The Tour of Romandy is slowly brewing up a good GC fight in this years edition. A short team timetrial set some early gaps with most GC riders staying fairly close. Ag2r didn't do Romain Bardet any favors, leaving him 1.22 after Chris Froome and race leader Geraint Thomas and Lotto left Jurgen Van den Broeck 1:12 down. Everyone else was within a minute. Then stage 2 boiled down the GC even further. The finale wasn't tough enough for any decisive moves but it did serve to wash out the top half of the field.
The final climb served as a long drag that sent the weaker half of the field out the back door. Some minor players tried pinging off the front, a handful of Katushas and Romain Bardet most notably but a fast-rolling peloton wasn't having any of it. Meanwhile bad luck struck race-leader Geraint Thomas who punctured on the climb and was unable to re-connect in spite of immediate assistance from Peter Kennaugh. As the front group where flying along though their task was always going to be difficult and in the end Thomas lost four minutes on the stage and any worries Sky had about having multiple agendas are now history. Froome, who did nothing but sit comfortably at the front in the finale, is now their only priority.
Instead Orica and Albasini take over the leaders jersey and it's one they can realistically aim to hang on to until the Queen stage 5 with effort and a little luck. As the stage developed it was pretty much a dream scenario for Albasini who excels at these sprint from groups reduced by big climbs. On the run-in it was Etixx who were doing the majority of the work for red-hot Julian Alaphillippe as they chased the solo escapist Rein Taaramae on the downhill to Saint-Imier. Taaramae attacked just after the top of the final climb and used some aggressive descending to pull out a gap of around 20 seconds at most. With Tony Martin taking the front in the chase the gap was controlled and reduced well enough to catch Taaramae in the final kms. That set up an opportunistic sprint where Cannondale tried to seize control but had to see Albasini benefit from their effort instead. On this kind of form he may very well get more out of this race in the coming two stages that also suit his skills probably.
On the whole everyone we thought might be in the top of the final GC stayed up front besides Thomas. Cannondale's Martin and Acevedo somewhat disappointingly came in with the stragglers as did Giro targetting Niemec and Betancur but those aren't of huge consequence perhaps. Niemec was one of the day's crash victims as was Orica's Svein Tuft and the unfortunate Jesper Hansen(Tinkoff) who suffered the unusual fate of getting doored by the race doctor, just as he was remounting after a crash. There are better ways of starting off a stage race.