Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quick Step) continued his fine 2016 form on the first stage of the Tour de Romandie, sprinting ahead of Trek-Segafredo’s Niccolo Bonifazio and Orica-GreenEdge’s Michael Albasini to take the win.
It was a bitterly cold day for the riders on the opening road stage of the race after Tuesday’s Prologue, with most donning full length leg warmers and gloves over the stage, which looked set to be a bunch sprint thanks to the down hill and flat run in of the closing 10km.
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The course was originally due to run over 169km, but was shortened to just 100.5km ahead of the start thanks to snowy conditions on the the first of four categorised climbs on the original route.
And that alteration surely must have helped the large framed Kittel, who still held on to the peloton during a tough day which took in three category three climbs.
The German’s Etixx teammates looked to be doing a strong job of keeping him in the race, and moved to the front of the bunch to increase the pace in closing couple of kilometres.
Albasini then launched his sprint early with no Orica teammates remaining, with Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale) quickly following to his left. Kittel then made his move, with Bonifazio latched to his wheel, but the Italian ran out of road to try and move round him, and was narrowly beaten to the line.
Watch: Marcel Kittel’s S-Works Venge Vias
The short distance of the stage meant the day’s break was unable to make significant gains on the peloton before the gap came down. Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal), Nico Brüngger (Team Roth), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) went out front early on and took over four minutes advantage, with the Latter two pulled back with 30km, as Armee reached out solo.
He held on to a gap of around 1-40 on the bunch for some time, but shrunk ever smaller over the remaining hills to Moudon.
The Lotto-Soudal man was caught shortly before 12km to go, with peloton together as they headed for the run to the line, where Kittel claimed the glory.
The race leader Ion Izagirre (Movistar) held on to the advantage he gained on the opening Prologue, and goes in to Thursday’s 173.9km stage with the maillot jaune, but will face a tough task to keep it on the category one summit finish.
Tour de Romandie 2016 stage one, Mathod – Moudon (100.5km)
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Etixx-Quick Step, in 2-27-46
2. Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
3. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-GreenEdge
4. Tosh van der Sande (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
5. Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu) Cannondale
6. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
7. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
10. Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha, all same time
1. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Movistar,
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin, at 6 secs
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 7s
4. Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar, st
5. Reto Hollenstein (Swi) IAM Cycling, at 11s
6. Louis Vervaecke (Bel) Lotto-Soudal, st
7. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, st
8. Martijn Keizer (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 12s
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, st
10. Andrey Amador (CRc) Movistar, at 13s
13. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 16 secs
48. Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 26 secs