Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) took a home victory in the Tour de Romandie as he proved the fastest sprinter in a select group at the end of stage one.
The Swiss rider made sure that he was in the perfect position as a larger than expected group contested the finish in heavy rain at the top of the 15km climb to Champéry.
Holding his speed from a small descent with 300m to go, Albasini was able to comfortably sprint clear of Diego Ulissi (Team UAE Emirates) and Jesus Herrada (Movistar), which Chris Froome (Team Sky), who hadn’t been seen at the front of the pack for the rest of the day, crossed the line in fifth place.
Race leader Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) finished comfortably in the front group to hold onto the yellow jersey that he took in yesterday’s time trial, but Alex Dowsett (Movistar), second overall heading into the stage, was dropped early on the final climb.
The day’s break escaped almost immediately after the flag dropped on the outskirts of the start town of Aigle, with five riders going up the road: Sander Armée (Lotto Soudal), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Matbey Mamykin (Katusha-Alpecin), Oliveiro Troia (UAE Team Emirates), and Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data).
Those six riders quickly established a sizeable gap on the 172km stage to Champéry, gaining a maximum lead of nearly eight minutes.
However with five classified climbs on the agenda any non-climbers in the break were going to struggle, and by the time they were over the second category climb to Vex roughly midway through the stage, both Burghardt and Troia had been dropped.
By the time they reached they penultimate climb of the day with 28km to go, the break’s advantage was down to just three minutes, with rain beginning to fall on the course and riders in the peloton with no aspirations to take on the stage’s summit finish dropping back to get rain jackets from their team cars.
Clearly not enjoying the conditions at the end of a long day in the saddle, the breakaway’s advantage dropped by another minute on that climb, and by the time they reached the base of the final ascent to Champéry, the gap was just 1-20.
With BMC Racing setting a hard pace to tee up Porte, that lead was never going to be enough with the catch eventually made with just under seven kilometres remaining.
The catch prompted an immediate counter-attack from Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Roman Kreuziger (Orica-Scott), neither of whom succeeded in gaining much headway.
However the next move from Kreuziger’s team-mate Damien Howson looked more threatening, especially when it was followed by a selection of big-name riders including Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).
For a moment 11 riders were off the front of the bunch, but once more the move was brought back.
Despite the constant accelerations, race leader Fabio Felline looked comfortable, sitting third wheel under the flamme rouge as the remains of the peloton rode through dense fog, looking to set up a mini-bunch sprint at the top of what had been expected to be a selective climb.
In the end it was the slight descent with 300m to go that would prove most decisive, with Albasini making sure he was in the perfect position, carrying his speed over the final hundred metres to provide a Swiss victor on the second day of the race.
The Tour de Romandie will continue tomorrow with a 161km stage from Champéry to Bulle, but is likely to be decided on the final two stages on Saturday and Sunday, which consist of a summit finish and a time trial.
Tour de Romandie 2017, stage one: Aigle to Champéry (168.6km)
1 Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-Scott 04-33-10
2 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
3 Jesus Herrada (Esp) Movistar Team
4 Natnael Berhane (Eri) Dimension Data
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky
6 Pello Bilbao (Esp) Astana Pro Team
7 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb
8 David De La Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors
9 Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Movistar Team
10 Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1 Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo 04-39-07
2 Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, at 8 secs
3 Jesus Herrada (Esp) Movistar Team, at 8 secs
4 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team LottoNl-Jumbo, at 9 secs
5 Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 12 secs
6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 12 secs
7 José Gonalves (Por) Katusha-Alpecin, at 13 secs
8 Ruben Fernandez (Esp) Movistar Team, at 13 secs
9 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott, at 14 secs
10 Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Movistar Team, at 14 secs