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ÉCHALLENS, Switzerland (VN) — Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) has come through the first two days at the Tour de Romandie relatively unscathed and with his GC hopes improving. The American put in a solid prologue and backed that up with an aggressive ride on stage 1. He was attacked on the final climb to the finish on the first road stage and was caught by Rohan Dennis and then the rest of the group of favorites, but the 24-year-old sits 10th on GC, 23 seconds down on the Australian.
For McNulty, his form is a pleasing and reassuring aspect given that he has ridden around Switzerland with his body covered in bandages following a high-speed crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last weekend. The plan in Romandie has been for McNulty to ease back into racing with the most critical stages coming on the weekend – a mountain stage on Saturday followed by the uphill time trial on Sunday.
At the start of stage 2 in Échallens the American talked about his progress through the opening two days, and the physical and mental side of recovering after such a brutal crash the prior weekend.
“It looked okay in the end, and I was able to kind of attack but I was actually feeling really bad,” he told VeloNews with regards to his late attack on stage 1.
“I had some legs in the end, which is a good sign. With the crash in Liège, it just means that it’s day-by-day and hopefully, I can get through today safely, and then from tomorrow onwards it gets harder.”
“The wounds are healing quickly but it’s still sore. Yesterday I was feeling really bad at the back and then with 30km to go, I just had to shut everything off and get to the front. It was also difficult mentally because after a big crash you’re always scared to fight. So you really have to turn that back on.”
When Dennis flew past him on the final climb McNulty admitted that he had no chance of responding but he focused on his own effort and finished in a group of favorites that included Geraint Thomas, Neilson Powless, and Michael Woods.
“I felt good for maybe a minute and a half and normally I can sustain that but when he went I just blew.”
The most pivotal stage in the race is likely to be the 15.8km time trial from Aigle to Villars on the final day of the race. Several riders are likely to change bikes along the course given that the first half is pan-flat before the road begins to climb towards a summit finish. McNulty has never had the chance to make an in-race bike change of that nature but the American is hoping to get in some practice before Sunday.
“Unfortunately, some of our guys saw this the day after Liège but I wasn’t able to because we only got in at two in the morning but maybe I’ll practice it on the morning of the time trial. That’s how it looks. I’ve not done one before in the WorldTour so for sure I’ll have to practice.”