CHAMPEX, Switzerland — Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) finished alone to celebrate his first win of the season in Saturday’s fifth stage of the Tour de Romandie.
Runner-up Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) took the yellow jersey from Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), who was suffering on the climbs. He eventually lost contact on La Petite Forclaz and finished 90th, more than 22 minutes down.
Pinot took off in the final 5 kilometers of the rain-soaked, mountainous 162.7km stage from Fribourg to Champex-Lac. He finished seven seconds ahead of Zakarin and 20 ahead of a five-man group that included third-placed Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), two-time champion Christopher Froome (Sky), and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who briefly put Froome into difficulty with an attack from 7km out. Also feeling the pressure were Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick-Step), who finished 53 seconds down on Pinot.
“It had been a long time since I last won. I am happy,” Pinot told Swiss channel RTS. “In front of great riders such as Quintana and Froome, it’s a great victory.”
Zakarin, 25, won the 2013 Russian national time trial championships and was ninth in this year’s Tour of the Basque Country.
Sunday’s final stage, a 17.3km time trial in Lausanne, will be the decider as Zakarin holds a six-second lead over Pinot. Third-ranked Froome, who finished seventh on Saturday, sits 14 seconds behind while Quintana trails by 54 seconds.
“I was not expecting to be in the yellow jersey,” said an incredulous Zakarin. “There are a heck of a lot of top riders competing in the time trial tomorrow and it will be an onerous responsibility for me in going last.
“I will do my utmost as it is probably the most important time trial of my life.”