Omar Fraile (Astana) sprinted to his second victory of the year as he upset the odds against Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) in a reduced group sprint in Delémont as Primož Roglič (LottoNL-Jumbo) moved into the race lead at the Tour de Romandie.
The hilly stage was a steady whittling down process as sprinters such as Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) and race leader Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) were dropped, leaving a reduced group of 30-40 riders to contest the final sprint.
David Gaudu made a valiant attempt to take a solo win as he attacked shortly before the flamme rouge, but was caught with 200m to go as Fraile and Colbrelli opened their sprints.
On paper Colbrelli would have been the favourite, but Fraile produced an impressive burst of speed to accelerate away and cross the line with daylight between him and his Italian rival.
Meanwhile with Matthews dropped, a safe bunch finish for Roglič was enough to see him into the race leader’s yellow jersey, albeit with Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) locked at the same time and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) just four seconds back.
How it happened
After Tuesday’s opening prologue time trial, stage one of the Tour de Romandie rolled out of Fribourg for 166.6 hilly kilometres on the road to Delémont in northern Switzerland.
Five riders escaped early in the stage. In the move were Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Remy Mertz (Lotto Soudal), William Clarke (EF Education First-Drapac), Antoine Duchesne (Groupama-FDJ), and Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) who quickly established a lead of around five minutes, which remained largely unchanged until the chase started in earnest behind on the first of two ascents of the Le Sommet second-category climb with slightly over 50km to go.
The gaps came down further on the descent and the flat run back towards the bottom of the climb, and the second ascent saw the cracks appear in the break as all but Gougeard and Minnaard were dropped by the 20km to go mark while Steven Kruiswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) applied the pressure on the front of the bunch on behalf of team leader Primož Roglič.
That pressure saw race leader Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) being dropped from the bunch, and by the top of the final climb, Gougeard and Minnaard’s lead was down to little more than a minute. However that last little gap disappeared as Astana hit the front hard before Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) went on the attack ahead of the descent.
Martin briefly opened a gap but was pulled back as the descent began, where Gougeard was able to reopen his lead. The Frenchman put in a stellar effort but was finally caught with two kilometres to go.
Another attack came from David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) shortly before the flamme rouge, but the Frenchman was caught with 200m to go as Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) opened the sprint.
Colbrelli was the favourite for the stage, but was overhauled in the final 50 metres by a powerful finish from Omar Fraile (Astana) as Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates) completed the podium in third.
Meanwhile Roglič finished safely in the bunch to take the race lead off Matthews, with Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) also close to the front and moving up into second place overall on the same time as Roglič.
Tour de Romandie, stage one: Fribourg to Delémont, 166.6km
1. Omar Fraile (Esp) Astana, in 4-03-42
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
3. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates
4. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida
6. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
7. Pierre Latour (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data
10. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 4-09-16 4:09:16
2. Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing, at same time
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 4 secs
4. Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky, at 5 secs
5. Pierre Latour (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at same time
6. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 8 secs
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky, at 10 secs
8. Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Team Sky, at same time
9. Pierre Rolland (Fra) EF Education First-Drapac, at same time
10. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at 13 secs