Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) won the third stage of the 2011 Tour de Romandie in Neuchatel on Friday.
The Kazakh sprinted ahead of fellow escapee Mikael Cherel (Ag2r) to take the win, much to the annoyance of the Frenchman who evidently felt that he had been boxed in against the barriers and denied a victory.
Paris-Nice 2011 winner Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) finished third after instigating the late breakaway only to be joined and eventually passed by Vinokourov and Cherel.
British sprinter Ben Swift (Sky) placed fourth at the head of the bunch, another good finish for the rider than took two stages of the Tour Down Under in January and a stage of Vuelta a Castilla y Leon earlier in April.
Russian Pavel Brutt (Katusha) safely finished in the bunch at same time as Vinokourov to retain the yellow jersey and a 32-second lead over the Astana leader. Stage two winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre) lies in third overall, at 38 seconds.
Best placed British rider overall is Chris Froome (Sky) in 16th place at 56 seconds. A good time trial performance could see Froome move up into the top ten overall.
Martin is the standout favourite for Saturday’s penultimate stage – a 20.1km individual time trial. Also watch out for Brits David Millar (Garmin-Cervelo), Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Geraint Thomas (Sky) in the test against the clock.
After Saturday’s time trial, the final stage of the 2011 Tour de Romandie takes place on Sunday, finishing in Geneva.
Tour de Romandie 2011, stage three: Thierrens to Neuchatel, 165.7km
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana in 3-47-55
2. Mikael Cherel (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
3. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad
4. Ben Swift (GB) Sky
5. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
6. Davide Vigano (Ita) Leopard-Trek
7. Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) RadioShack
8. Alan Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
9. Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-ISD
10. Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM all same time
Overall classification after stage three
1. Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha in 12-31-34
2. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana at 32 secs
3. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-ISD at 38 secs
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 42 secs
5. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 46 secs
6. Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing at 50 secs
7. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar at 51 secs
8. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Leopard-Trek at 51 secs
9. Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank at 51 secs
10. Thomas Rohregger (Aut) Leopard Trek at 52 secs
16. Chris Froome (GB) Sky at 56 secs
22. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Cervelo at 1-20
Best-placed Brit overall Chris Froome (right) with British champ Geraint Thomas
Brit Ben Swift lead the bunch home for fourth place on the stage
Early four-man break was reeled in before the finale
The bunch on stage three
Vinokourov celebrates the stage win as Mikael Cherel complains
Pavel Brutt keeps hold of the overall lead