Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the opening road stage of the Tour de Romandie.
Hello there, and a warm welcome back to Cyclingnews' live race centre for full coverage of the second day of the Tour de Romandie. The second day, but stage 1... that's because the race kicked off yesterday with a short prologue, won by Michael Matthews (Sunweb).
Today is the first proper road stage. It's 166.6km long and features four climbs that should weed out the pure sprinters and draw at least some action from the overall contenders. You have to say it's tailor-made for another Matthews victory.
The riders are gathering at the start line. After a short neutralised section, the race is officially due to get underway at 13.20 local time.
This is what the riders face today. There are two climbs on the way to Delémont, and then two laps of a finishing circuit that contains a tough second-category climb. The race finishes with a descent before an uphill drag to the line.
Michael Matthews is a versatile rider who can sprint and climb and as such is a big favourite for a second stage win. Here he is in his yellow jersey.
The flag drops and the race is underway.
At the start there was one person on everyone's minds: Andy Rihs. The BMC Racing Team owner died last week at the age of 75, having backed the team for over a decade, and the Phonak team before that.
We are of course in Rihs' native Switzerland, and today the BMC riders, all wearing black armbands with 'Andy' written in white, lined up at the head of the bunch to lead a minute's silence. UCI President David Lappartient was also in attendance.
Here is the armband, which is also being worn by race officials.
In the early kilometres of the race we have a group of five riders who've broken away from the peloton. We'll bring you the names shortly.
The five riders in the break are:
Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale)
Remy Mertz (Lotto Soudal)
William Clarke (EF-Drapac)
Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ)
Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
The quintet already have a lead of more than three minutes.
Now's a good chance to catch up on everything that happened yesterday. Here's our report page from the prologue, with a full write-up, full results, and a photo gallery.
What can Michael Albasini do today?
The Swiss rider may not be in the form of his life - he was a DNF at all three Ardennes Classics - but he has traditionally shone at Romandie, with no fewer than seven stage victories at his 'home' race. He's another rider who can climb but still pack a fast finish so the stage profile very much suits him.
Speaking of Mitchelton-Scott, Mikel Nieve is here in what is only his second race for the team since he moved from Sky over the winter. That's because he fractured his hip in training, leaving him in a race against time to be ready for the Giro d'Italia, where he'll be called upon to help Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates in the mountains.
Daniel Benson caught up with the Spaniard yesterday and has the following story.
126km remaining from 166km
The five leaders now have over five minutes on the peloton as they hit the first climb of the day, a category 2 ascent at Lignières.
This is a relatively short climb at 4.3km but it's a steep one, with an average gradient of 8.3% and a maximum of 11%.
The five riders crest the climb, having seen a minute shaved off their lead.
A light headwind meant 39.1km were covered in the first hour of racing.
Have you listened to our latest podcast?
Daniel Benson and Philippa York are out in Switzerland and broadcasting daily from the race. In this episode they dissect yesterday's prologue and hear from Geraint Thomas. You can listen here.
Minnaard was the first rider over the climb, if you were wondering. The Dutchman picks up 8 KOM points for his efforts.
The riders are descending but it won't be long before they're heading uphill again, with the third-category Col de Pierre Pertuis the next climb on the agenda.
95km remaining from 166km
The five breakaway riders remain just over four minutes ahead as they approach the second climb of the day. A few riders lost contact with the peloton on that first climb but they've made it back in without any issues.
The breakaway riders are on the climb, while Matthews' Sunweb teammates have taken control of the peloton.
This climb is just 2.5km in length, with an average gradient of 6%.
91km remaining from 166km
Minnaard once again is first over the top, collecting another five points. Duchesne and Mertz are second and third - the opposite way round to the first climb. Two more climbs to go, but Minnaard is well on his way to the mountains jersey.
Sunweb lead the peloton over the top, five minutes down.
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The riders are heading downhill once more (there's not a huge amount of flat today) towards Delémont, where they'll cross the finish line for the first time. Despite the up and down, there are two intermediate sprints on the menu, and William Clarke has taken the points and three bonus seconds at the first one.
Gougeard has a couple of mechanical problems and is chasing back onto the break for a second time.
70km remaining from 166km
The gap has yawned out to 6 minutes now. The peloton will have to be careful here.
