LAUSANNE: Slovenia's Simon Spilak beat Tour de France winner Chris Froome in a sprint finish at the Tour of Romandie on Friday to take the leader's yellow jersey. The Katusha rider edged out Team Sky's Froome by less than half a wheel length at the end of the 180km third stage from Le Bouveret to Aigle. Spilak started the day 15th overall and three seconds behind Briton Froome, who was ninth, in the overall standings. But the time bonus he took from victory now gives him a one second lead over the reigning Romandie champion.
Froome attacked the field on the final one of four first category climbs on a brutal day of racing that saw riders spend more than five hours in the saddle. Giro d'Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali was unable to respond to Froome's attack but Spilak, the 2010 winner in Romandie, did manage to get onto his wheel and the pair pushed out their advantage over the final 20km. World champion Rui Costa won the sprint for third 57sec back and is now third overall at 1min 2sec behind Spilak.
Astana's Nibali faded badly towards the end and finished seventh, although he is fourth overall now in the standings, 4sec behind Portugal's Costa. Froome had the inside line on the final sprint but his technique deserted him and Spilak managed to hold onto his advantage around the outside to win. The stage saw several potential rivals fall by the wayside as Michal Kwiatkowski and Rigoberto Uran failed to keep pace with the leaders. The Tour of Romandie is an important pre-Tour de France warm-up event and gauge of form. The winners of this event in the last three years (Froome in 2013, Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Cadel Evans in 2011) have gone on to triumph in the Grand Boucle in July as well.
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