Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) mastered the uphill finish in Le Sapey-en-Chartreuse to claim his third stage win on the roads of the Dauphiné, thirteen years after the last one! Again, the pace was relentless for the whole stage, with tailwinds pushing the peloton towards the hilly challenges of the demanding final 50km.
Ineos Grenadiers tried to outsmart their rivals like they did in Saint-Vallier, this time with Tao Geoghegan Hart at the front, but Valverde perfectly paced himself in the final 400m to overtake the winner of the 2020 Giro d’Italia on the line. Already dropped on the climb of the Col de Porte, Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) loses the yellow and blue jersey to Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) ahead of a gruelling week-end in the Alps.
A flying start through the wind
A 137-man peloton starts from Loriol-sur-Drôme, quickly heads north and thus enjoys tailwinds in the first part of the stage. In these conditions, many riders want to break away from the bunch but it’s hard for the attackers to open and hold a gap. After many unsuccessful attempts, nine riders manage to open a gap at km 43.
They soon receive the support of five more attackers to establish the break of the day: Lawson Craddock (EF Nippo), Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R), Omer Goldstein (Israel Start-Up Nation), Laurent Pichon (Arkéa Samsic), Matthew Holmes (Lotto Soudal), Sven-Erik Bystrom (UAE Team Emirates), Josef Cerny (Deceuninck – Quick-Step), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Barnabas Peak (BikeExchange), Martin Salmon (DSM), Franck Bonnamour (B&B-KTM) and Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert).
Holmes and Craddock dominate the first climbs
They cover 50.3km in the first hour… and again in the second hour. But Lukas Pöstlberger’s Bora-Hansgrohe don’t give them much breathing room. The gap never gets higher than 3’05’’ at km 97. And it quickly gets down as the riders hit the first climbs of the day, after 115km covered at a very high pace.
With the polka-dot jersey already on his shoulders, Matthew Holmes takes 5 KOM points atop the Col de la Placette. Julien Bernard opens the battle on the slopes up the Col de Porte but nobody can keep up with Lawson Craddock when he sets off in the final 2km of ascent.
Ineos vs Movistar
In the bunch, Tony Martin ups the pace on the way to the Col de Porte. Astana-Premier Tech takes over and the yellow and blue jersey Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) is dropped with 22km to go. Movistar up the ante on the final slopes and keep pushing on the descent towards the final 10 kilometres of the stage, bringing the gap down to 30’’.
Craddock is eventually dropped when Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) attacks at the bottom of the final climb (3.3km at 6.2%). Ineos Grenadiers set the pace and the South-African climber can’t move very far. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) and Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) also try to go, but Ineos still control.
Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) drives the bunch inside the last kilometre but Ineos move past him again, and Geraint Thomas opens a split in favour of Geoghegan Hart… But that move didn’t fool Alejandro Valverde, who paces himself perfectly to overtake the winner of the 2020 Giro d’Italia right on the line. – www.criterium-du-dauphine.fr