Stefan Küng rode to a daring solo victory in rain-drenched conditions on stage two of the Tour de Romandie.
The Groupama-FDJ rider made the day’s breakaway and powered away from his companions 18km from the line.
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Despite a concerted chase by the sprint teams behind, Küng was unshakable as he rode clear and held the peloton at bay.
The sprinters fought hard behind to battle for minor places, with Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) taking the sprint for second and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain)-Merida) finishing third.
Primož Roglič finished safely in the bunch to hold the race lead.
How it happened
Stage two of the Tour de Romandie looked to be the first opportunity for the sprinters, but it wouldn’t be a stroll to the line thanks to two notable climbs on the parcours.
Covering 174.4km from Le Locle on the French border, the race headed south to Morges.
After a relatively flat opening 30km, a short sharp rise took the peloton to a long descent followed by a 40km valley floor leading to the first climb of the day.
The second category Col du Mollendruz (21.3km at 3.3 per cent) came 142km into the day and threatened to test the likes of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Bennett before they could look to the finishing straight.
After another long descent, the peloton then faced the punchy third category climb of Reverolle at 800 metres long and 8.5 per cent average, which marked the start of the gradual descent to the line.
A six-rider breakaway set the tone early on, going clear 10km into the day.
Consisting of Küng, Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r La Mondiale), Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Gobert), Claudio Imhof (Swiss Cycling Team), Jorge Arcas (Movistar) and Nathan Brown (EF Education First), the break built up an advantage of 3-50 as they crested the Mollendruz.
The advantage began to fall on the road down the mountain, and as the escapees hit the final climb of the day they held around two minutes over the bunch.
Attacks then followed in the break on the Reverolle, with Bagdonas, Küng and Backaert dropping their companions on the stiff slopes and reaching the top with a 1-40 advantage over the bunch.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe helped set the pace behind as Viviani and Bennett safely made it over the day’s tests, with Jumbo-Visma also putting numbers at the front to protect race leader Roglič.
The rain-drenched conditions made for some tense moments on the winding Swiss roads, with Bagdonas losing the wheel after a few missed corners.
Küng opened an attacked with 18km left to race and left Backaert behind, holding a 1-20 advantage over the chasing bunch with 10km left to race.
Bagdonas and Backaert joined forces behind to try and chase down Küng, with Arcas, Brown and Imhof 30 seconds back.
Swiss time trial champion Küng rode brilliantly out front, extending the advantage back out to 1-26 with 8km left to race.
The remains of the breakaway were finally caught inside 7km, but Küng continued to power on alone at the front.
As he hit the 3km flat the gap remained at 1-20 as it began to look like the solo push was perfectly timed.
Küng held firm to take victory, with the sprint teams still battling behind.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step led the run in to the line, but it was Bennett who sprinted to second with Colbrelli in third, one minute behind Küng.
Tour de Romandie 2019 stage two: Le Locle to Morges (174.4km)
1. Stefan Küng (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, in 4-10-59
2. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 59 seconds
3. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
4. Simone Consonni (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
5. Elia Viviani (Ita) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
6. Patrick Bevin (NZl) CCC Team
7. Michael Albasini (Sui) Mitchelton-Scott
8. Vyacheslav Kuznetsov (Rus) Katusha-Alpecin
9. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) Dimension Data
10. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Gobert Cycling Team, all at same time
General classification after stage two
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 8-32-12
2. Rui Costa (Por) UAE Team Emirates, at 10 seconds
3. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 12s
4. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Ineos, at 13s
5. Carlos Betancur (Col) Movistar, at 14s
6. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 15s
7. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 17s
8. James Knox (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step, at 18s
9. Damien Howson (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott, at same time
10. Winner Anacona (Col) Movistar Team, at 19s