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ROMONT, Switzerland (VN) – Neilson Powless (EF Education EasyPost) may have felt disappointed with his positioning on the final uphill finish on stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie, but the American still dug out a finish in the top 15 to keep his hopes alive in the overall standings.
The 25-year-old sits 13th overall, 26 seconds down on new race leader Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma).
“I started too far back on the climb to be competing for the win. I had some really good legs today, so I’m confident with that. Also, I’m thinking about what could have happened if I’d just positioned myself better. That’s cycling,” Powless told VeloNews at the finish line, in Romont.
The stage came down to the final punishing climb to the finish, although a crash with around 15km to go took out several contenders, including the overnight race leader Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) and Powless’s teammate, Rigoberto Urán.
Dennis put in a surprise attack on the climb and only a late surge from Dylan Teuns denied the Australian the stage win but Powless finished in a group containing Geraint Thomas, Brandon McNulty, and Michael Woods at four seconds down on Teuns.
“I feel good, and the team is putting a bit of faith in me here. Just like everyone else, the entire peloton has had problems with sickness and things so I’m just happy that I came out of mine feeling pretty strong. I’m looking forward to the week ahead,” Powless added.
Avoiding the fall was certainly key for the American. Urán crossed the line well down on the favorites with his jersey and shorts ripped to shreds. He had skin missing on his shoulders, and the fall came just days after a similar crash at Liège-Bastogne-Liège that left the veteran leader on the deck.
“I didn’t even know that there was a crash until about 5km to go. I thought that I heard some brakes screeching but it didn’t sound like a real crash, but maybe I was too far in front of it. I heard Rigo was back but I hope that he is okay. Two falls in five days aren’t very nice but he’s a durable guy and pretty strong,” said Powless.
Powless though has come into a rich vein of form with 18th in La Flèche followed by eighth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His early spring was disrupted with illness but he’s back on track and was the only rider to come close to matching Remco Evenepoel when the Belgian blew the race apart in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Such was the force that Powless put through his bike when he tried to follow Evenepoel that both of his wheels came off the ground.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen something like that but it just goes to show how desperate I was to jump on his wheel,” he joked.
“It was an amazing time in Liège and when you’re racing at the front in a monument like that you just get chills and you feel like you can push yourself more than any other time. It was a great race and I’m looking forward to continuing that trend here.”
Romandie continues Thursday with another pivotal road stage before the key mountain day on Saturday and then a final individual time trial on Sunday.
“At Romandie, you can never really switch off and there’s only three road stages left, so you have to race everyday. It’s what really makes this race special,” he said.