Live coverage of the 3.8km prologue that kicks off the 2019 Tour de Romandie
Hello there, and welcome to the Cyclingnews live race centre for the Tour de Romandie. The 2019 edition of the Swiss WorldTour race kicks off today with a very short 3.8-kilometre prologue in Neuchatel.
The first rider down the start ramp will be Mathias Flückiger of the Swiss national team, who is normally found on a mountain bike. He's off at 15:06 local time, so in around 10 minutes. The 140 riders will set off at intervals of one minute right up until Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) who is last off at 17:25.
For the full list of start times, here's the link you need.
Here's the course. There's a stiff little climb in the middle but it's largely flat and fast. At just 3.87km, it will only take them a few minutes.
Flückiger is off, and the 2019 Tour de Romandie is underway.
A couple of interesting early starters today. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) has just got underway, and this is an important final outing for him ahead of the Giro d'Italia. Meanwhile Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Soudal), who recently broke the Hour Record, is about to head down the ramp.
This Tour de Romandie signals a changing of the guard, with Team Sky a thing of the past, and Team Ineos now officially born. After nearly 10 years, broadcaster Sky is stepping aside as Jim Ratcliffe's petrochemical company takes over ownership and sponsorship of Dave Brailsford's team.
They wanted to launch on home turf at the Tour de Yorkshire later this week but UCI rules prevented them from riding Romandie at the same time with a different name and different colours. So they're here as Ineos, with a black kit that says Ineos on it, but it's a one-off, and the real new kit and colours (word is it's burgundy) will be revealed in Yorkshire. More at the following link.
Campenaerts crashes. He's back on his bike but any hope of a stage win disappears. He finishes 49 seconds down on Movistar's Eduardo Sepulveda, who is quickest so far.
Sepulveda's time, by the way, was 5:20. Zakarin clocked 5:23 and is fifth fastest so far.
The course contains a few technical corners, and risks are there to be taken, which is perhaps what was Campenaerts' undoing. Here's the map.
Sam Bewley (Mitchelton-Scott) does not take to the start ramp after crashing in his recon ride this morning.
Kenny Elissonde ushers in the Ineos dawn. He's their first rider today and has just clocked 5:39, which puts him towards the bottom of the standings so far.
For more on Sky/Ineos, Alasdair Fotheringham was at Liège-Bastogne-Liège for us on Sunday and spent some time observing the team in what was their final outing at Sky. It was all very subdued and underwhelming, he reports.
We're in Switzerland, which means Simon Spilak is obviously out in force. The Katusha-Alpecin rider, a former winner and a podium finisher here on three occasions, clocks 5:21 to put himself second provisionally. He has also won the Tour de Suisse twice, with more than half of his career victories coming on Swiss soil. He's not even Swiss.
New fastest time. Fran Ventoso (CCC Team) takes four seconds out of Sepulveda, but his lead lasts for barely a minute as the next rider, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) raises the bar by a further two seconds.
And De Gendt is now knocked off. It's Cameron Meyer (Mitchelton-Scott) and it's by a whisker. Just 33 hundredths of a second in it.
Meyer has pedigree as a pursuiter on the track, and there are a few others in the same boat, including Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) and the Team Ineos duo of Geraint Thomas and Filippo Ganna, who is the current world champion.
Others to watch include Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma), Tom Bohli (UAE Team Emirates), and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
More on Ineos, who, for better or worse, are going to dominate the narrative this week. Chris Froome, who won all three Grand Tours for Sky, has been asked about the environmental question marks over Ineos, who have attracted protest in the UK over their involvement in fracking and are also one of Europe's largest producers of single-use plastics (this, after all, is the new sponsor of a team who have been campaigning for the Ocean Rescue cause).
Anyway, Froome was non-committal, saying that "business is business". The interview was with Italian newspaper La Repubblica and covered multiple topics, such as Sky's legacy. Have a look at what he said at at this link.
Neilson Powless (Jumbo-Visma) goes third provisionally with 5:15.
Rui Costa goes into the hotseat! The UAE Team Emirates rider puts three seconds into Meyer.
We had a story on Costa and Romandie this morning, as it happens. He has been on the podium three times but has never won. He hasn't won a stage, even. The former world champion is leading UAE this week after a DNF at Liege. Anyway, here's the story.
The weather at Romandie can always be dodgy but it's a decent day today. Cloudy with some sun coming through, and not much wind.
Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep) rolls down the ramp. The Italian sprinter's last outing was Gent-Wevelgem one month ago, and he's here ahead of the Giro d'Italia.
Viviani is going for this. He almost overcooks it on one of the right-handers and then puts down plenty of power on that stiff cobbled climb around the half-way mark.
These short prologues can often suit the zippier riders over the time trial specialists, who often possess diesel engines more suited to longer distances. Mark Cavendish, would you believe, once won the prologue here at Romandie.
Kilian Frankiny is almost taken out by a spectator, who almost runs into him as he crosses the road with his dog. What was he thinking? We had some close calls at Tirreno, too.
Viviani crosses the line and posts the fourth fastest time, just under three seconds down on Costa.
Vasil Kiryienka (Team Ineos) puts himself into the provisional top 15 in his first appearance of the season after treatment for a heart condition.
New fastest time!
It's Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma) and he goes half a second quicker than Costa. The distance and that short climb don't necessarily suit the German but he's a multiple time trial world champion.
Martin has won the German ITT title in the past two years but other than that he hasn't won a time trial since his last Worlds win in 2016.
Carlos Betancur (Movistar) is fastest at the intermediate checkpoint at the top of the climb after 1.75km.
