Stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie, which took place in the Valais’ county dear to Sébastien Reichenbach, ended with a small peloton sprint on Wednesday. After having got over the last two climbs of the day, Jake Stewart was there to contest the sprint in the final stretch but suffered from a small issue and was unable to score a convincing result. A bit earlier, Stefan Küng and Sébastien Reichenbach briefly got in front of the race but Peter Sagan eventually got the victory on this first on-line stage.
“Everyone worked hard for the same goal”, Yvon Madiot
Starting from Aigle, where the Union Cycliste Internationale’s headquarters are based, the day’s breakaway shaped up very quickly on the Tour de Romandie on Wednesday. The second attempt was the good one, and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-Citroën), Manuele Boaro (Astana), Robert Power (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Filippo Conca (Lotto-Soudal), Joël Suter (Swiss Selection) as well as Thymen Arensman (Team DSM) were the riders involved in it. “Then, there was still a good pace because there were six riders in front,” added Yvon Madiot. The breakaway briefly took a six-minute lead, but Rohan Dennis’ Ineos then did not take any risk and tried to keep them close. On the circuit featuring the short climbs of Produit and Chamosson, the peloton came back to just three minutes on the penultimate lap, and the gap was even almost closed approaching the final two climbs. “For us, the goal was to protect Jake so that he could try to get over the hills and give it a god in the sprint,” explained Yvon. “For me, it was a bit more complicated than I was expecting today,” explained the young Briton. “I am still trying to find the good sensations on the bike. I wasn’t really climbing as well as I normally would be and I got distanced on the final climb of the day”.
The 21-year-old rider actually crossed the top of that last climb about a hundred meters behind the main peloton, but he managed to come back. “Everyone worked well for him”, said Yvon. “Everyone worked hard for the same goal. Matthieu Ladagnous and Fabian Lienhard positioned him before the climbs. Then Romain tried to bring him back before asking for help on the radio. Stefan then dropped back just a little from the peloton and brought Jake back in front”. With about fifteen kilometers to go, Groupama-FDJ had four riders in a peloton of around seventy: Küng, Stewart, Badilatti and Reichenbach. Shortly after returning to the peloton, the Swiss champion went on the attack, but the peloton did not let him take a gap. Moments later, Sébastien Reichenbach went with a trio that took a small gap. “We had to follow the moves because you never know in this kind of final”, commented Yvon. “However, there was still a strong headwind”. “It was not planned to follow Cavagna but we know he can ride very fast, so we needed to prevent them from going away,” said Sébastien. “We had hopes with Jake, who managed to go over the climbs. At the same time, I could spend some time in front on home roads, so it was nice”.
“It wasn’t the ideal sprint for me,” Jake Stewart
Eventually, the – small – peloton got back all together entering the last five kilometers. Sébastien Reichenbach then brought Stefan Küng and Jake Stewart back to the front of the bunch, and then the Swiss champion tried to lead-out his young teammate as best he could in the final towards Martigny. “Stefan positioned me well,” said Jake, who entered the home stretch in 10th position or so. “Then I was about to open up the sprint but I caught another guy’s pedal and I unclipped the pedal with 300 meters to go. I had to clip back in and try to launch the sprint. In the end, it was not the ideal sprint for me…” The former Conti rider therefore lost his speed and could not compete for the first positions on the day, while Peter Sagan took the victory. “It wasn’t my best day on the bike, but for my first real stage back in competition it wasn’t that bad,” said Jake. “He may also have left a bit more energy than expected in the two climbs, added Yvon, but it’s still a good comeback for him. It’s very promising to see him there in this bunch of seventy guys. It’s very interesting to see that he can go over the hills like Sagan or Colbrelli. Despite a month without competition and his preparation that was not ideal, he is still there and that is a very positive thing”.
It will be much more complicated for the Englishman on Thursday, towards Saint-Imier, with a tough second stage featuring a first-category climb (7.8 km at 6.7%) just seventeen kilometers from the finish line. “It will be very, very hard tomorrow”, warns Yvon Madiot. “Moreover, bad weather is expected. It could be a gruelling day.”