. 


Viviani is using his track skills to keep his speed on the corners.


Viviani sets a time of 6:07 after fading on the climb up to the finish area.


Porte is more aggressive and faster on the climb. He sets 5:47. He is only 18th fastest. 


With all riders in that means Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) wins the 4km prologue TT. 


Here's Matthews in TT action.



The 4km TT course meant time gaps were tight, with Tom Bohli (BMC Racing) second at one second. 


Roglic was third also at one second. 




Rohan Dennis was fourth, also at one second. 


Matthews is naturally the first race leader and so will wear the leader's yellow jersey during Wednesday's road stage.


Matthews gets the cheers on the podium.


Matthews spoke about his ride before collecting almost all the jerseys on the podium.


“It’s a little bit of a surprise to win. I didn’t have a good day at Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday. I had an easy day on Monday and back into today. I didn’t know how legs would feel but I gave my best and it was enough to get the win," he said.


"It was a really beautiful course. For the TV it was probably as nice as it was for us on the bike. In the recon I thought it was maybe a little bit sketchy but at high speed it was fine. I actually had a lot fun out there."


Matthews rode Romandie in 2013 but soon fell ill. This is a far better start. It is also his first win of 2018, after an often frustrating spring. 


"I’ve always watched this race. I think I did it in 2013. I started but got sick after first TT, so it’s pretty much my first time here. I’m stoked to get the win in the first stage," he said.


"I’ll enjoy this win now. It’s my first win of season, so it takes the pressure off for the next days. Everything has been getting better and better since the start of the year and I’m happy just to get the win.”


CN Editor in Chief Dan Benson spoke to Geraint Thomas briefly after his ride. 


"There was a lot to think about and that was a hard last final 800m," he said.


"I think that I rode it okay, and got it all out, but looking back you always think that there were a few corners that you could have taken quicker."


"I needed Liege in my legs really because it’s been a while since racing. It was a tough course. Explosive and bang once you’re out there it’s done. It was like a track effort really."


This shot of Dennis on the climb confirms it was the key to the stage. Matthews used his power to kick his way up the cobbled climb.  



Every rider went deep on the climb, with lots, like Canadian champion Svein Tuft, pulling faces in pain.



Here is the shot of Matthews giving it all on the climb. 



The best finishers all used TT bikes, while others opted for the comfort of their road race bike with aero extensions.


Wednesday's stage 1 at the Tour de Romandie is from Fribourg to Delémont over 166km.  


It includes four categorised climbs and over 2000m of climbing. However it should suit the sprinters who are on form. 



We could see Matthews win again or the likes of Elia Viviani emerge to win the sprint. Unless others in the peloton decide to explode the race in the hope of a stage win.



Here's Michael Matthews in the yellow leader's jersey.



To see our full photo gallery from the prologue time trial and to read our full stage report, click here. 



Join us for coverage of stage 2 of the Tour de Romandie on Wednesday to see if Matthews can retain his race lead. 




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