Tour de Romandie: Maikel Zijlaard takes victory in tight prologue

Cameron Scott second, Julian Alaphilippe third in 2.2km time trial

Clock15:34, Tuesday 23rd April 2024
Maikel Zijlaard on his way to winning the Tour de Romandie prologue

© Getty Images

Maikel Zijlaard on his way to winning the Tour de Romandie prologue

The 2024 Tour de Romandie opened in explosive fashion on Tuesday, with Maikel Zijlaard (Tudor Pro Cycling) winning a prologue that measured just 2.28 kilometres.

What the course in Payerne lacked in length, it made up for in corners, with no fewer than thirteen 90-degree bends, in a remarkably technical test that saw most riders opt for road bikes over time trial machines.

Zijlaard had never won a race before Tuesday but had made the podium in esteemed company in a similar prologue at last year’s Deutschland Tour, and flew through the twisting course to take not only his first victory but a huge scalp for his team on their home Swiss soil.

The Dutchman, who was among the early starters, spent two minutes and 55 seconds on the road, at an average speed of 46.7kph. He then spent more than two hours in the hot seat, as a host of the biggest names in the WorldTour came and went, none able to deny him the stage win and the first leader’s yellow jersey.

Cameron Scott (Bahrain Victorious) gave him a late scare, finishing just nine-tenths of a second down, while an impressive ride by the embattled Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) saw the former world champion clinch the final spot on the podium.

"It's crazy, I can't believe it," Zijlaard said once his victory had been confirmed.

"I started quite early and the last two hours have been the worst two hours of my life because of the stress. I wanted this so much, for myself, for the team. I know I am quite good in this stuff so I was going here with a goal which was the prologue. That it comes to me like this, it is quite hard to believe still, but it is reality and I am really happy with it."

The Dutchman, using a road bike with a rear disc wheel and an aero helmet, got all the ingredients right, with explosive speed through the corners and more than a fair share of risks taken. It was the sort of course where the limits had to be pushed to seek out those fine margins, and one pre-stage favourite, Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) paid the price when he overcooked a corner. The Brit gave a wry smile as he got going again, knowing there was no chance of recovery on such a short course.

Ivo Oliveira (UAE Team Emirates) in fifth place was the top finisher on a time trial bike, while Alaphilippe’s teammate Ilan Van Wilder was the best of the pre-race GC favourites, five seconds down on Zijlaard’s time.

The win marks Tudor Pro Cycling's second WorldTour victory of the season and a successful start to their home tour for the Fabian Cancellara-backed squad.

"It's crazy, I don't really have the words. To win here and get my first WorldTour victory for a Swiss team in Switzerland, it is the dream I think," Zijlaard added.

The general classification picture

The opening prologue was so short that it was never going to shape the general classification to any significant degree - indeed, all but one of the 161 starters finished within 30 seconds of Zijlaard’s winning time. However, there were some small splits and some early indications of form ahead of the true tests later in the week, which include a longer time trial and the key mountain stage on Saturday.

Alaphilippe’s performance, at two seconds down on the winner, caught the eye, especially on a Romandie route that contains less serious climbing than usual, and his team came out very well with Van Wilder poised two further seconds back.

Read more: Cédric Vasseur: We don’t want Julian Alaphilippe to come to Cofidis as a retirement home

Enric Mas (Movistar) was five seconds down, while Lenny Martínez (Groupama-FDJ) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) were both at six seconds. The latter is part of a leadership quartet at UAE and there’s little to separate them at this stage, with Adam Yates at eight seconds, Brandon McNulty at 11 seconds, and Pavel Sivakov at 12 seconds.

There’s also something of a trio over at Ineos Grenadiers, where Magnus Sheffield is on top at seven seconds, while the more established GC names of Egan Bernal and Thymen Arensman are at 14 seconds.

Aleksandr Vlasov was another rider at seven seconds, two up on his Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Jai Hindley. EF Education-EasyPost put Rigoberto Urán at 10 seconds and Richard Carapaz at 15 seconds, while Lidl-Trek had Tao Geoghegan Hart at 12 seconds and Giulio Ciccone at 14 seconds.

Other selected pre-race contenders include Damiano Caruso (Bahrain Victorious) at eight seconds, Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) at nine seconds, David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) at 13 seconds, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) at 16 seconds and Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla) at 17 seconds.

Race Results

1

nl flag

ZIJLAARD Maikel

Tudor Pro Cycling Team

2' 55"

2

au flag

SCOTT Cameron

Bahrain Victorious

+ 1"

3

fr flag

ALAPHILIPPE Julian

Soudal Quick-Step

+ 2"

4

fr flag

GODON Dorian

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

+ 3"

5

pt flag

OLIVEIRA Ivo

UAE Team Emirates

"

6

nl flag

VAN DIJKE Tim

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

"

7

be flag

VERMEERSCH Gianni

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

8

de flag

ARNDT Nikias

Bahrain Victorious

+ 4"

9

es flag

ARANBURU Alex

Movistar Team

"

10

ch flag

AEBI Antoine

Switzerland

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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