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Italian Savoldelli sprints to victory in Tour de Romandie prologue, while Swiss lag behind

The Italian, Paolo Savoldelli, has donned the first green jersey of Switzerland's second biggest cycle race, in the time trial prologue of the Tour de Romandie.

Savoldelli rode the 6.5 kilometre prologue in just over seven and a half minutes, more than ten seconds ahead of Miguel Angel Pena of Spain.

The prologue, which took place around the shores of Lake Maggiore in the Italian-speaking resort of Locarno, and not actually in the French-speaking Romandie, saw disappointing performances all round from the Swiss competitors.

Roland Meier managed to scramble into 13th place - the highest position any Swiss managed to achieve. Two favourites of the race, France's Laurent Jalabert who was last year's champion, and Switzerland's Laurent Dufaux both staggered into 51st and 64th place respectively, up to half a minute behind Salvoldelli. Dufaux defended his poor performance saying "Amidst rain and on a difficult, tortuous route, I did not want to take unnecessary risks for the sake of the prologue".

Savoldelli, who is riding high after celebrating his 27th birthday at the weekend, contends that he could also take the Tour de Romandie title as he has nothing to lose by giving his all for this particular race. But he maintained, "Nothing has happened to get overexcited about. It is necessary to take each day at a time. If I can get through Saturday's mountain stage, I could win the title."

However, whoever peaks during the prologue, may not necessarily gain the upper hand when the Tour proper begins. Ahead of them, competitors face a gruelling route taking in 825 kilometres, including five punishing climbs.

swissinfo with agencies

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