Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won stage 2 of the Tour de Romandie after the judges relegated Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) to 2nd even though the Russian crossed the line first, due to irregular sprinting. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) led home a select group of chasers to take 3rd on the stage.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were part of the early action on today’s 174km stage from Moudan to Morgins. Our South African champion, Jaco Venter, broke away inside the first 20km of the stage with 5 other riders. Venter and his companions combined well to forge out a gap of 5 minutes over the Movistar led peloton.
The main features of the stage only came in the final 22km though. Riders would first take on the cat 2 climb to Les Champs before a short descent and then the final 9km cat 1 climb to Morgins. Venter had ridden well in the break but the big GC teams of Sky, Movistar and FDJ all ensured the final showdown would be between their leaders on these final 2 climbs.
As we approached the cat 2 climb, our African Team were looking to deliver Merhawi Kudus to a good position. Venter and the other breakaway riders were reeled in on the lower slopes while Kudus and Natnael Berhane were looking good on the positive gradient. It was only a small group of around 40 riders that went over the top of the penultimate climb together.
The final climb was attacked with some venom by the lead group and the telling move came when Quintana and Zakarin got away with 5km to go. The chase blew the race to bits and each rider was then on their own. Kudus hung on for as long as he could, but got distanced near the top. Our Eritrean still rode hard to the line and came home 21st, 1’33” after Quintana and Zakarin. Berhane also had a solid ride on this tough mountain stage, finishing 38th.
Oli Cookson – Sport Director
It was a really hard stage. We got Jaco into the break which was obviously part of our plan today. He obviously did a superb ride and it was great to get the South African jersey in the break. It was a good test for his legs and a nice workout before the Giro. He showed he has the condition so it was nice to have the team and South African colours on T.V. for most of the day. Obviously when that came back together the main aim was to put Kanstantsin Siutsou, Merhawi and Natnael in a good position but it was very difficult to do that. From the result Merhawi showed how good he is and how good his legs are. The others had to fight maybe a bit too much to get into position, the roads were really narrow particularly that descent from the cat 2 to the final climb. It was interesting to see some big name riders getting dropped. It is a hard race and it’s still cold up here so to see Merhawi up there and leading that group across the line, it looks good for the Giro. For tomorrow’s TT we will see how we go with Siutsou and Cameron Meyer but in all, we are happy with today after Merhawi and Jaco’s good rides.