On Thursday, Stefan Küng tried to do a “Stefan Küng” on stage 3 of the Tour de Romandie. With some bad weather and a slightly hilly course, everything was reunited for the Swiss rider to give it a go. On the route around Estavayer, the Swiss champion did believe in his chances but a spectacular crash on the penultimate downhill put an end to his ambitions. However, the European time trial champion escaped any serious injuries and completed the stage, being also awarded the day’s “combative” prize. Jake Stewart placed 25th on the line.
After he woke up this Thursday morning and took a brief look at the weather forecast in the area, Stefan Küng knew what to expect from stage 3 of the Tour de Romandie. “My goal today was to be in the breakaway,” he said. “With the day’s weather and route, there was a good chance that the break would make it”. The Swiss champion thus aimed to succeed from a breakaway for the fourth time in his career in the event. However, as he probably suspected himself, all eyes were on him at the start. “Everyone knew he wanted to be in front and that he rarely misses out in these conditions,” said Yvon Madiot. “Several sports directors actually told me at the finish: “We knew he was going to break away.” Still, he managed to do it thanks to his power. He followed all the moves, so there was a good chance he would end up in front.” “I really did my best to be up there, and I succeeded,” said the Swiss man, who got the company of Sander Armée (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo), Johan Jacobs (Movistar), Kobe Goossens (Lotto-Soudal), Mathias Reutimann (Swiss Selection) and Charlie Quatermann (Trek-Segafredo). In his own words, the group initially “cooperated well” though it never managed to get more than four minutes on the bunch. “Ineos always rides like that,” explained Yvon. “They never leave much room for breakaways, even when they are not dangerous.”
“More than anything, I’m frustrated”, Stefan Küng
In the second lap around Estavayer, the leading group lost three men through the two climbs of the circuit. However, it only had a two minute-gap when crossing the line with about 35 kilometers to go. “There were only four of us left and, in my opinion, we were not working well enough from that point on,” said Stefan. “Everyone wanted to keep energy for the last two climbs. In the first one, I attacked immediately, and I had to because the bunch was coming back. There were two of us at the top”. “We wanted to try something today, so we had to try until the very end,” added Yvon. “We also suspected that there would be fewer riders to pull behind once we got to the climbs. Stefan gave what he had left”. Only Kobe Goossens was able to follow the Swiss champion and the two men then started the downhill leading to the final climb of the day. That’s where the turning point of the race occured for the Swiss man, as he spectacularly hit the ground and slid for several meters. “I only saw later on the TV that I actually slid on the white stripe,” Stefan explained. “I couldn’t see anything with the glasses”. “He thinks he made a small mistake by not removing them,” added Yvon.
Fortunately, the Swiss champion was able to continue without major injuries. “On TV, it looks like it’s a very brutal crash, but I’m doing fine,” he said. “I have a few abrasions but overall I got lucky. More than anything, I’m frustrated because we were still thirty seconds ahead of the bunch when I crashed. It’s a shame because with a final like this, perhaps I could have done it. I still had good legs. The goal was to win the stage, but because of my own mistake, I couldn’t get the win. It wasn’t my day, I’m disappointed about that, but I’m happy that I escaped any serious injury. I will now try to recover as much as possible to tackle the last time trial on Sunday in the best possible conditions”. “It’s frustrating because we’ll never know if he could have made it or not,” said Yvon. On the finish line, Groupama-FDJ’s man of the day still held on well as he finished in the second group, 1’21 behind Marc Soler who got away in the last climb. Stefan Küng even obtained the “most combative rider” award. “It’s not so important as he was clearly aiming for the stage victory,” Yvon said. “However, he was already combative this morning. We could then say he was so from start to finish today.”
“Tomorrow, it will be up to the climbers”, Yvon Madiot
In the same group at the finish, Jake Stewart outsprinted a dozen men to take 25th on the day. “At the top of the last climb, he is 200m behind Sagan, who is one of the few who managed to join the first group,” said Yvon. “The punchers-climbers’ group is twenty seconds ahead of him at the top. It’s really promising, especially since he’s still young and he’s just coming back to competition. These are certainly the types of races that will suit him going forward”. Matteo Badilatti and Sébastien Reichenbach could not go with the best on Friday and crossed the line four minutes after the winner. “We know that rain and cold are not what suit them the most”, added Yvon. “These were not ideal conditions for them, and when they got distanced, they were told to take it easy, thinking about tomorrow. They will be on their terrain and it will be up to them”. From Sion to Thyon, the big mountain stage of the Tour de Romandie will feature two first-category climbs, but above all a mountaintop-finish at Thyon 2000 after more than twenty kilometers of climbing averaging 7.5%.