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With a big attack over the top of the Col d’Allos and a fantastic descent, Bardet started a great solo ride to win the first mountain stage at the Criterium du Dauphiné; van Garderen took second and the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

AG2R CITROEN TEAM

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CHRIS FROOME

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CRITERIUM DU DAUPHINE

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TEJAY VAN GARDEREN

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11.06.2015 @ 15:35 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Romain Bardet (Ag2r) took the biggest win of his short career when he did an incredible solo performance in the first big mountain stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné to take the victory at the top of the Pra Loup climb. Having attacked over the top of the Col d’Allos, he built an advantage of 1.25 on the descent and that was enough to hold off Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Chris Froome (Sky) while the American took the overall lead with an 18-second advantage over Benat Intxausti (Movistar).

 

Romain Bardet has been regarded as one of the most promising climbing talents for a long time and with his 6th place in last year’s Tour de France, he fully confirmed that he is a great star in the making. However, the aggressive Frenchman has not taken a lot of victories in his short career, with his overall victory in the Tour de l’Ain probably being his biggest highlight.

 

In 2015 Bardet has clearly taken another step up and this has filled him with confidence for the Tour de France which is again his big objective. He has prepared for the goal with his usual training camps in the Alps and uses this week’s Criterium du Dauphiné to fine-tune his condition.

 

Going into the race, Bardet was quietly confident, claiming that he is stronger than in 2014 when he finished fourth in the event. However, he got a small setback in the team time trial where his Ag2r team lost a massive 1.00 to the BMC team.

 

However, that time loss may have been a blessing in disguise as it gave him the room to ride aggressively in today’s first mountain stage of the race. His brave aggression paid off as a combination of great descending skills, course knowledge and good climbing legs allowed him to finally take that big WorldTour victory.

 

Alongside Talansky, Martin, Froome, Kennaugh, Roche, Boswell, Poels, Nibali, Scarponi, Kelderman, Vuillermoz, Simon Yates, Gallopin, De Clercq, Valverde, Rodriguez, van Garderen, de la Cruz, Kiserlovski, Poljanski, Costa, Valls, Frank, Rolland and Meintjes, Bardet was part of a small front group that approached the summit of the Col d’Allos after Sky had set an incredible pace that had whittled the group down. Knowing that he faced a very technical descent, he attacked less than 1km from the top and Ian Boswell who was setting the pace, didn’t respond.

 

As he crested the summit, Bardet already had an advantage of 10 seconds and now started an incredible descent. Having checked the course beforehand, he knew how to tackle the many very difficult turns and while Wout Poels guided the peloton down the descent, he constantly increased his advantage.

 

Riders like Intxausti, Zubeldia, Wellens, Sicard, Herrada, Sanchez and Castroviejo rejoined the peloton on the descent as the main group was not riding very fast. With 10km to go, they had been distanced by 1.05 and when he hit the bottom of the final 6.2km climb, Bardet was 1.25 ahead.

 

Froome led the peloton onto the climb before Boswell again took over the pace-setting. Riders started to be sent out the back door but Bardet did an incredible ride to keep the gap at around 1.25.

 

With 4km to go, Boswell swung off and left it to Poels to set the pace. That was too much for riders like Navarro, Sanchez, Poljanski, Gallopin, de la Cruz and Kennaugh who were among the first to get dropped. Surprisingly, Valverde and Costa also lost contact at this point.

 

The next major victim was Nibali who suddenly came to a standstill while riding in the front positions and moments later Kederman also lost contact. As Roche took over the pace-settig, the Irishman only had Froome, Scarponi, Intxausti, Talansky, van Garderen, Martin, Frank, Valls, Meintjes, Vuillermoz, Kiserlovski, De Clercq, Rolland, Rodriguez at his side.

 

Roche didn’t do much work before Froome made his expected attack and he immediately got a gap. Intxausti was his nearest chaser while van Garderen did an impressive performance to gauge his effort and make it back to Intxausti.

 

Van Garderen and Intxausti dangled around 5 seconds behind Froome for a long time while the Brit started to get closer to Bardet. At the passage of the flamme rouge, he was only 48 seconds behind the lone Frenchman.

 

Van Garderen still had something left in his tank and with 1km to go, he accelerated to drop Intxausti. Meanwhile, Bardet was savouring the moment as he could solo across the line to take a huge victory.

