Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) set up overall victory at the Tour de Romandie by winning the key 157.5km hilly stage to on Saturday.
Kreuziger ?second overall in 2008, went on the attack on the final climb and blew the race apart, dropping rivals Cadel Evans (Silence) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne).
Russia?s Vladimir Karpets (Katusha), talented young French rider Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Fuji) counter-attacked in pursuit and gradually closed the gap. Karpets went across alone on the descent but then Kreuziger dropped him again in a thrilling finale.
Taaramae then tried to close the gap in the final kilometre. He got close and was in Kreuziger?s slipstream but Kreuziger held on to win the stage and take the leader?s yellow jersey. Taaramae finished second in the same time, with Karpets third at seven seconds. Valverde and Evans finished 51 seconds behind.
Kreuziger pulled on the yellow jersey and also took the best young rider?s white jersey. He leads Karpets by 18 seconds, with Taaramae third at 25 seconds. Valverde is now fourth at 46 seconds. Evans is seventh at 1-07.
Kreuziger and his strong Liquigas team just have to defend his lead for the last stage on Sunday. With the final 60km flat long the lakeshore to Geneva, Kreuziger seems to have overall victory in the bag.
?After the TTT I was a little worried that Valverde had a 15 second advantage and I knew he?d mark me and so I decided to go on the attack. It worked,? Kreuziger said.
WEGELIUS ON THE ATTACK, CAVENDISH WORKS HARD
Charly Wegelius (Silence) went on the attack early in the tough stage, chasing a stage win and perhaps riding to set up team leader Evans.
He went away with three others riders, including David Moncoutie (Cofidis), and opened a three-minute lead. Unfortunately Wegelius, who was forced to retire from the Tour of the Basque Country with a back problem, was dropped on the third climb of the stage and was absorbed by the bunch.
The toughest stage of this year?s Tour de Romandie was going to be a day of pain for Britain?s Mark Cavendish (Columbia) but the Manxman confirmed he has improved remarkably on the climbs and even worked for his team mates mid-stage by going back to the team car for bottles.
Thanks to his generosity Cavendish will be able to count on his team mates? support in the expected sprint finish in Geneva.
Charly Wegelius in an early break
Roman Kreuziger takes the race lead after winning today’s stage
Tour of Romandie stage 3 TTT photo gallery, by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Romandie stage one: Serrano hold off the sprinters
Stage one photo gallery, by Graham Watson
Prologue: Rabon wins Romandie prologue
Prologue photo gallery, by Graham Watson
Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile