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"It's nice to be rewarded for something after those darker, harder days when nothing really feels like it's going right. You sometimes question what you're doing it for, then when you get days like this it makes up for it....

Photo: Sirotti






07.06.2015 @ 20:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Pete Kennaugh pulled off a sensational solo victory to claim stage one and an early race lead at the Criterium du Dauphine.


The Manxman had the legs to follow a number of attacks in the closing stages on the Cote du Villard before accelerating clear with 2.3 kilometres to go to take a superb victory.


Resplendent in the British national champion's jersey, Kennaugh held off the chasing peloton by two seconds at the finish, and that proved enough to capture the yellow and blue jersey with a six-second lead, in addition to the points jersey.


With Kennaugh off the front as part of a five-man group, Team Sky were able to sit in the pack on the high-speed run for home. Chris Froome crossed the line safely in 16th before immediately rushing to congratulate his team-mate.


Luke Rowe had helped bring the team to the front as the peloton took the bell lap, meaning Kennaugh was ideally placed once the inevitable attacks came.


Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) led the peloton home shortly after Kennaugh, with the sprint teams foiled after a late chase fell short.



"It was an awesome feeling," Kennaugh told after the race. "Having a few little digs on the climb was nice to do. I spend a lot of time working for other guys so it was just nice to have that opportunity. It wasn't really planned or anything - it was just how the race panned out. As long as I didn't take any of the threats to GC with me it was all good.


"It just worked out perfectly. I always knew that once we got that gap and the bunch wasn't coming back super fast that we had a chance. Then I just planned to attack within the last 3km, fully committed to that and pulled it off luckily.


"Nothing like that was planned. We expected a sprint too. Maybe some of the sprinters' teams didn't want to work early on. For me, it was just to keep Froome out of trouble really and not lose any time on GC. I had to start the final climb in the top ten, I just followed moves, as long as I didn't bring any of the GC contenders, then I was ok to go.


"The hard part was actually to get in that breakaway in the first place. It was very fast on that final climb. I thought, well this is my chance. Around two and half kilometers to go maybe, I just got in to a left hand corner full gas. It's the only way my style of rider can win, which is why it's hard to actually win races, it's not like being a sprinter.

"The way cycling has changed, you never know how it's gonna be. Ten years ago, for sure it would have been a sprinters' stage, the GC guys would have relaxed, but now, every single guy wants to be in the front and all the GC contenders are always worried about losing time so it makes a really hard race because everyone wants to ride at the front all the time.


With victory coming off the back of a long stint on the road, Kennaugh admitted that it was a day which made the sacrifices worth it, in addition to ranking as one of the best wins of his career.


"[Winning in] Austria was good as it was my first kind of real stage race, and to win in the stripes there. But I think this could potentially be my last race in the jersey. Just to win races in consecutive years as well is nice, and then also the fact that I get to wear the yellow jersey at the Dauphine. I didn't realise to be honest until I almost got onto the podium. It's awesome to be able to wear the jersey at such a prestigious race. It's incredible.


"Obviously I had an injury and three weeks totally off the bike back in March. I've literally spent the last seven weeks on the road so it's just nice to have it all finally pay off. It was a big commitment, not seeing any family or spending any time at home. I did the Ardennes, three days in Nice, and then Romandie which I didn't finish. That was quite hard on the head but despite that I was still doing five-hour training days on my own out there while the guys were racing. Those kind of days on your own in the rain are the days where your commitment and sacrifices really count I suppose. Then California was nice and something different. I started to feel like I was going okay there, even though I was only at about 65 or 70% of what I knew I could do. Once I got over the jetlag in Tenerife I finished the camp quite well.


"Then I was able to go home to the Isle of Man for the first time in a while to just have a bit of down-time. It's nice to be rewarded for something after those darker, harder days when nothing really feels like it's going right. You sometimes question what you're doing it for, then when you get days like this it makes up for it. I'm over the moon.


"It's an incredible feeling. I don't know, I must have good form at the moment. I have suffered so much in Tenerife. When it came back together, I could feel the other guys were tired, I went again and the next thing was the finish. I was hoping they wouldn't commit and watch each other instead but I committed all the way to the finish. All of a sudden it was a fast run in. With 1km to go, I thought ‘right now, don't look back anymore', I went all the way to the line, thinking ‘don't put your hands off until you cross the line'.

"It's my first win of the season. I went four of five years as a professional without a win on the road. Coming from the track, finally the wins started happening last year. To get another win a consecutive year, it's just a great feeling. I enjoyed crossing the line with the British national jersey. It's my last race before I hand it over to maybe one of my team-mates. To get that win so close to the nationals, it means everything. 

"It still hurts to think that I didn't get selected for that team [Sky] last year [at the Tour de France]. I thought a British team was more safe but since then I think I've proven what I can do for the team and also what I can do for myself when I'm given a chance, hopefully it goes forward and I'll be right up there in the selection process. Hopefully I'll be on the start line in July.


"To pull off like that the way I did it today, to get the yellow jersey for a day it's also special. It's a prestigious race as well. I will defend it but I'm more than happy to have it for one day, then save my legs for the team time trial and help Froome."



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