Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) powered to victory on the reduced first road stage of the Tour de Romandie, catching late escapee Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) on the final straight.
Voeckler had attacked inside the final kilometre, after Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) saw his own solo bid for glory ended within 1500m of the finishing line.
But Albasini caught and passed the Frenchman, holding off Spanish champion Jesus Herrada (Movistar) to earn victory in his home country.
Snow on the Simplon Pass had forced organisers to shorten the stage to 88km and avoid the 2000m high climb.
But even with a single solitary ascent remaining on the route, it proved sufficient to cause huge splits in the bunch – though Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) stayed safe to retain the yellow jersey.
The stage in detail
Setting out from Brigerbad, instead of Ascona, three riders made up for lost time by attacking almost from the flag.
Boris Vallee (Lotto-Belisol), Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) and Reto Hollenstein (IAM Cycling) formed the day’s break but their lead – which had initially stretched to three minutes – was never allowed to grow into anything significant.
Omega Pharma-Quickstep, riding in support of prologue winner, Kwiatkowski, did much of the chasing but it was Team Sky’s Chris Sutton and Luke Rowe who pulled the bunch over the line and onto the final 38km some 1’53” behind the break.
Tinkoff-Saxo also kept riders at the front, with Irishman Nico Roche chief in their plans for the race.
Nathan Earle took over on the front for Team Sky however, with Omega Pharma-Quickstep happy to sit on the wheel, and the Australian pulled a huge shift to bring the day’s break to an end.
The catch came with 27 kilometres to go, with world champion Rui Costa and his Lampre-Merida team-mates taking the opportunity to inject some pace at the front as they hit the lower ramps of the category two climb into Lens.
Rafael Valls led the way for the Italian squad, his pace being so great he momentarily dropped his own team-mates, but his efforts were also enough to drop Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), still recovering from a crash in the prologue.
David Lopez (Team Sky) was next to take a turn as more riders were shelled from of the back, while Johan Tschopp (IAM Cycling) kicked off the front in sight of top of the climb.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) eventually gave chase, earning himself a small gap as he looked to combat his descending weaknesses, but the reduced bunch looked indifferent as Tshopp pipped Pinot to the King of the Mountains jersey.
The twisting, technical descent provided the perfect stage for Nibali to unleash his phenomenal descending technique.
The Astana team leader earned a huge lead on the descent and powered on alone as the road levelled out again.
Voeckler put in a solo counter-attack to no avail, while Nibali’s team-mates gathered at the front of the peloton to slow the chase.
Kwiatkowski remained safe in the bunch, with team-mate Rigoberto Uran and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale) trying to force the pace and Tony Martin keeping the Pole company further back in the bunch.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) was also still in the peloton but with few team-mates in support, while Andrew Talansky and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) put in some big efforts on the front.
With four kilometres to go, Nibali still held a steady lead of ten seconds, though the bunch had begun to close the gap rapidly.
Tony Martin chased after Nibali, with Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) on his wheel, and the peloton was brought back together with 1500 metres to go.
Voeckler seized the opportunity to make another solo attack, but he was caught inside the final 100 metres, allowing Albasini to burst past and take the stage win ahead of Herrada.
Tour de Romandie: stage one – result
1) Michal Albasini (SUI) – Orica-GreenEDGE – 2.11.11hrs
2) Jesus Herrada (ESP) – Movistar – ST
3) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Sharp
4) Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ) – Astana
5) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp
6) Matthias Brandle (AUT) – IAM Cycling
7) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida
8) Jonathan Hivert (FRA) – Belkin Pro Cycling
9) Bjorn Thurau (GER) – Team Europcar
10) Thomas Voeckler (FRA) – Team Europcar
1) Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep – 2.17.33hrs
2) Michael Albasini (SUI) – Orica-GreenEDGE +5″
3) Ramunas Navardauskas (LTU) – Garmin-Sharp – ST
4) Jesus Herrada (ESP) – Movistar +6″
5) Matthias Brandle (AUT) – IAM Cycling +7″
6) Rohan Dennis (AUS) – Garmin-Sharp +8″
7) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +9″
8) Martijn Keizer (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +13″
9) Alexandre Geniez (FRA) – FDJ.fr – ST
10) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +14″