Simon Spilak (Lampre) won Sunday’s mountainous stage to tighten the GC going into Sunday’s finale at the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland.
Spilak gapped the lead group of contenders to take a 13-second victory ahead of the ever impressive Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), and claw within five seconds of the overall lead.
Overnight leader Michael Rogers (HTC-Columbia) finished with the front group of GC contenders at 22 seconds back to retain a one-second lead to Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne). Spilak slots into third at five seconds back with Vladimir Karpets (Katusha) in fourth at seven seconds off the pace.
The high mountains arrived for the 157km, fourth stage at Romandie, with two first-category climbs in the second part of the stage. The first was the Pas de Morgins at 88.6km and the second was the Col du Corbier at 132.6km.
Early in the stage, Matthew Busche (RadioShack) worked into the day’s main, seven-man breakaway. At 50km to go, the gap was holding steady at three minutes, but Caisse d’Epargne was lining up the peloton to begin the chase.
Valverde started the stage just two seconds behind Rogers and the Spanish team wanted to position its captain in position to at least challenge for finish-line time bonuses, if not more.
There were a flurry of attacks on the Corbier climb, including sorties from Denis Menchov (Rabobank), who led the way over the summit.
Valverde snagged the second-place, two-second time bonus at the final intermediate sprint, but Rogers stuck his nose out to catch the one-second, third-place bonus to defend his jersey by one second.
Spilak attacked with 14km to go, drawing out Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Juan Mauricio Soler (Caisse d’Epargne) and Morris Possoni (Team Sky).
Spilak insisted again with 8km to go through driving rain, dropping the others and soloed home for the victory. Gilbert and Sagan counter-attacked out of the lead group, but it was too late to capture Spilak.
The Romandie tour concludes Sunday with a short, but explosive 121km stage starting and finishing in Sion. The course features three, first-category climbs, with the final summit more than 20km from the finish line. The GC could well be decided on time bonuses.