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Michael Albasini won stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie Wednesday in Sion, Switzerland. Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) took a reduced bunch sprint for victory in the weather-shortened 88-kilometer leg from Brigue after a long-range attack by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) fell short.
Jésus Herrada (Movistar) was second and Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) was third.
“I had two, three guys in front of me. I knew one of them was going to go nervous and chase him [Thomas Voeckler],” said Albasini. “I just waited and timed my sprint well.”
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) defended his overall lead with four days remaining. Albasini moved into second, five seconds behind the Polish champion.
Three riders comprised the day’s long breakaway: Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol), and Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling).
After the escape faded on the Cat. 2 Lens climb, 2013 Giro d’Italia champion Nibali broke away on the descent, inside the final 20km.
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) tried to join the Sicilian with 9km to go, but the peloton pulled the two chasers back. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) tried as well, but got nowhere.
With 7km to go, Nibali held a 25-second advantage. The gap was 13 seconds with 4km remaining.
Behind Nibali, a train of Astana riders parked itself behind Omega Pharma’s Rigoberto Urán, forcing the Colombian to serve as the only chaser for overall leader Kwiatkowski. Urán waved Tom Danielson up with just over 2km to go, leaving the pace-making to the Garmin rider.
Omega Pharma’s time trial world champion Tony Martin surged out of the bunch with 1.8km to go, drawing out second overall Rohan Dennis (Garmin), but with 1.3km to go, the race was together at the front.
Voeckler jumped again inside the final kilometer, taking a quick, five-second gap, but Dennis closed down on the Frenchman. Albasini came off Dennis’ wheel in the final 150 meters and powered his way to victory.
The Tour de Romandie continues Thursday with the 166km second stage, from Sion to Montreux. The lumpy stage includes two Cat. 3 climbs, as well as an uncategorized ramp in the final 5km.