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Having been part of a break royale after a brutally fast start, Costa got back to Nibali with 300m to go before leaving the Tour champion behind to win stage 6 of the Dauphiné; Nibali took the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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CRITERIUM DU DAUPHINE

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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VINCENZO NIBALI

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12.06.2015 @ 15:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) gauged his efforts perfectly to win a hugely dramatic and rainy stage 6 of the Criterium du Dauphiné that completely turned the race on its head. Having been part of a break royale with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) and Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), he kept his calm when Nibali attacked on the final climb, bridged the gap with 300m to go and finally accelerated past the Tour de France champion to take the victory. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) was unable to limit his losses sufficiently and so Nibali took the overall lead.

 

Last year a very aggressive and exciting final stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné completely turned the race on its head at a point when Alberto Contador seemed to have taken the overall victory. The drama proved that nothing is guaranteed in the French race whose hilly terrain makes it almost impossible to control affairs.

 

This year history repeated itself as a hugely exciting sixth stage completely changed the script of the race. After yesterday’s first battle in the mountains, it seemed that the race was down to a three-horse battle between Tejay van Garderen, Chris Froome (Sky) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r).

 

However, the GC was turned completely upside down after a very fast and wet day in the moderately hilly terrain on the outskirts of the Alps. In the end, it was Rui Costa who again proved his skills as almost impossible to beat from a breakaway when the Portuguese took his first ever stage victory in the French race and moved himself into second in the overall standings.

 

The other big winner was Vincenzo Nibali who bounced back from a poor showing in yesterday’s stage to suddenly find himself in the overall lead of the race that was expected to be mere preparation for the Tour de France champion. At the flamme rouge, he even seemed to be riding away with both the stage win and the yellow jersey as he had made a strong solo attack on the final climb but Costa gauged his effort perfectly to pass him 300m from the line.

 

Those two riders had joined forces with Tony Martin, Tony Gallopin and Alejandro Valverde to form a break royale after a very aggressive start to the stage during which most of the GC riders had been on the attack. With Valverde sitting just 1.28 behind van Garderen in the overall standings, the situation was obviously dangerous and as the American had to slow down to wait for his teammates, he suddenly found himself with a deficit of 3.30 as they entered the final 40km.

 

Ag2r were the first to initiate a chase with Mikael Cherel and as a 50-rider group had gathered, he was joined by the BMC pair of Dylan Teuns and Rohan Dennis. Brunpo Pires and Jean-Christope Peraud also came to the fore for Tinkoff-Saxo and Ag2r respectively and their efforts started to pay off as the gap was only 2.45 when they entered the final 30km.

 

Surprisingly, Ag2r stopped their work and even though Chris Anker Sørensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) started to chase, the progress stalled. With 25km to go the gap had even gone out to 2.55 and now Teuns, Dennis and Sørensen were the only riders working on the front.

 

On a small climb with 21km to go, Nibali accelerated and this was too much for Martin who hadn’t worked for a long time. The German was dropped and fell back to the peloton before also losing contact with that group.

 

That small climb spelled the end for both Dennis and Teuns and suddenly Sørensen was the only rider working on the front. This forced Sky to kick into action as Philip Deignan started to work with the Dane.

 

At one point, Deignan was even isolated on the front but as they finished the climb, he got some assistance from Peraud, Sørensen, Pires and Ben Gastauer (Ag2r). However, they didn’t get any closer as the gap constantly hovered around 3.00.

 

With 11km to go, the peloton hit a small climb and here Nibali tried another attack. However, Valverde didn’t give him an inch and instead the Italian was forced to set the pace all the way up the climb.

 

In the peloton, Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked and he was joined by van Garderen. Froome was forced into chase mode and he did well to bring it back together. At this point, only Froome, Benat Intxausti, John Gadret, Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Andrew Talansky, Dan Martin (Cannondale), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), van Garderen, Kiserlovski and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) were left in the group.

 

No one wanted to work with van Garderen who didn’t respond when Yates easily rode away. As he didn’t receive any help, he swung off and so the attacking started. Benoot was the first to try but it was Martin and Gadret who got clear.

 

Benoot bridged the gap to those two riders before Kiserlovski took off. Van Garderen tried to control the situation but still didn’t get any help.

 

On the descent, disaster struck for Bardet who went down on the wet roads. Even though he appeared to be unhurt, he would never made the junction again and would slip to 9th in the overall standings.

 

In the front group, the battle for the stage win had started and it was Gallopin who made the first move just before the 3km mark. No one responded and so he quickly got a big gap before Valverde finally started to chase.

 

Gallopin still had a gap when he hit the bottom of the 2.2km climb to the finish but behind Nibali was ready to strike. The Italian made a big acceleration and no one even tried to respond. He easily passed Gallopin while Costa dropped Valverde.

 

In the peloton, David de la Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) had rejoined the group and after he had made an attack at the bottom of the climb, it was Intxausti who took off. Van Garderen responded immediately while Froome took off in lone pursuit, with Talansky, Valls, Kelderman and Rodriguez following a little further back.

 

Nibali seemed to be destined to take it all as he soloed towards the line but suddenly Costa emerged from nowhere. With 300m to go, he caught the Tour champion and when he accelerated on the finishing straight, he dropped his rival before soloing across the line for a big victory.

 

Nibali finished 5 seconds later while Valverde beat Gallopin in a sprint for third. Yates held on to take fifth, followed by Martin and Gadret who had dropped Benoot slightly on the final climb. Froome, Intxausti and van Garderen had passed Kiserlovski close to the finish and the American even lost a few seconds as Froome powered towards the line to take 9th.

 

With his second place, Nibali takes the overall lead with a 29-second advantage over Costa and a 30-second advantage over Valverde. Yates moves into fourth while van Garderen is now only fifth, 42 seconds off the lead.

