Peter Sagan took stage one of the Tour de Romandie 2021 after showing good pace in the bunch finish beating Sonny Colbrelli on the line after the Italian had a perfect lead-out to the last 150 metres.
Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) had not won a stage of this race since his third ever career victory several years ago, but he showed very strong pace to beat Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious) and Patrick Bevin (Israel Start-Up Nation) in the dash to the line.
Six riders went up in the break to battle for the mountain points available throughout the stage but they could not hold off the peloton that was led all day by Ineos Grenadiers. Ineos also hold their positions in the overall with Rohan Dennis leading team-mates Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte going into stage two.
How it happened
The stage started in Aigle before the riders took on four laps of a finishing circuit around Martigny over 168.1km with nine categorised climbs along the way. Unfortunately, British rider Harry Tanfield (Qhubeka-Assos) did not start on stage two.
Six riders got up in the day's break and pulled out a maximum gap of five minutes. Those riders were Filippo Conca (Lotto-Soudal), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-Citroën), Thymen Arensman (DSM), Robert Power (Qhubeka-Assos), Manuele Boaro (Astana-Premier Tech), Joel Suter (Swiss National Team).
Ineos Grenadiers controlled the pace of the peloton slowly bringing the gap down to the break with the gap dipping under two minutes with 65km to go before the penultimate ascents of the Produit and Chamoson climbs.
Suter took maximum points on all of the climbs before the final lap, taking the mountains jersey for the third stage. He went solo on the Produit climb with 60km to go to try and solo over the Chamoson, solidifying his position in the mountains competition.
The Swiss rider continued to push on a bit to distance the rest of the break with about 28 seconds at the bottom of the descent but sat up to allow the chasers to rejoin him.
Bora-Hansgrohe started to work with Ineos at the 50km to go mark as they looked for a stage win from Sagan. BikeExchange and Bahrain Victorious were the next teams to join in with the chase with 45km to go bringing the gap down below two minutes.
The pace started to rocket just before the final time up the two climbs with 30km to go with multiple teams coming to the front to hold position on the very narrow roads on the climbs. This frantic chase brought the gap well below a minute to the break.
Ineos led onto the climb with all their main men at the front as they looked to keep everything calm to avoid attacks. The break had 20 seconds at the base of the Produit climb with 28km to go.
Gougeard was the first rider pulled back with the break splitting to pieces on the climb with Arensman using the ascent to go clear. Suter tried to stay with the young Dutchman but the DSM rider, Arensman, pushed on solo, dropping the rest of the break.
Arensman was the last man to be caught too as the rest of the break was brought back over the top of the first climb as the rain started to fall with 25km to go. Arensman hit the final climb with just a 12-second gap on the peloton.
Ineos controlled the pace so no riders tried to get away on the climbs with Arensman brought back with 18km to go. The peloton was not going fast at all so Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) kicked solo to try and take the stage win and the overall lead as he started the day at just 11 seconds behind Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers).
The move by Cavagna forced BikeExchange and Bahrain Victorious to chase the French time trial champion with 16km to go. Cavagna was brought back but tried again with team-mate Mattia Cattaneo as well as Damien Howson (BikeExchange) and Sébastien Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ) with 10km to go.
That, again, was brought back with the sprint teams then taking on the control into the final 8km as they were riding into a headwind on the way to Martigny. Groupama-FDJ and EF Education-Nippo moved up in the last 4km.
As the race went into the final 2km it was Bahrain Victorious who took up the pacing with just one rider in front of Colbrelli. The Italian sprinter was perfectly guided through the tricky damp turns all the way till 150 metres to go when he kicked for the line.
Unfortunately for him, former world champion Sagan had more speed after using his slipstream as a slingshot to get around and take the win.
Ineos remain in control of the podium spots as it stands with Thomas looking like the main focus for the team. He still sits in second behind Dennis with another GC possibility, Porte being the next in line in third.
Stage two takes on a lot more climbing with six categorised climbs on the menu, five of which are category two with the final kick being a category one.
The stage starts in La Neuveville and takes on a very hilly stage over a distance of 165.7km to Saint-Imier where we may see a small group sprint for the line.
Tour de Romandie 2021 stage one, Aigle to Martigny (168.1km)
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 4-12-40
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain Victorious
3. Patrick Bevin (NZl) Israel Start-Up Nation
4. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
5. Alessandro Covi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6. Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo
7. Dion Smith (NZl) Team BikeExchange
8. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2r-Citroën Team
9. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
10. Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, in 4-18-06
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 9 seconds
3. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
4. Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at 11s
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 12s
6. Jan Tratnik (Slo) Bahrain Victorious, at 13s
7. Patrick Bevin (NZl) Israel Start-Up Nation, at 14s
8. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at same time
9. Marc Hirschi (Sui) UAE Team Emirates, at 15s
10. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step, at same time.
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