Race leader Michael Albasini sprints to a second stage win at Tour de Romandie on a day characterized by late-race fireworks from GC riders

Tour de Romandie race leader Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) delivered his second win in as many days on Thursday in Porrentruy, Switzerland.

The Swiss rider was cued up perfectly by teammate Simon Gerrans in the final kilometer, capitalizing on a late rush from Etixx-Quick-Step whose riders were aiming to lead-out Julian Alaphilippe for the win. However, the young Frenchman had to settle for second place behind Albasini, who delivered a convincing kick in the final 200 meters to win by a couple bike lengths.

“First of all we have to realize what my team did for me today,” Albasini said. “They really drove strong in the first half of the race, and in the final even [Ivan] Santaromita was around to make sure nobody was riding away.”

“Then I had one of the best riders [Gerrans] in the bunch lead me out, so I just had to win it.”

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Kristof Vandewalle (Trek Factory Racing), Cheng Ji (Giant-Alpecin), and Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo) established the day’s break and were allowed over eight minutes advantage in the first 30 kilometers before Orica-GreenEdge began to bring back the gap.

With 67 kilometers left, the lead trio was less than three minutes ahead.

Movistar joined Orica-GreenEdge’s chase efforts, and with a little under 50km remaining, the race was back together.

Then, many of the race’s GC contenders animated the final 20 kilometers of the 173.2km race.

Danilo Wyss (BMC) attacked with 13.5km to go, and soon, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Andrey Zeits (Astana) bridged up.

But with just over 10km to go, the trio was caught. Next, it was Vincenzo Nibali’s (Astana) turn to test his legs, delivering a counter-attack, albeit an unsuccessful one.

BMC launched another rider of the front, but again the peloton chased it back.

Nearing the final five kilometers, another GC favorite, Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick-Step) took a dig at the front, but the field was intent on keeping things together for a bunch gallop.

Giant-Alpecin, Lampre-Merida, and Cannondale-Garmin cued up at the front of the bunch with five kilometers left.

After a great deal of work by Lampre, Etixx-Quick-Step took over in the last kilometer, but yellow jersey-wearer Albasini was poised perfectly. He made his jump after the final lefthand corner and blasted up the outside to win the stage handily, ahead of Alaphilippe. Damiano Caruso (Lampre-Merida finished third.

The Tour de Romandie continues Friday with stage 4, a 169.8km race from La Neuveville to Fribourg that includes three categorized climbs.

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