On Tuesday, the riders were required to make an effort of about six minutes to launch the 2021 Tour de Romandie. A very short prologue with an uphill finish was indeed on the menu in the small city of Oron. In what was a very special event – and not necessarily the most suited for him -, the European time trial champion Stefan Küng gave his all on home soil. At the end of the day, he eventually got fourteenth, seventeen seconds behind the winner Rohan Dennis.

“I never found the right pace”, Stefan Küng

As an opener for the Tour de Romandie, the riders therefore had to face quite an unusual event on Tuesday. Only 4050 meters were to be covered on the day’s prologue, and almost a quarter of the course made up the final climb (800m at 6%). Jake Stewart was the first rider from Groupama-FDJ to tackle the stage shortly after 3pm, but Stefan Küng started only twenty minutes later. Named among the day’s favourites, the European time trial champion tried to make the most of his power on the track today, but was unable to beat his fellow countryman Stefan Bissegger when he got to the finish. He then gradually slipped down to fourteenth, as Ineos monopolized the whole podium today and Rohan Dennis proved way stronger than the rest. “It was a special prologue, as it is often the case on the Tour de Romandie”, summed up Stefan. “The day’s victory clearly came down to the final climb, where Rohan Dennis dominated everyone. I was personally really motivated before this prologue but I never really found the right pace. I am certainly quite far from the winner (17 seconds, editor’s note), but the gaps are quite tight behind him. The specialists weren’t where we could expect them, which also proves that it was more an event for the punchers. I’m not making a drama out of today’s result. I know it will be a whole different story on the last time trial and on the other stages”.

“Really excited to be back racing!”, Jake Stewart

“When you have a rider like Stefan, you are always a little disappointed when things don’t go well, but the last climb was a bit hard for him”, said Yvon Madiot. “When Stefan starts a time trial, he wants to win it, nothing else. Unfortunately, as we also witnessed with Filippo Ganna, the big guys did not have the advantage in the final climb, which was really the defining point of the prologue”. Behind the Swiss champion, three riders of the team finished about 30 seconds behind the winner: Romain Seigle (26”), Matteo Badilatti (27”) and Sébastien Reichenbach (31”). “Matteo did a very good climb,” said Yvon. “It’s interesting for the next few days. Overall, as it is always the case on the time trials, everyone was fully committed today. Everyone was very motivated and serious. We left nothing to chance”. As for Jake Stewart, he could enjoy his return to racing following his hand injury on Cholet-Pays de Loire one month ago. “Like some others, he did very well until the bottom of the climb,” said Yvon. “It then got a bit harder, but it wasn’t bad anyway. It was a good day to get the engine started again”. “I am very excited to be back, especially in such a beautiful race that’s Tour de Romandie”, added the Englishman. “It will be interesting to see where the condition is after my small break. It’s obviously difficult to tell today after a four-kilometre prologue. I’m looking forward to a good week of work on the bike, working towards the goals later in the year, and tomorrow will already be a first test”.

On Wednesday, the first stage of the Tour de Romandie will be contested on a circuit between Aigle and Martigny, with nine climbs to face over 168 kilometres. The last hill will come twenty kilometers from the finish line. “It’s an opportunity for the team,” said Yvon to conclude. “Anyway, there won’t be everyone in the bunch at the finish tomorrow. We can expect 60-70 riders to fight for the win.”

No comment