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Swiss stage wins in the Romandie

Tour de Romandie

Swiss rider Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) added another stage victory to his name in the Tour de Romandie as he sprinted to the win on a rainy stage one. His countryman Stefan Küng (BMC) took stage two.

Albasini was able to stay with the fast tempo set over the final first category climb and positioned himself well to launch towards his second victory of the season and seventh stage victory in the Swiss tour.

"It is a great victory today", 36-year-old Albasini said. "It was not easy to win today coming straight from the classics as that was a big goal and it takes a lot of mental energy. I really needed to focus coming to this race to suffer and to fight. It is Romandie so it is important I can come here and race well, so I am very happy that I could take the win today. I wasn't so confident for today's stage but I told myself if I can be there at the end in Liege-Bastogne-Liege after 4,000 metres of climbing then why can't I be able to be here over the climbs today. I tried to fight and stay in the bunch and it worked out to be even better than I thought so I am really happy with that."

Bad weather also saw the stage 2 start line relocated to Aigle with riders avoiding the originally planned descent from Champéry and covering 136 km of the original 160.7 km course. With the race eventually underway, attacks quickly began to fly off the front of the peloton with Stefan Küng part of the successful move which saw four riders go clear after only 4km of racing. The gap between the breakaway and the peloton continued to rise as they raced through the valley before it settled at around 5:40 min. after the first of three categorized climbs.

As the road continued to roll and a mix of snow and rain began to fall, the advantage of Küng's group remained steady. As they hit the the slopes of the final categorized climb to Le Châtelard, the peloton had picked up the pace behind and the gap started to fall. However, the four leading riders continued to work well together and as they crossed the finish line for the final 25 km, they were still 3:00 min. ahead of the main bunch.

As the breakaway entered the closing kilometers, Küng and Andrei Grivko were pushing hard at the front of the group and with four kilometers to go, they were the last riders standing from the original breakaway. Inside the final kilometer it was Küng who led the way with Grivko sitting firmly in his wheel. Küng led Grivko through the final left hand turn with 300 m to go and started his sprint, holding on until the line and raising his hands in triumph.

"Itis amazing. I am really happy.", said Küng. "We talked about the possibility of today being a good day for the breakaway or a good day to try and make a move. The team then gave me the freedom to go for it. If you have this opportunity and you know the roads, I had the confidence in my condition and the weather was bad so it was the perfect day for me to try and do something. It's a little bit funny. During the Classics we always play with each other and do sprints and I also did a few of them against Greg Van Avermaet and it always a case of me winning one and then he would win one. If you are able to sprint as good as Greg, that gave me the confidence that after a hard day I was sure he (Grivko) wasn't going to beat me today.”

Two years ago in the same area Stefan Küng won a stage of Tour de Romandie as a neo-pro. What is the difference between these two victories? "A lot things have happened and not good things. I had two really hard crashes with a long rehabilitation and then illness. I was always a little up and down and I was struggling to show what I can do. I knew I could do but I just couldn't finish it off so it is a big relief for me to get this victory. I work hard all the time. I am a really ambitious person and if you are longing for success and always running behind, you lose patience and confidence. With this victory it is really nice to get a lot of this confidence back."

With his win Stefan Küng also took the green jersey, which he would defend until the finale stage in Lausanne.