Tour de Romandie (st. 2)
Strong attack on Morgins climb launches Colombian from Movistar Team into GC fight against Zakarin (KAT), relegated on the stage due to irregular sprinting. Quintana claims stage and leader's jersey as Izagirre remains in 3rd overall
A strong, confident attack awarded Nairo Quintana the success on stage two of the Tour de Romandie, 170km from Moudon to the Cat-1 Pas de Morgins. The 26-year-old Colombian knew his time was coming today, and at the final climb, 6.5km from the finishing line, he showed the courage he's proven to have so many times to claim a maiden win on Helvetic soil which allows the Movistar Team retaining the jersey worn by Ion Izagirre, race leader from Tuesday's prologue.
The hills, ups and downs of the Valais canton were the ideal terrain for an early, six-man breakaway opening more than four minutes over the field. However, the real racing started with the last 21km of climbing at the Col des Champs (Cat-2), where Silin (KAT), Impey (OGE) and Wyss (IAM) sticked to their chances as the FDJ and Movistar Team riders pulled from behind. Chris Froome (SKY), arguably Nairo's biggest threat for the Romandie GC, suffered a mechanical failure that avoided him keeping the pace of the main group.
Following fantastic teamwork from Amador, Anacona, Jesús Herrada, Gorka Izagirre, Pedrero and José Joaquín Rojas, only Nairo and Ion remained ahead into the final climb of Morgins. Nairo's time came with 6.5km to go, the Colombian leaving the group behind as only Ilnur Zakarin (KAT) could keep his pace. Looks of fatigue, swerving, pure psychology between the two climbers. As the steepest part of Morgins was covered, the two tackle the final sprint, where the Movistar Team rider eventually prevailed as the race jury considered Zakarin's move was irregular. Nairo obtains the Movistar Team's 15th victory of the 2016 season, the Blues always on top of the leaderboard since the action in Switzerland started two days ago.
Nairo Quintana: "It was a great result for us. The team spent the whole day at the front, just like they did yesterday – all of them were fabulous. Heading into the climbs everything felt OK for me; I knew I had a chance to attack and go for the win and some big gaps if I moved near the foot; the rivals here could scare anyone, but I still wanted to try it – and that move was a big success. Obviously, Zakarin proved to be strong, seeing how he reached me down into the ascent.
"We two kept taking turns to build the gap and keep strong before the sprint. There, he made a maneuver the judges considered it wasn't to be allowed, and they relegated him. Zakarin surely would have bested me otherwise, but that move made the jury to take action. I'll try to defend this jersey tomorrow with a good TT; depending on Friday's performance, we might as well try and profit from Saturday's climbs. Let's hope we can keep it up after this week's efforts. It won't be easy to win with such an amazing field of competitors; should we do it, it will be a great sign for the 'yellow dream' quest."