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Having joined a strong breakaway on the final climb, Kennaugh made solo attack with 2km to go before holding off the peloton to win the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné and take the overall lead

Photo: Sirotti










07.06.2015 @ 15:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Kennaugh (Sky) emerged as a hugely surprising winner of the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné when he made a great solo attack in the finale before holding off the peloton. Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) beat Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) in the sprint two seconds later on a day when the GC riders stayed safe in the peloton. Kennaugh also take the first leader’s jersey in the race.


Going into the Criterium du Dauphiné, Sky were expected to focus fully on former winner Chris Froome who has done nothing to hide his ambition to win the race for the second time in his career. Hence, no one had predicted that the British team would find themselves with the leader’s jersey at the end of the first stage which should have been one for the sprinters or classics riders.


However, the team decided to give Peter Kennaugh the chance to follow the attacks on the final climb of the Cote du Villard whose top was located just 12km from the finish and that proved to be a wise decision. Proving that he is ready to support Froome in the Tour de France, the British champion did an impressive solo ride to take the stage win and the yellow jersey, denying the sprinters the chance to fight it out for the win.


As they started the final lap of the 15.5km finishing circuit, Björn Thurau (Bora-Argon 18) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) were the only surviving member from a four-rider breakaway and they still had a 1.20 advantage over the peloton in which there was a fierce fight for position. It was Jack Bauer (Cannondale) who led the bunch onto the final lap before Florian Senechal (Cofidis) took one big turn to set Nacer Bouhanni up for the win.


Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) tried to make the race hard as they started to climb the Cote du Villards and he quickly reacted when Nathan Haas (Cannondale) launched the first attack. He went straight past the Australian and together with Daniel Oss (BMC), he got a gap.


While Thurau dropped Teklehaimanot, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) and one of Yates brothers (Orica-GreenEDGE) bridged the gap to Martin and Wellens and later Kennaugh and Cyril Gautier (Europcar) also made the junction. Oss made a solo attack and while Astana led the chase, he caught Teklhaimanot to crest the summit in second position, 30 seconds behind Thurau.


The Martin group was caught while the peloton came to a standstill as the sprinters had all drifted backwards. This opened the door for new attack and after Gorka Izagirre (Movistar) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL) had made a first move, Andriy Grivko (Astana), Marcel Wyss (IAM), Kennaugh and Izagirre got clear. They quickly bridged the gap to Oss who had dropped Teklehaimanot.


Katusha were leading the chase as they entered the final 10km with a 25-second deficit to the strong Thurau. However, almost the entire work was left to Martin and so the peloton failed to get any closer until Orica-GreenEDGE finally came to the fore to support the German with 8km to go.


Christian Meier took some massive turns for the Australian team but as they entered the final 5km, Thurau was still 15 seconds ahead. Moments later, the chasers caught the fading German while MTN-Qhubeka and Orica-GreenEDGE were working in the peloton.


Lampre-Merida and Cofidis also started to take turns but the gap was still 10 seconds when they entered the final 3km. Moments later Kennaugh made a surprise move and as no one responded, he quickly got a big gap.


The chasers were caught and so Grivko started to chase for Astana. However, the gap was still 10 seconds as the British champion passed the flamme rouge.


Lampre-Merida, Cofidis and one of the Yates brothers took big turns before Reinardt van Rensburg tried to lead Edvald Boasson Hagen out for the sprint. The Norwegian did a long effort but he came short in the battle again Kennaugh who held on to win the stage with a 2-second margin. Sacha Modolo narrowly edged the Norwegian out for second.


With the win, Kennaugh takes the overall lead with a 6-second advantage over Modolo as he goes into the second stage. It includes a category 1 and category 2 climb in the first half but as the final 60km are completely flat, it should be a day for the sprinters.


A circuit race

The 2015 Criterium du Duaphiné kicked off with a short 131.5km stage from Ugine to Albertville that was mostly held on a circuit in the finishing city. After an opening loop with a small category 4 climb, the riders would cross the finish line for the first time at the 33km mark. Then they would do one lap of a 19.5km circuit with two climbs, including the category 3 Cote du Villard. The final part of the stage consisted of five laps of a 15.5km circuit that included the Cote de Villard 12km from the finish where a reduced sprint was expected.


The riders had relatively nice conditions when they gathered for the start in Ugine and they got the race off to a dramatic beginning. While the first attacks were launched, Gert Dockx (Lotto Soudal) and Dylan Teuns (BMC) were among a few riders to hit the deck and unfortunately the former was forced to abandon the race with a suspected broken collarbone.


The break gets clear

After the early skirmishes, Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Romain Guillemois (Europcar), Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Björn Thurau (Bora-Argon 18) managed to get clear and as the peloton slowed down, they already had an advantage of 1.50 at the 13km mark. When Teklehaimanot scored the single KOM point at the top of the first climb after 17km of racing, it had gone out to 4.05.


When the gap was 6.45, Lampre-Merida started to chase slightly but they were unable to prevent the gap to go out to 7.20. That was the signal for Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) to help the two Lampre-Merida riders and that had an impact. When they crossed the finish line for the first time after 33km of racing, they had reduced their deficit to 6.55.


More KOM points for Teklehaimanot

Teklehaimanot continued to collect KOM points when he led Thurau over the top of the Cote du Villard and a few kilometres further down the road, he was also first at the top of the Cote du Cruet. At this point, Orica-GreenEDGE and Cannondale had also started to chase and the gap had come down to 5.50.


At the second passage of the line, the gap was 5.18 and here Teklehaimanot had to work hard to get back to the front group after a wheel change. As a consequence, he was not in contention for the KOM sprint which was won by Guillemois ahead of Thurau.


The break has to stop at a railroad crossing

Teklehaimanot rejoined the front group which lost 17 seconds as they had to stop at a railroad crossing. Moments later Teklehaimanot had to stop to change his bike but he quickly rejoined the group.


In the peloton, Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Edet, Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Kristijan Koren (Cannondale) were sharing the workload evenly and they had brought the gap down to 3.30 as they started the next lap. Here Teklehaimanot and Guillemois sprinted for the KOM points and it was the Eritrean who came out on top.


A fight for position

The gap was gradually coming down and as they entered the final 50km, it was only 2.30. At this point, the fight for position had really started and all the big GC teams were very visible near the front.


Teklehaimanot accelerated to lead Thurau over the top of the climb for the fourth time and they had to slow down to wait for Wynants and Guillemois who had been dropped. However, they were still losing ground and as they started the penultimate lap, their advantage was only 1.30.


The break splits up

Cannondale-Garmin won the big fight for position and it was Jack Bauer who led his leader Andrew Talansky across the line. Sebastian Langeveld took over for the American team and he set the pace all the way up the climb.


Thurau and Teklehaimanot dropped Wynants and Guillemois who were both caught on the descent after the German had taken maximum points on the climb. Martin set the pace in the downhill section before Langeveld again took over.


The front duo did an impressive job to maintain an advantage of 1.30 as they entered the final 20km. The fight for position had again intensified and several teams were lined out on the front as they approached the finish line for the penultimate time. Bauer won the battle and moments later he led the peloton across the line to start the exciting finale.



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