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Ilnur Zakarin finishes 3rd in ITT to clinch Tour de Romandie title

Ilnur Zakarin podiums in the final time trial to clinch the Tour de Romandie, holding off two-time defending champion Chris Froome

LAUSANNE — Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) won the Tour de Romandie in Lausanne on Sunday, finishing third in the final race against the clock to hold off two-time defending champion Chris Froome (Sky).

Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step) won the 17.3km individual time trial. But the 25-year-old Zakarin, who took the race leader’s yellow jersey after crossing second in Saturday’s mountainous fifth stage, finished just 13 seconds slower to clinch the overall title, despite jamming his chain and switching bikes 5km from the finish.

Teammate Simon Spilak finished second on the day and on the overall.

“I was very surprised to beat Froome,” said Zakarin, the 2013 Russian time-trial champion. “And I finished so close to Tony Martin. In all seriousness, the goal was to finish in the top five, and I did not think I could do so.”

Zakarin said he did “specific training” and lost weight with an eye toward improving his climbing.

“I went from 75 to 65kg in two years,” he said. “Of course, when you improve in one area you lose in another, but later there is a chance to find a good balance. Now I am there, but I see a lot of things to improve. I want to continue my development as a rider.”

Toward that end, Zakarin will start the Giro d’Italia this month, said team director Dmitry Konyshev.

Martin, who collected his second victory of the season, said it was “a really nice feeling.”

“Today the time trial was completely in the rain, so it was a little bit of a disadvantage, especially on the climb with the cobblestones and a few tricky corners on the downhill. But I actually didn’t mind it,” the German time-trial champion said.

“Before the race I thought about the mistake of last year on the downhill, and I lost by a second [to Froome]. So this year I was even more focused than usual.”

Martin expressed astonishment that Zakarin finished so well in the finale.

“I am very surprised by his performance today, notably because of his changing bikes,” he told AFP. “Already yesterday I was surprised. I didn’t know of him before.”

In 2009, the Russian cycling federation handed Zakarin a two-year suspension after the 19-year-old tested positive for the anabolic steroid methandienone. Two years earlier he had won the junior time trial at the European road championships.

Froome, whose main target this season is to regain the Tour de France title he surrendered last year when he crashed out of the race, could only manage 13th in the race against the clock, 34 seconds down on Martin.

“I am not disappointed,” the 29-year-old told Swiss television station RTS after holding onto third place overall. “I know it is a long season and we still have two months till the start of the Tour de France.”

Froome said he planned a training camp at altitude before tackling the Critérium du Dauphine, a traditional warm-up race for the Tour.