Juan Ayuso is making quick work of his race form rebuild at Tour de Romandie, already stepping onto the podium in just his third day of competition for the year as he displayed little hint of being hindered by his delayed season start or the injury that caused it.
The six-day Swiss WorldTour race started with a prologue, where Ayuso came 13th, well positioned among the GC contenders on his race return after suspected neuralgia affected a tendon in his lower leg. The UAE Team Emirates rider then went onto finish among the main bunch on stage 1, which started with some climbs but all came back together for a sprint finish in the flat latter stages.
However, it was a far more fractured field on Thursday’s stage 2 with attacks from a reduced lead bunch of around 60 – with Ayuso among the aggressors – running right through the final kilometres. Still it all came down to an uphill sprint among the reduced group in La Chaux-de-Fonds and while Ayuso was up the front fighting for wheels the speed of Ethan Hayter, combined with perfect positioning behind a strong lead out, gave the Ineos Grenadiers rider an advantage too large to overcome.
“I did my best and I tried to get the win but I couldn’t claw Hayter back in the sprint,” said Ayuso. “The team was strong and when we give our all we have to be happy.”
The second place on stage 2 shifted Ayuso up to fourth on the overall, trailing race leader Hayter by just 11 seconds. Ayuso’s teammates Finn Fisher-Black and Simon Yates, who entered the race as the squad’s designated leader, are also in the top 20 with Fisher-Black ninth at 17 seconds and Yates 17th at 24 seconds.
The Tour de Romandie now heads into two stages that are likely to be pivotal for the GC. The first is an 18.8km time trial punctuated by a mild climb and then a largely downhill run through the final five kilometres. After that it is into the mountains, with the overall victor likely to be clear atop the summit finish of Thyon 2000. The race heads to Genève to complete the six-days of racing on Saturday and what looks set to be a telling late-season debut for Ayuso.
“I think yesterday I suffered a bit more with my injury,” Ayuso told Eurosport in a post-stage interview.
“Today I feel much better so I am glad things are improving day by day but I still feel like my form is not there. I had to suffer a lot to get past the climbs and that doesn’t really concern me because that will come with time.”
And time is something the…
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