Here's the scene at the finish in Delémont.
@TourDeRomandie Wed, 25th Apr 2018 13:28:53
60km remaining from 166km
The breakaway riders roll into town and across the finish line, while the peloton cross the line now just under 6 minutes down.
The race should really heat up now as we head for the double ascent - and descent - of Le Sommet.
It's 6.1km in length, with an average gradient of 6.4% and a maximum of 9%.
A reminder of the stage profile
53km remaining from 166km
They're climbing in the break now and it's Clarke leading them up. The pace has indeed increased in the peloton and they've cut the gap to 4:45.
Laurens Ten Dam is on the front of the bunch for Sunweb. They've done the lion's share of the work today - unsurprising given Michael Matthews is both the overall leader and the overwhelming favourite for the stage win.
Some riders are getting dropped from the peloton on this climb now. The pace isn't fierce but Sunweb are forcing a strong tempo and that's put some of the weaker climbers - such as Viviani's lead-out man Fabio Sabatini - in trouble.
Viviani, of course, is probably the rider Sunweb most urgently need to dispatch. He's the strongest sprinter, on paper, at the race. His teammate Fernando Gaviria is also here but just coming back from injury, so Viviani is the leader for Quick-Step as he finalises his Giro d'Italia preparations with his lead-out train.
49km remaining from 166km
The breakaway riders are nearing the top of the climb and they're losing ground. A minute has been knocked off the gap in the space of a couple of kilometres and it now stands at 3:45.
Viviani is dropped.
The break are within sight of the top of the climb and that's Minnaard's cue to spring clear in search of more KOM points. There's no big response from the other four and so Minnaard takes eight more points and so will be wearing the mountains jersey tomorrow
45km remaining from 166km
The breakaway riders start to head downhill, and this is where they'll be able to stem the tide. The descent is rudely interrupted by a short uncategorised climb but otherwise it's a 20km ride back down into town.
The peloton crest the climb 3:30 in arrears.
Here are our breakaway riders
The quintet overcome that mid-descent uphill kick, and it's a nasty one. Back into the big ring now.
36km remaining from 166km
Still Sunweb on the front of the peloton. 3:05 is the gap.
Mertz looks like the strongest descender here and has a gap over his breakaway companions. Duchesne is a few metres back and the other three several more behind that.
Clarke looks like the strongest descender here and has a gap over his breakaway companions. Duchesne is a few metres back and the other three several more behind that.
Clarke has a gap as the road flattens out but the other four are back with him now.
3:25 is the gap with 28.5km left to race.
27km remaining from 166km
UAE put a man on the front now as the peloton head through the finish line and out for a second ascent of Le Sommet.
The gap is still pretty big, even as it ducks down to three minutes. Remember, though, the peloton closed in by 2:30 on the last time up, and this time it's sure to be ridden more aggressively. So this is still in the hands of the peloton.
UAE have Dan Martin and Rui Costa in their ranks and they're continuing to work. LottoNL-Jumbo are also up near the front, Primoz Roglic being their leader.
25km remaining from 166km
Here's the second intermediate sprint, and once again it's Clarke who claims maximum points, though at this point the quintet are more concerned about sticking together and keeping the peloton at bay for as long as possible.
The breakaway riders are on the climb, and the lead continues to fall - 2:30 now.
Four kilometres to the top and Mertz is struggling in the break, dangling several metres behind his companions. Clarke is losing contact now, too.
Duchesne is going backwards now, too, leaving Gougeard and Minnaard to plough on at the head of the race.
First attacks in the peloton!
It's Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), and he has a couple of riders for company. Pavel Sivakov is up there for Sky, along with Lucas Hamilton of Mitchelton-Scott.
Lots of riders getting dropped from the bunch now. Peter Kennaugh might ordinarily like the profile of today's stage but he has hardly raced this year and is easing his way back into the swing of things. He looks like he's enjoying himself, in any case, as he enjoys a joke with Luke Rowe at the back of the race.
The peloton, led by Steven Kruijswijk of LottoNL, reel in De Gendt, Sivakov and Hamilton.
Gougeard and Minnaard are still together at the head of affairs. 1:35 is their gap with just over 20km to go.
