The queen stage of the Tour de Romandie, on Saturday,certainly caused some damage. Not as much as some had hoped though. Despite a large amount of elevation gain and many categorized climbs, it all came down to a final sprintbetween the GC contenders at the Zinal summit finish. In shape, Thibaut Pinot joined in the fight in the last few hundred meters but eventually had to settle for fifth place. His teammate Sébastien Reichenbach (8th) crossed the line in the same time, and climbed to seventh overall ahead of the final, uphill time trial. 

I had good legs“, Thibaut Pinot

On paper, the menu looked quite hard. As its great mountain stage, the Tour de Romandie had planned 180 kilometres of racing featuring more than 4000 meters of elevation gain onSaturday. It all started at eleven o’clock from Aigle, near theWorld Cycling Centre. It didn’t take long to see the day’s breakaway develop with no less than twelve men. Quinten Hermans (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert), Oscar Rodriguez (Movistar), James Know (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) and a few others were allowed to go quite early, and they managed to get a four-minute gap before tackling the first climb of the day, after 60 kilometres. Thebunch got a little closer at that point, but then accelerated a lot more when the riders reached the bottom of the second climbtowards Les Pontis. Bahrain-Victorious tried to make the race harder, brought the peloton back to less than a minute from the fugitives, but stopped his action after just a few minutes. The bunch then calmed things down after this unsuccessful attempt. Therefore, as they headed towards the “final ascent”, made of several climbs, the riders left from the breakawaycould enjoy a decent gap of about three minutes again. 

It was not until approaching the second time up to Les Pontis, the first climb of the final ascent, that the peloton really got going again. The gap logically narrowed and the Groupama-FDJ cycling team contributed to it, as Matteo Badilatti took a few turns at the front. When the final categorized climb started, Izagirre and Rodriguez only had a minute left. The bunch, more and more reduced, eventually caught them witheight kilometres to go. At that point, Rudy Molard, Thibaut Pinot and Sébastien Reichenbach were still there in a group made of twenty riders or so. In the final slopes leading to Zinal, Rohan Dennis’ teammates kept things under control, as Einer Rubio took a small gap. After a last flat portion, the road started to go up again at the flamme rouge. The favourites looked at each other, attacked one another, and theColombian attacker was caught 300 meters from the finish.The sprint between the big guys started a few moments later. In a good position, Thibaut Pinot was slightly boxed-in as he launched his effort and could not hold the wheel of winner Sergio Higuita. He therefore had to settle for fifth on the line.Although there were 4,000 meters of elevation gain, we didn’t feel them, and it was more of a mid-mountain stagesaid Thibaut. On top of that, there was a headwind. That’s a pity. The course is a bit frustrating, but we have to deal with it. I had good legs today but there was not much we could do. So, we decided to go for the sprint and I did not miss much.I’m still happy with today’s feelings.

I will give everything on the time trial“, Sébastien Reichenbach

His teammate Sébastien Reichenbach finished right behind him, in eighth position, also in the time of the winner. On home soils, the Swiss climber therefore did what he had to do. Personally, I achieved my goal today,” he said. “Being thereon GC, I had to follow the favourites above all. We had Thibaut for the stage win. I saw him from close, and he had really good legs. I think he will have regrets about the sprint. We are a bit disappointed with that today, but we were three riders in the final. It was a great race as a team, and we dealt with today’s profile”. When we looked this morning, the wind was expected to come from the back and was not supposed to change. However, the whole final climb ended up being with headwindadded Philippe Mauduit. Then, we know how it works in these cases. If there are not too many gradients and there is headwind, it is even more difficult tomake a gapThat being said, it’s part of the race, we have to accept it. On the other hand, it was interesting to see the team’s commitment and to be up there with the best. We did what we could with the condition we had”. On Saturday evening, Sébastien Reichenbach sits seventh overall, thirty-seven seconds behind Rohan Dennis, while Rudy Molard is 14th, fifty-five seconds away. “I would obviously like to keep my top10 tomorrow, added Sébastien. “The time trial is not my favourite discipline, but with the climb, it can suit me a bit more. I do not know what I’ll be able to do, but I will give everything, and we will see tomorrow evening. “Keeping the top-10 is doable for Seb”, agreed Philippe. I also think that Thibaut wantto test himself on the time trialas he wasn’t able to fully use his legs today”.

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