Astana rider Andreas Klöden took the overall lead of the Tour of Romandie after winning the 18.8km third stage, a time trial in Sion, Switzerland Friday.
The German, a former runner-up at the Tour de France, finished ahead of Dutchman Thomas Dekker, of Rabobank, over the mainly flat course around Sion, which included one main climb. After a rapid descent towards the technical final part of the course, Klöden avoided disaster when he managed to stay on his bike despite clipping a barrier.
He finished in 25 minutes 32 seconds to claim his first victory of the year, and take the yellow jersey from Liquigas rider Michael Albasini of Switzerland, who finished in 26:53.
"I went so fast that when I used my brakes, my back wheel locked," said Klöden of his near mishap. "Fortunately I was able to keep myself on the bike by hitting the publicity boarding with my shoulders."
Dekker, a former winner of the Tour of Romandie - which much of the peloton uses as preparation for the May 10 - June 1 Giro d'Italia - finished four seconds behind Klöden and is now second overall.
With four climbs coming before the mountain finish on the fourth stage over 127km between Sion and Zinal, Astana could come under attack from the orange and blue shirts of Rabobank on Friday.
"I know that tomorrow will be tough with four climbs, but I'm confident in the team's ability to control the race," added Klöden. "With four riders in the top 11, it shows that we are in good shape and motivated to win here."
Astana claim their second victory in the race after Maxim Iglinsky's win on the first stage. The Kazakh-based team includes Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, but the team will miss this year's race due to the organisers' decision not to issue an invite because of their past brushes with doping.
Astana were thrown off last year's Tour after star rider Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping. Contador did not ride with them at the time.
For more photos and results, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008