Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) showed a turn of speed to match his climbing and time trialing prowess to win a bunch sprint for victory on stage one the Tour of Romandie.
The British road race champion outsprinted Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) to take a second consecutive victory for Team Sky.
Yesterday’s winner, Geraint Thomas, overall leader as today’s undulating 184.5km stage from Morges to La Chaux-de-Fonds began, was one of just two teammates left with Wiggins on the second category Haut de la Côte.
The other was world road race champion, Mark Cavendish.
Wiggins said: “I went a bit early and had to sit down to rest for a bit and then went again but it was good to get the win!”
He praised teammates for dropping back to pace him back to contention after he punctured with 25km to go.
Wiggins’ target for the race is overall victory, an achievement that would rank alongside his triumph in Paris-Nice in March, and his victory in last year’s Criterium du Dauphine.
“I want to win Romandie, that’s for sure,” he said. “I’ll take what I can every day and it’s really nice to win a sprint like this because normally I only ever really win time trials.”
Team Sky controlled today’s stage from the outset, keeping tabs on a four-man breakaway that was allowed to gain no more than just over five minutes.
But as the second category Haut de la Côte approached, the quartet’s lead had been reduced to a minute and a half.
BMC Racing’s Martin Kohler attacked as the gradient increased in a bid to add more points to his tally in the King of the Mountains competition, shedding his companions.
The Swiss was caught before the summit, and Fabrice Jeandesboz (Saur-Sojasun) jumped clear, launching the first of several attacks that would categorise the closing kilometres.
Garmin-Barracuda’s Ryder Hesjedal and Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank) were among those driving the breakaway on the third category Le Communal de la Sagne, the last of the day’s classified climbs.
Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank), AG2R’s Rinaldo Nocentini, and Maxime Mederel (Saur-Sojasun), jumped clear of the breakaway, but were hauled in with just seven kilometres remaining by a peloton driven by Katusha.
Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), who worked hard for Phillipe Gilbert at last Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege, attempted to go clear with a group of five other riders, but was again called upon to play a role for the team.
Just two kilometres from the finish, Rui Costa (Movistar) attacked, but Wiggins responded, and half-a-kilometre later launched a conclusive attack of his own with a victorious sprint begun in the closing 400 metres.
Tour of Romandie – stage one
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky 4.50.23
2) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM
3) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana
4) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing
5) Maciej Paterski (POL) – Liquigas-Cannondale
6) Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) – Movistar
7) Serge Pauwels (BEL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep
8) Daniele Pietropolli (ITA) – Lampre-ISD
9) Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) – Garmin-Barracuda
10) Pieter Weening (NED) – GreenEdge
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Team Sky – 4.53.51
2) Michael Rogers (AUS) – Team Sky +7”
3) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Rabobank +9”
4) Stef Clement (NED) – Rabobank
5) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Barracuda +11”
6) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Rabobank
7) David Zabriskie (USA) – Garmin-Barracuda +12”
8) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha
9) Molina Ruben Plaza (SPA) – Movistar
10) Tiago Machado (POR) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +13”