And now Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) goes a shade quicker than Betancur at the split.
Here comes Betancur... It's not enough. 05:11.59 puts him second, just over a second down on Martin.
And now here comes Colbrelli. He's not going to do it either, and it's a provisional fourth place for the Italian.
Here's the top five as it stands. You should be able to see the provisional leaderboard on the right-hand side of your screen.
Tony Martin (Team Jumbo-Visma)
Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Movistar Team)
Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (UAE Team Emirates)
Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida)
Tanel Kangert (EF Education First)
And now Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) goes third fastest with 05:11.72.
Sixth place for Benjamin Thomas (Groupama-FDJ) is just two seconds down on Martin but that's only good enough for sixth place as it stands.
Just in: Alejandro Valverde could miss the Giro d'Italia. The world champion crashed on Thursday ahead of Liège-Bastogne-Liège and, after failing to finish the race he has won four times, he was diagnosed with a bone edema. Full story below.
Martin's average speed, by the way, was just shy of 45km/h.
Tom Bohli, a candidate for the win today, almost hits an errant pigeon. A slight wobble to adjust but he powers up the climb and puts himself 6th at the checkpoint.
Bohli takes the lead!
Well, that pigeon obviously didn't ruffle his feathers, as he puts almost three seconds into Martin. That's quite a margin, given the tightness of the top five.
Bohli, the 25-year-old who joined UAE Team Emirates from BMC this year, was second in the Romandie prologue last year. The only win of his career so far came in a prologue at the Three Days of West Flanders three years ago.
5:15 for David Gaudu, which is very good for a small climber.
Two big candidates roll down the ramp now: Filippo Ganna (Team Ineos) and Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma). Ganna is the pursuit world champion, Roglic a strong time triallist who won this race last year and should be nearing top form with the Giro d'Italia around the corner.
Roglic, curiously, is wearing dossard number 5. The defending champion usually wears 1 but he has given that dossard to teammate Steven Kruijswijk this week.
Ganna crosses the finish line but can only manage 8th place as it stands.
And now for Roglic... it's looking like a strong ride.
Roglic takes the lead!
05:07.18 for the 2018 champion, which is a third of a second quicker than Bohli.
Claudio Imhof (Switzerland) crosses the line well down after a mechanical problem. It looked like his trye rolled off as he went round a right-hand bend and he locked up in a cloud of dust. He did very well to stay upright.
A good ride for Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) who goes fourth provisionally with 05:10.90.
Another time trial specialist finishes now. Paddy Bevin (CCC Team) goes 8th fastest, just under 5:12.
New fastest time!
Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida), Roglic's Slovenian compatriot, moves into the hotseat with a storming ride. 5:06.79 makes him almost half a second quicker than Roglic.
Stefan Kung (FDJ), one of the pre-race favourites, rolls down the ramp now in the Swiss national champion's skinsuit.
And now Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) gets his ride underway. A lot of excitement over what the young Belgian sensation can do today.
And that brings us towards the end of this race. Here are the final five starters.
136 Remco Evenepoel (Bel) Deceuninck-QuickStep 17:21:00
137 Silvan Dillier (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale 17:22:00
138 Ryan Mullen (Irl) Trek-Segafredo 17:23:00
139 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 17:24:00
140 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma 17:25:00
Kung is well down at the checkpoint at the start of the climb. The second part of the course will suit him better but there's a lot of ground to make up.
Dillier and Mullen are off. Just two riders left now.
Geraint Thomas, decked out in the white as British national champion, the Ineos logos on his skinsuit, rolls down the ramp now.
Kung crosses the line. He has made up time but not enough. Sixth place as it stands.
Evenepoel is also well down at the checkpoint.
Kruijswijk rolls down the ramp now. That's it. Everyone's out on course and we'll have our winner in just over five minutes.
Jan Tratnik has the time to beat of 5:06.79.
Thomas springs out of the saddle on the short cobbled climb.
Thomas is 8th at the checkpoint. Strong start.
Dillier doesn't trouble the top of the standings.
Mullen finishes 32nd provisionally.
Kruijswijk comes to the top of the climb now. He's 33rd fastest at that point.
Evenepoel finishes outside the top 50.
Thomas comes into the finish but he won't win this...
5th place for Thomas with 5:10.76.
Just Kruijswijk to come now.
Kruijswijk crosses the line for 21st place, which means Tratnik has won it.
Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida) wins the prologue at the 2019 Tour de Romandie
1. Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida) - 5:06.79
2. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) - 05:07.18
3. Tom Bohli (UAE Team Emirates) - 05:07:50
4. Tony Martin (Team Jumbo-Visma) - 05:10.43
5. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) - 05:10.76
6. Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin - 05:10.90
7. Stefan Kung (Groupama-FDJ) - 05:11.12
8. Carlos Betancur (Movistar) - 05:11.59
9. Maciej Bodnar (Bora-Hansgrohe) - 05:11.72
10. Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) - 05:11.89
And now we can hear from Tratnik
"For sure I have surprised myself but I still believed on that sort of parcours like today I can do a really good result. I just focused on the road and tried to do everything at 100 percent and here, today, I have won the prologue so it is nice.
"It's my first WorldTour win so for sure it's a really special win. Normally every time Primoz [Roglic] beats me. We're really good friends but today I beat him so it's a nice feeling."
Here's our report page
That's it from us for today. We'll be back here tomorrow for coverage of stage 1, which stays in Neuchatel but heads for the hills. Here's what's in store. Thanks for joining us today and catch you tomorrow.
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