 

However, Nibali faces a stern test in tomorrow’s queen stage. After a flat start, there will be no room for recovery on a day that includes no less than five category 1 climbs and a single category 3 ascent. It all ends at the top of the Montee du Bettex which is a 7km climb with an average gradient of 7.7%.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s first big mountain stage, it was time for more climbing in stage 6 which brought the riders over 183km from Saint-Bonnet-en Champsaur to a summit finish on the Cote 2000 in Villard-de-Lans. The first half included three category 3 climbs and one category 2 ascent and led to an easier middle section. Then the riders tackled the category 1 Col du Rousset which summited with 51km to go and finally they made their way through lumpy terrain to the bottom of the Cote 2000 which was 2.2km climb with an average gradient of 6.2%.

 

It was raining cats and dogs when the riders gathered for the start. Two riders were absent as Yaroslav Popovych (Trek) had fallen ill and Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) had to succumb to the injuries he sustained in a crash two days ago.

 

A brutal start

The hilly course was perfect for attacks and so the stage got off to an amazing start. The first serious move was made by Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) who escaped at the 14km mark. The peloton chased hard behind them in the hilly terrain and this was too much for Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ) and Yannick Martinez (Europcar) who were both dropped.

 

Grivko and Terpstra got an advantage of 17 seconds but at the bottom of the first climb, they were brought back. Instead, new attacks were launched and it was Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) who led Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) over the top.

 

A strong break

That duo was joined by Grivko, Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) to form a very strong front group. An impressive Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep bridged a 20-second gap and at the 25km mark his teammate Maxime Bouet also made it across. Meanwhile, KOM leader Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) was dropped as the peloton was chasing hard.

 

After 26km of racing, the gap was only 10 seconds and now Julien Simon (Cofidis) tried to bridge across. The Frenchman never made the junction and instead it all came back together on the second climb where Adam Yates led Castroviejo over the top.

 

Van Garderen on the attack

The attacking continued and suddenly the situation got dangerous when a strong 19-rider group got clear at the 30km mark. Vincenzo Nibali and Andriy Grivko (Astana), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Romain Bardet and JC Péraud (AG2R), Adam and Simon Yates (Orica), Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Jonathan Castroviejo, Gorka Izagirre and Rory Sutherland (Movistar), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Tejay van Garderen and Rohan Dennis (BMC), Julian Alapahilippe (Etixx), Rui Costa (Lampre), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Stephen Cummings (MTN) managed to build an advantage of 35 seconds.

 

Sky had missed the move that included their biggest GC rivals and so they were forced to chase hard. Peter Kennaugh took some huge turns and the gap slowly started to come down.

 

Martin takes off

Meanwhile, the cooperation in the break was not great and so the group split up. At the 40km mark, Grivko, Peraud, Adam Yates, Gallopin, Castroviejo, Izagirre, Losada, Alaphilippe, Gautier and Cummings took off while the rest of the group, including the GC contenders, dropped back to the peloton.

 

The group fought hard to maintain a 15-second advantage but at the 51km mark, it was all back together after a brutal first hour of the race. New attacks were launched, with Cofidis being very aggressive, but it was Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) who escaped before he started the Category 2 Cote de la Croix-Haute.

 

Rodriguez is dropped

Vicente Reynes (IAM), Murilo Fischer (FDJ), Martinez, Martin Velits (Etixx-QuickStep), Caleb Fairly and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin)  left the race while Alaphilippe and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) were dropped from the peloton. Meanwhile, Martin extended his advantage to 25 seconds at the 64km mark.

 

Nibali, Andrew Talansky (Cannondale) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) tried to bridge the gap but they were brought back before they reached the summit. Meanwhile, Rodriguez managed to rejoin the peloton.

 

Nibali takes off

Martin managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds but just before the top of the climb he was brought back. Simon Yates, Nibali, Dan Martin (Cannondale) and John Gadret (Movistar) were first to crest the summit.

 

Nibali attacked on the descent and as he started the next category 3 climb, he was already 20 seconds ahead. He extended his lead to 45 seconds at the top of the climb where José Serpa (Lampre-Merida) was first from the peloton.

 

A break royale is formed

Gallopin, Valverde, Tony Martin and Costa managed to bridge across to Nibali and that front quintet had a 45-second advantage at the 85km mark. The main group had been whittled down to just Talansky and Martin (Cannondale), Froome (Sky), Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Bardet (AG2R), S. Yates (Orica), Herrada and Intxausti (Movistar), Van Garderen (BMC), Kiserlovski (Trek) and Serpa (Lampre).

 

Tony Martin again made a solo move and managed to build an advantage of 18 seconds after 94km of racing. At this point the peloton was 1.25 behind but Talansky had lost contact due to a mechanical.

 

A regrouping takes place

The peloton brought the gap down to 1.10 before they slowed down to wait for more riders. At the 102km mark, a 50-rider group including Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) had gathered but they were now 2.50 behind.

 

While Alaphilippe, Jeannesson and Bouet left the race, the gap went out to 3.25 before Ag2r started to chase. As they hit the Col du Rousset, they had brought the gap down to 3 minutes.

 

The front group splits up

Bouhanni finally had to surrender as they went up the hardest climb of the day. Here Nibali made a big attack which only Costa could respond to. Valverde also made the junction but Gallopin and Martin were both dropped.

 

Nibali did all the work to keep an advantage of 2.55. He led Valverde and Costa over the top while Gallopin and Martin followed 25 seconds later. In the peloton, Mikael Cherel chased hard for Ag2r.

 

Martin and Gallopin made it back to the front group on the descent and as they entered the final 40km, they had extended their advantage to 3.30.

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