With no less than 4300 meters of elevation on the menu, the queen stage of the Tour de Romandie caused a lot of damage on Sunday. It was not just because of the tough course, but also because of the terrible weather conditions that the riders had to face. In the rain, the cold and the mist, Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti still fought well on the final climb to Thyon 2000, taking 17th and 19th place respectively at the top. On Sunday, a sixteen-kilometer time trial in Fribourg will conclude the event.

“We wanted to show ourselves”, Yvon Madiot

The Tour de Romandie’s riders were unable to enjoy the Labor Day on Saturday. On the contrary, they had a lot on their plate from Sion to the Thyon 2000 resort, with three great climbs to cover along 161 kilometres of racing. However, the race started with a 30-kilometer flat portion, and Josef Cerny (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Mads Wurtz Schmidt (Israel-Start Up Nation), Kobe Goossens, Mathew Holmes (Lotto -Soudal), Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo), Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert) and Simon Pellaud (Switzerland) took the opportunity to create the day’s breakaway. “We thought the good move would go away in the climbs, but it actually established itself on the flat”, said Yvon Madiot. “Some powerful guys went up there and it was obviously more complicated for my light climbers. We would have liked to have one guy in the breakaway, but it was not easy to enter it at this point of the race for us. In the end, the break didn’t make it so we don’t have much regret. We then waited to do the best we could in the final climb”. Within the peloton, Sébastien Reichenbach and Matteo Badilatti therefore tried to save themselves, but they could only do it for a little while. “In the first part of the stage, the weather was quite ok”, said Yvon. “It really started to worsen after about a hundred kilometers, starting the second big climb.”

After they went up to 1,500 meters above sea level at km45, the riders reached that altitude another time after a hundred kilometres. However, they had to deal with rain, cooler temperatures and fog this time, and it actually led to the neutralization of last downhill. “There was more fog in the first climb, but they probably realized it was not too safe so they decided to neutralize the following one,” said Yvon. Eventually, a bunch of sixty riders or so got to the bottom of the final climb (20.7 km at 7.6%), more than five minutes behind the leading men. “The goal for our two climbers then was to hang on as much as possible and do the best possible performance,” said Yvon. “It was a little test for the Giro, but we still wanted to show ourselves here. After all, it was a stage for them and they were at home. At the bottom, Matteo was caught in the splits and came back to the main peloton only after two kilometres of climbing. He unfortunately paid for his efforts afterwards. Seb stayed with the leading group for a long time and only dropped with six kilometers to go. He finished 17th, Matteo 19th, that’s decent”.

“A dreadful stage”, Sébastien Reichenbach

“It was a very difficult day, as we expected, but the weather just made it even worse,” Sébastien commented later. “We expected some rain on the last climb but we had it on the last descent already. Personally I got really cold and then had a lot of trouble getting warm again on the final climb. It was a dreadful stage. I fought as much as I could, for as long as I could, but found myself empty and very cold five kilometres from the top. I think I had good legs on this Tour de Romandie, but the cold isn’t really my thing. It was still nice to see my family on the side of the road, it brings at least a little ray of sunshine”. At the top of Thyon 2000, Michael Woods got the victory on Saturday, also benefiting from the crash of his last rival Geraint Thomas fifty meters from the line. The Briton later blamed his frozen hands for the accident. “They all got very, very cold to the finish,” confirmed Yvon. “All the riders were frozen when they arrived. At the top there were even small flakes and a bit of rain-snow. This stage left a mark on the riders”.

There will be no more than one hundred and twenty-four riders tomorrow at the start of the time trial in Fribourg, which will conclude this Tour de Romandie and in particular award the final victory. Stefan Küng will get there with a different goal. “We have our last card to play, so we will play it fully”, concluded Yvon. “Stefan didn’t seem to suffer from his crash today, but it doesn’t mean he had a quiet day. No one did today.”