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Philippa York: Bora-Hansgrohe won the Tour de Romandie stage but still blew it

German team’s miscommunication in summit finish sprint costs it valuable seconds in the overall standings.

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ZINAL, Switzerland (VN) – Sergio Higuita (Bora Hansgrohe) may have won the sprint of the select group that came to the line in Zinal at the conclusion of stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie but Sunday afternoon when the final curtain comes down on the race his team could well be rueing what might have been.

It was clear from the last 200m when both he and teammate Aleksandr Vlasov accelerated at the same moment that both riders were trying to take the stage win. However the diminutive Colombian had a better jump and was instantly a bike lengthy ahead.

Then it got weird.

In this situation Vlasov had two options. Instead of staying right on the wheel he could have allowed his teammate to gradually open up a small gap, thus ensuring he won or waited. Or he could have pounced in the final meters.

But the Russian did neither, and that was very telling.

He was desperate to win and the pair clearly hadn’t talked to each other to decide who was riding for who before it came to the sprint.

If they had then one of them would have led out the other. Even more troubling was the admission from Higuita that he didn’t know it was his team leader beside him, and that showed a complete lack of awareness of where his teammate was and their lack of race tactics.

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It might be excused as being a temporary lapse caused by being flat out and having tunnel vision from the effort needed, but Vlasov has been in contention for the overall win since the start of the race in Lausanne, and he’s much better against the clock than Higuita.

The time trial to Villars on Sunday is going to decide the top positions.

At present Vlasov is 18 seconds down on race leader Rohan Dennis but just three down on second place Juan Ayuso. Losing four seconds today because of the sprint finish could be massive.

You have to ask what, if anything, the Bora-Hansgrohe team director said to his riders before the sprint because any communication from the car would have prioritized Vlasov taking the win and the maximum bonus possible to close the gap to Dennis.

Their final position on the podium or even the overall victory in such a prestigious race could well be decided by mere seconds, and it would have made way more sense for the stage positions to have been reversed. Yes, the team needs all the wins it can get but ten seconds bonus is better than six if you had the bigger picture in mind.

As it was, Higuita and Vlasov battling side-by-side into the headwind gave plenty of shelter to those behind, and had Juan Ayuso not been on his limit and slightly blocked in on the barriers then things could have been looking very different than the three second gap to the UAE youngster.

Barring incident or complete collapse Dennis probably has the GC sewn up now but it would have been more interesting heading into the final time trial if the German squad had shown a bit more tactical nous.