The race leader is in trouble as he loses contact with the back of the peloton, which is thinning out now. Matthews has a teammate with him, and the gap isn't huge, but this isn't a good sign for the Australian.
Kruijswijk continues to lead the peloton, with Roglic - decked in the green jersey - on his wheel. Behind them Team Sky show their faces with a couple of riders either side of Geraint Thomas.
Minnaard leads the way, with Gougeard on the wheel. Minnaard should be in line for maximum KOM points once again, while Gougeard must now be thinking about the stage win. It's going to be a close one.
18km remaining from 166km
Minnaard leads over the top of the climb, Gougeard tucked in the wheel. The road starts to dip down now and Gougeard comes through.
Here comes the peloton, and the time gap is 1:03.
With the majority of the remaining kilometres downhill, Gougeard and Minnaard stand a fighting change.
Still it's LottoNL leading the peloton on this swooping descent. Bahrain-Merida are also up there near the front now. Matthews hasn't yet made it back in.
13km remaining from 166km
Gougeard and Minnaard continue to collaborate well as the road flattens out, then turns to false flat, and then kicks up. They have 40 seconds.
While Matthews is out of the picture, it appears Sonny Colbrelli is still in here. That's why Bahrain have come to the front - the Italian would probably be the favourite in a sprint from this reduced bunch.
The Izaguirre brothers come to the front now as Bahrain take over from LottoNL.
Astana come through suddenly now with an acceleration from Omar Fraile.
And now a lull, and now an attack from Dan Martin!
Martin takes advantage of the perfect moment and has a gap as the climb comes to an end.
10km remaining from 166km
Martin quickly catches the breakaway duo.
And now other riders set out in pursuit.
Martin comes through now as Gougeard and Minnaard take to the Irishman's wheel. The road descends again now, and it's a fast one. The road will only flatten out and kick up again in the final couple of kilometres.
The peloton is lined out but they're very close indeed to the leading trio.
Emmanuel Buchmann is the man leading the charge and he reaches Martin and sails past him.
Meanwhile Gougeard is resisting the catch and has a lead of a few seconds as he tucks down onto his top tube.
There's a regrouping behind Gougeard.
Gougeard is extending his lead on this descent. The stage win would still be a very tall order, though.
3km remaining from 166km
Team Sky on the front of the bunch as the road flattens out down by the river. Bahrain aren't taking it up for the time being.
Gougeard has 10 seconds.
2km remaining from 166km
Eros Capecchi attacks and he's joined by a Movistar rider.
It's Winner Anacona for Movistar, but Mitchelton-Scott bring them back.
Thomas hits the front now, as Gougeard is caught. A fine effort from the Frenchman.
1km remaining from 166km
Another Mitchelton rider takes a flyer, and attacks are pinging off here. Bahrain don't look like they can control things here.
1km remaining from 166km
Flamme rouge and it's Rudy Molard (FDJ) who goes clear.
Molard has a small gap as the road begins to drag up.
Molard takes a look around and springs out of the saddle.
Fraile takes it up... and wins!
Omar Fraile (Astana) wins stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie
What an effort from the Spaniard. He started sprinting just as Molard was caught, and managed to out-gun Colbrelli.
Rui Costa took third place.
With Molard within touching distance, Fraile was moving up, though Colbrelli ducked in to close the final few metres. As he did, Fraile moved round on the right and opened up. Colbrelli wasn't slow to respond, but lacked the kick. Those two were well clear, with Costa a distant third.
That's the second win of the season for Fraile in his first campaign with Astana. The 27-year-old won a stage in the Basque Country earlier this month.
Here's the top 10
1 Omar Fraile (Spa) Astana Pro Team 4:03:42
2 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3 Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
4 Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
6 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
7 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9 Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data
10 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
The absence of Matthews and Bohli from that reduced peloton means that Primoz Roglic is the new overall leader.
And here is the new GC
1 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo 4:09:16
2 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team
3 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:04
4 Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky 0:00:05
5 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:08
7 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky 0:00:10
8 Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Team Sky
9 Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
Here's our report page, for all your report, results, and photographic needs.
Primoz Roglic, the new leader of the Tour de Romandie, speaks to the press.
That's all from us today. We'll have all the news and reaction from the race on the site shortly, along with another podcast. Catch you all back here tomorrow for stage 2.
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