Chris Froome (Team Sky) has claimed his second consecutive Tour de Romandie title by winning the final stage time trial.
The Briton saw off the challenge of an elite field on a hilly 18.5km circuit from Neuchâtel, including the three-time and reigning world time trial champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep).
Froome, who began the day in second place on the general classification, a single second behind stage three winner, Simon Spilak (Katusha), delivered a dominant display to win his second stage race of the season, after claiming overall victory at the Tour of Oman.
He said: “It was extremely hard and a really tough circuit, but the climb was good for me in the time trial today. With one second to try and gain on Simon Spilak, it was really difficult because he was really strong two days ago in the mountains and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen today.
“It was a really good test for me and I am just really happy to have got the result and be back in a yellow jersey again. It’s a really good feeling.”
Froome’s time of 24.50 was fast enough to withstand the challenge of 121 other riders. Martin, predictably, came closest to toppling the Team Sky leader from his perch, and lost out by a single second. Trek’s Jesse Sargent was third, eight seconds back.
The victory is highly significant for Froome, who has seen his early-season campaign disrupted by illness and injury. Back problems ruled him out of Tirreno-Adriatico and a minor chest infection saw him withdraw from Liege-Bastogne-Liege on the morning of the race.
Now, however, he will look forward with confidence to his remaining pre-Tour de France commitments, knowing that he will need to continue winning to erode the huge advantage in confidence currently enjoyed by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), whose spring campaign has been without flaw.
“This has been a really hard period for me recently,” Froome said. “I have had a chest infection and I have had problems with my back this season, so it hasn’t been very easy. I have worked really hard to get back to this kind of condition. I just hope that I can continue to build towards the Tour de France.”
Team Sky directeur sportif, Servais Knaven, complemented the entire team for keeping Froome in contention, but reserved his greatest praise for the team leader.
“He’s come back and seen that he can win again. It’s a really important step towards the next races. He’s still building towards the Tour. Hopefully he’ll be a bit better next month and then come out even better still for the Tour. That’s the plan and I think he is right on schedule,” he said.
Tour de Romandie 2014: stage five – result
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 24.51
2) Tony Martin (GER) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +1″
3) Jesse Sergent (NZL) – Trek +8″
4) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Omega Pharma-Quickstep +15″
5) Jon Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar +20″
6) Riccado Zoidl (AUR) – Trek +29″
7) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha – ST
8) Rui Alberto (POR) – Lampre-Merida +31″
9) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ.fr +35″
10) Mathias Frank (SUI) – ST
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +16.18.46
2) Simon Spilak (SLO) – Katusha +28″
3) Rui Costa (POR) – Lampre-Merida +1.32
4) Mathias Frank (SUI) – IAM Cycling +1.44
5) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +1.48
6) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar +1.52
7) Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) – Astana +1.56
8) Jon Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar +2.07
9) Jesus Herrada (ESP) – Movistar +2.15
10) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ.fr +2.31