Kittel wins Romandie stage 1 after fantastic teamwork
Racing the Swiss event for the second time in his career, the German notched his eight victory of the season following a textbook lead-out.
Due to the foul weather that continued to hamper the Tour de Romandie on Wednesday, the organizers had no other option than to shorten stage 1 of the race and alter the course. The overnight snow meant that the start from La Chaux-de-Fonds was off the table, so after Col d'Etroits was removed, the riders went by car to Mathod, a small town in the canton of Vaud, from where the bunch took off for a reduced 100.5-km long stage.
Only one rider went into the break – Sander Armee (Lotto-Soudal) – and he opened a gap of four minutes before the peloton reacted and began to reduce his advantage as the finish line was getting closer and closer. On the last ascent, Movistar and Orica-GreenEdge went full gas and stretched out the peloton in order to drop the sprinters, and although it wasn't an easy task, Marcel Kittel managed to stay there and make it over the top.
Then, as soon as the day's lone escapee was caught inside the final 14 kilometers, it became obvious that the stage will end up in a bunch sprint. As a result, Etixx – Quick-Step moved to the front of the peloton with two kilometers remaining and with the likes of Maxime Bouet, Davide Martinelli, Bob Jungels and Lukasz Wisniowski pushed a very hard tempo in order to bring Marcel in an excellent position and to make sure there won't be any late attacks.
With 400 meters to go, Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) tried to anticipate the sprint in Moudon, but Marcel Kittel didn't give the Swiss any chance and opened his trademark sprint, which helped him outpace both Albasini and Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo). For Kittel it was the first career win in the Tour de Romandie and number eight of the season, while for Etixx – Quick-Step it was the 23rd victory since the beginning of the year.
"I am very happy for getting this win, but also for having good legs today and staying with the peloton when Movistar and Orica-GreenEdge began to ride hard on the climb. The team was with me there and helped me find my rhythm. Then, in the final kilometers, I had four guys with me, and although it isn't my regular team for the sprints, the guys did a fantastic job for which I can only thank them. Albasini attacked with 400 meters left and I decided to go immediately and overtook him; then, after noticing Bonifazio came from behind, I sprinted to the line and got this victory which gives me a lot of confidence for the Giro d'Italia", said Marcel Kittel after he capitalized on the flawless teamwork of Etixx – Quick-Step, taking not only the win, but also the points jersey in the World Tour race.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele