(Road Bike Action & AFP; Photo: Bettini)
Katusha cyclist Ilnur Zakarin of Russia won the Tour of Romandie in Lausanne on Sunday holding off Britain’s two-time defending champion Chris Froome in the closing individual time-trial. The 25-year-old Zakarin had taken the race leader’s yellow jersey at the end of Saturday’s fifth stage but Sky star Froome had been expected to be too strong on Sunday. Froome eventually finished third overall, 35 seconds adrift of Zakarin — his Katusha team-mate Simon Spilak was second some 17sec adrift. The 17.3-kilometer time-trial on the streets of the Swiss town was won by German specialist Tony Martin. Zakarin, whose previous best results never suggested he could be a contender in a race of this quality, even overcame a technical problem which obliged him to change bikes five kilometers from the finish to take the prestigious prize.
“I gave everything in this race,” said Zakarin. “I don’t even know the time of Froome, I prefer to reflect on my performance. I was very surprised to beat Froome and to have finished so close to Tony Martin. In all truth my objective was to finish in the top five (overall) and I didn’t think I would do so well. I also discovered I have the ability to compete in the mountain stages. I have been on a specialist training routine and I have lost weight (he weighs 65 kilos instead of 75).”
Zakarin was unmoved when asked what it felt like to join a winners list which includes illustrious names such as Froome, his fellow Briton and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins and Australian star Cadel Evans.
“I don’t look at such things like the roll call of winners,” he said. “The Tour of Romandie was a target for Katusha at the outset of the season and that has been achieved. I will now line-up at the Giro (Tour of Italy) and see how I cope with a three week race and then I will head for the European Games in Baku in June.”
Froome, whose main target this season is to regain his Tour de France title he surrendered last year when he crashed out, failed to fire in the time-trial but he was far from dejected at not retaining his crown.
“I am not disappointed,” the 29-year-old Kenya-born rider told Swiss television station RTS. “I know it is a long season and we still have two months till the start of the Tour de France. I am now going to go off on a training camp at altitude before competing in the Dauphine (a traditional warm-up race for the Tour).”
Martin for his part was astonished at Zakarin’s performance — the 2007 European junior time-trial champion still managed to only finish 13 seconds behind the German in the time-trial despite his changing bikes.
“I am very surprised by his performance today notably because of his changing bike,” said Martin. “Already yesterday I was surprised (Zakarin finished second in a tough mountain stage). I didn’t know of him before.”
1. Tony Martin (GER/Etixx) 23min 17sec
2. Simon Spilak (SLO/Katusha) at 11sec
3. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/Katusha) 13
4. Jurgen Van den Broek (BEL/Lotto Soudal) 19
5. Rohann Dennis (AUS/BMC) 22
6. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) 24
7. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP/Movistar) 25
8. Stef Clement (NED/IAM) 26
9. Rafal Majka (POL/Tinkoff) 28
10. Steve Morabito (SUI/FDJ) 31
1. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/Katusha) 18hr 36min 30sec
2. Simon Spilak (SLO/Katusha) at 17sec
3. Christopher Froome (GNR/Sky) 35
4. Thibaut Pinot (FRA/FDJ) 49
5. Rigoberto Uran (COL/Etixx) 1min 20sec
6. Simon Yates (GBR/Orica) 1:21
7. Rafal Majka (POL/Tinkoff) 1:24
8. Nairo Quintana (COL/Movistar) 1:42
9. Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R) 1:43
10. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/Astana) 1:54