Primož Roglič continues his superb season
If anyone was in any doubt about Primož Roglič’s talent after the last couple of seasons, particularly his victory in the Tour of the Basque Country earlier in April, the Slovenian confirmed his status as a bona fide GC rider by winning the yellow jersey in the Tour de Romandie.
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As was the case in the Basque Country, Roglič’s win was built on his time trialling, but this Romandie victory was even more impressive as he was able to match Egan Bernal in the mountains, and even looks stronger than Richie Porte.
Having won a mountain stage at last year’s Tour de France, Roglič will return to France in July. Whether he will be there for a shot at the general classification remains to be seen, but if that is his aim then he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Egan Bernal just keeps on delivering
Egan Bernal may not have won the Tour de Romandie, but the Colombian has had such a strong season that it’s easy to forget that he is a 21-year-old in his first season in the WorldTour ranks. And furthermore that this was his first race back after fracturing his shoulder in a crash at the Volta a Catalunya.
The Team Sky rider was undoubtedly the strongest climber in the race, edging out Primož Roglič in the stage three time trial up the mountain to Villars, before launching numerous attacks on the queen stage in the mountains around Sion.
In the end those attacks weren’t enough to dislodge Roglič and propel Bernal into the yellow jersey, but if the Team Sky management are looking for a replacement for Chris Froome at the top of their GC hierarchy then Bernal is an incredibly talented replacement.
Richie Porte moving slowly but slowly towards the Tour
When Richie Porte crossed the line 30 seconds ahead of Steven Kruijswijk in the stage three time trial it looked like an exceptional time, but within a few minutes that time had been eclipsed by both Egan Bernal and Primož Roglič.
The following stage and Porte was able to finish alongside Bernal and Roglič but only after he had been put on the back foot by repeated attacks from the two men at the top of the general classification.
These two stages showed that Porte is coming closer to the form that he’ll need in July at the Tour de France after being anonymous at the Volta ao Algarve and the Tour of the Basque Country, but there still a little bit of work to do in the next month before the Tour de Suisse in June.
Having two time trials out of six stages doesn’t make a boring race
Having a stage race where a third of the stages are time trials may not fill fans with excitement, but the Tour de Romandie managed to do it in a way that left the race well-balanced and the race for yellow great to watch.
The opening prologue was probably the most complete test of a bike ride you can hope to get in four kilometres, while the uphill time trial run on the perfect climb that left it open to pure climbers and more all-round GC riders – as shown by the small gap between Bernal and Roglič at the summit.
And those small gaps made for an excellent stage four around Sion, where the general classification was still open enough to be interesting, without having a pure climber already sitting at the head of the race and others made to try and attack.
The only thing we could possibly have hoped for from the route was a final sting in the tail, maybe with a short testing climb late on the final day to keep the GC interesting.
Roll on the Giro
With less than a week to go until the start of the 101st Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem, the Tour de Romandie has well and truly whetted the appetite for top-class stage racing.
While the Tour of the Alps a couple of weeks ago gave a look at the form of GC contenders such Chris Froome, Fabio Aru, and overall winner Thibaut Pinot, the Tour de Romandie gave more of a taste of great racing that we hope to see over the coming three weeks.
The penultimate stage around Sion was particularly scintillating, with mountain goat Bernal launching attack after attack at all-rounder Roglič, and if the Giro can produce the same sort of racing with the likes of Froome and Dumoulin going head-to-head with the likes of Pinot, Aru, and Lopez then we’re in for a treat.