Chris Froome blew away his general classification rivals on the final climb of stage four to extend his overall lead of the Tour de Romandie.
"The other climb would actually have suited Chris better, but he was so strong that it did not matter."
The Team Sky leader produced a virtuoso display to first catch a dangerous breakaway on the concluding ascent to Les Diablerets and then surge clear himself alongside Slovenia’s Simon Spilak.
Spilak (Katusha) went on to take the stage victory, with Froome crossing the line second, one minutes and three seconds ahead of a chasing group containing Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) and Movistar duo Alejandro Valverde and Rui Costa.
The Briton now leads Spilak overall by 47 seconds, with Costa, who sprinted to third on the stage, moving up to third overall, 1:21 back.
Once again Team Sky rode hard and selflessly to defend yellow, Vasil Kiryienka, David López and finally Richie Porte keeping the pace high on the crucial final ascent.
Froome said afterwards: “I don’t think ‘impressive’ is enough to describe how they have been all week. They have really done a super job keeping me in front and today was another demonstration of that.
“Everyone did a super job and, for me, it was just to follow Spilak over the last climb. Once we were over the top, I think both of us understood very quickly that my objective was the general classification and his objective was to go for the stage win, so we worked well together and took a good advantage coming into the final [kilometre]."
Day to remember
The day was played out in terrible weather conditions that had earlier forced race organisers to shorten the route by 4km and skip the planned second climb of the Col de la Croix. Significantly, the finale was changed from a downhill to a summit finish.
Marcus Burghardt (BMC), Arthur Vichot (FDJ), Tom Dumoulin (Argos-Shimano) and Matthias Brandle (IAM) broke away from the peloton in the early stages and had opened up a gap of 4:30 by the 50km mark.
However, the group split apart on the second climb of the day, the category-one Col de la Croix, with Burghardt initially going clear on his own, only for Vichot to catch and then pass him.
The Frenchman amassed a lead of over one minute on his fellow escapees, but was joined by Tony Martin (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) with 35km to go after the German had attacked out of the peloton and swiftly bridged to the leader.
The duo were over a minute ahead of the peloton leading on to the final climb to Les Diablerets, but both men started to wilt, with first Vichot and then Martin being swallowed up on the lower slops by a peloton being driven on by Team Sky’s López, Porte and Froome.
Kiserlovski immediately darted up the road and was soon joined by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling).
Spilak also attacked out of the peloton and after both López and Porte had dropped away following huge individual efforts, Froome had little other choice but to give chase.
He effortlessly bridged to Kiserlovski, Pinot and Wyss 8km out and kept driving on to subsequently catch up to Spilak, who had also overtaken the trio.
Froome and Spilak instantly started working together and built an advantage of over 40 seconds by the time they reached the 3km-to-go marker.
A chase group formed behind but they failed to close the gap, leaving Froome free to permit Spilak the stage win, safe in the knowledge his race lead had been significantly increased.
We caught up with sports director Servais Knaven after the race. He told us: “It was a really great day and we are really happy with the whole team’s work. They did everything they could. It was a great performance from Chris and a really exciting finale.
“The course was changed and we did a slightly easier climb at the end. The other climb would actually have suited Chris better, but he was so strong that it did not matter.
“Richie Porte and David Lopez, and all of the guys earlier in the day, did an amazing job. And then when it was just Chris left, he didn’t get nervous and rode his own race.
“He now has a 47-second lead and he is a really good time-triallist. But in life nothing is sure and anything can happen. We will be really happy if we have the jersey tomorrow night.”