 

Froome was starting to tire and with 200m to go, van Garderen caught him. The American made an immediate counterattack and the 2013 champion had no response. At the finish, van Garderen took second with a time loss of 36 seconds while Froome rolled across the line in third, 40 seconds adrift.

 

Race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) had lost contact already on the Col d’Allos and so his teammate van Garderen takes over the lead. He is now 18 seconds ahead of Intxausti who moves into second while Bardet is third, 2 seconds further adrift.

 

Van Garderen faces his first test as race leader in tomorrow’s stage which has another uphill finish. After a lumpy first half with four smaller climbs, the riders will tackle the category 1 Col du Rousset which summits 51km from the finish. From there the terrain is lumpy until the riders get to the bottom of the 2.2km climb to the finish in Villard-de-Lans.

 

The first big mountain stage

After four days without any major climbs, it was finally time for the climbers to come to the fore in the fifth stage which brought the riders over 161km from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup. The course was the exact same as the one that will be used for stage 17 of the Tour de France and had a moderately hilly first part with two category 3 and one category 2 climbs. The finale started when the riders tackled the category 1 Col d’Allos whose summit was located 22km from the finish and from there they went down a very technical descent before they got to the final 6.2km climb which had an average gradient of 6.5%.

 

It was another beautiful sunny day in France when the riders gathered for the start in Digne-les-Bains. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out on their neutral ride before the flag was waved.

 

The break is formed

Already at the 4km mark, the early break was formed when Christophe Riblon (Ag2r), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) attacked. They had to fight hard to get a big advantage and were only 45 seconds ahead at the 7km mark.

 

The gap grows

However, the peloton soon slowed down and 6km later the gap had gone out to 3.05. Unsurprisingly, BMC hit the front and they slowly allowed the advantage to grow. At the 36km mark, it was 3.40.

 

Courteille beat Teklhaimanot in the KOM sprint while the escapees continued to gain time. After 53km of racing, they had an advantage of 4.10 and it had gone out to 4.35 when Teklehaimanot beat Courteille in the second KOM sprint.

 

BMC accelerate

The gap reached a maximum of 5.05 when the peloton went through the feed zone and this was the signal for the peloton to accelerate. As they went up the category 2 climb of Colle-Saint-Michel they started to reduce their deficit and when Teklehaimanot led Courteille, Timmer and Sicard over the top, they were just 4.15 behind.

 

While Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo) left the race, Manuel Quinziato, Joey Rosskopf and Daniel Oss wrked well together to keep the gap around the 3-minute mark for a while. Meanwhile, the breakaway was slightly disorganized and this allowed Timmer to get a small gap. Wellens, Serry and Teklehaimanot were the first to rejoin him and later Sicard and Courteille also regained contact. However, Riblon dropped back to the peloton.

 

BMC in control

The front sextet started to work well together but they were losing ground as Oss, Rosskopf and Quinziato were now emptying the tank. Meanwhile, the fight for position had started and this naturally increased the pace in the peloton.

 

Serry attacked on the lower slopes on the climb and he stayed ahead for a little while. Sicard took off in pursuit and he was joined by Wellens to form a duo that made it back to the lone Belgian.

 

The break splits up

Timmer did an impressive performance to rejoin the front trio while Teklehaimanot and Courteille both dropped back to the peloton. Here riders started to get dropped as Quinziato, Rosskopf and Oss continued the pace-setting, with Alaphilippe being the first major victim.

 

Oss ended his work and instead Michael Schär started to work with Rosskopf and Quinziato before the Italian swung off. They had brought the gap to 2.30 when Sky hit the front with 28km to go.

 

Sky take control

Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe set the early pace as they approached the steepest section. Meanwhile, Timmer was dropped from the front group.

 

As Rowe swung off, Boswell took over and he did an impressive performance to make the peloton explode to pieces. With 25km to go, he had brought the gap down to 1.00 and now Bauke Mollema was the next big name to get dropped.

 

Dennis cracks

Jean-Christophe Peraud and Adam Yates lost contact before race leader Dennis also cracked. At this point the gap was only 20 seconds and moments later Serry dropped back.

 

With 24km to go, the break was caught and Boswell continued his fast riding. Intxausti was the final rider to get dropped before Bardet made the attack that would ultimately be the race-winning move.

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