After the second consecutive stage victory from Luis Leon Sanchez, the Tour de Romandie is already a success for the Rabobank ProTeam.
The Spaniard was the fastest of a large group on Saturday. It was the Queen’s stage though its profile was a bit disappointing. But because of bonus seconds, he took over the lead in the overall from Bradley Wiggins. Sanchez is to start Sunday’s final climb-time trial of 16.5 kilometres (just over 10 miles) with a nine-second head start on the British time-trial specialist. Bauke Mollema, Stef Clement and Wilco Kelderman were also part of the first group and maintained their top ten classifications and podium prospects in the race.
Sanchez initially seemed to miss his chance in the final when a group of twelve riders, including Bradley Wiggins, broke away from the rest during the descent of the last first-category climb. Bauke Mollema of the Rabobank team managed to join them, but the other Rabobank riders were hindered by a motorcycle crash and were forced to leave a gap. During the final ten flat kilometres Wilco Kelderman and Stef Clement closed the gap for their Spanish captain. Nico Verhoeven: “With Bauke we weren’t badly off at the front, but Luis Leon was and remains our man for the stage.”
The Spaniard subsequently delivered the goods in full. His three teammates brought him back to the front in the last few hectic kilometres. In the very last kilometre the Rabobank group looked to be in danger of being boxed in, but Sanchez himself found a gap. He was in the lead three hundred metres before the finish line and the competition no longer had any chance whatsoever against the powerful Luis Leon. In the background Bauke Mollema could raise his arms in jubilation well in front of the finish.
Can Sunday’s party still be ruined by a setback? Nico Verhoeven: “Of course this could still happen. If all of them are pushed out of the time trial tomorrow, we will still go home with hangovers, but in all honesty I don’t expect that.” The sports director is also realistic enough not to name Sanchez directly as the big favourite for the overall victory. “Wiggins is not the least on the time trial, on the contrary! We’ll just have to wait and see how tomorrow will go for Luis Leon. He has ridden very strongly on a similar course in the past, but it so happens that this season his time trial is not yet optimal. It’s exactly the opposite for Bauke, however. But even if we don’t win this race, it’s already been very successful for us. And naturally we are all hoping for a surprise.”