Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) continued his love affair with the Criterium du Dauphiné when he won the Monday stage of the race for the second year in a row in a bunch sprint. Reacting quickly when Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) launched a long sprint, he easily came around the Irishman and held off the late surge from Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) to claim his third stage victory in the race in just two years. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) finished safely in the bunch and so retained the yellow jersey.
We have gathered several reactions.
Nacer Bouhanni defends sprinting style after hectic sprint win at the Dauphiné
“I said I wanted to dedicate a win to Muhammad Ali, It may not be a big thing but he represented a lot to me,” Nacer Bouhanni said. Showing my fist on the finishing line was a tribute to Mohammad Ali. I had told [team-mate] Cyril Lemoine that I'd do so if I managed to win a stage. He meant a lot to me. He was a true legend.
“I really happy, I wanted to win a stage at the Dauphine and now I’ve done it. In the sprint we touched quite a lot, including me with Kristoff. Bennett then launched up the right side and so I made my effort and I hung on in the last hundred metres.
“In the finale, we were very close to each other, [Christophe] Laporte and [Jacopo] Guarnieri, [Alexander] Kristoff and I too, but Sam Bennett made his effort, I passed him in the last 100 metres and I resisted.
“The two trains of Katusha and Cofidis clashed. I had to keep the best position. Geoffrey Soupe set the pace and my lead-out man Christophe Laporte wanted to take his wheel, Guarnieri wanted it too. I wanted to stay behind Laporte, Kristoff wanted to be there too. It lasted a long time, at least 500 meters but I thought that we could not go on for one kilometer. I stayed behind Kristoff. Sam Bennett launched 250 meters from the finish line. There was slowdown and I went.
“It was a big fight, first between Guarnieri and Christophe Laporte. Then I rubbed shoulders with Alexander Kristoff and it lasted a long time. Almost 500 meters.
“It's a fight until the end, it's the sprint. All sprinters want to have the best possible position but there is not room for everyone. It was very fast. I focused on the wheel of Christophe Laporte and I did not want to let it go.
”Christophe Laporte has used a lot of energy in the battle for position. So I decided to move back instead of continuing the fight so I went back behind Alexander Kristoff. We could not do it like that in the final kilometre.
“It required a lot to win. We knew that 1.3 kilometers from the finish, there was a tailwind and we had to have the best possible position. It was a fight until the end. All sprinters always want the best place and it is not for everyone.
“After I resumed racing at the Four Days of Dunkirk, I rode at 70% of my capacities in May. I'm particularly motivated by World Tour races like the Dauphiné and the Tour de France.
“This is my fourth WorldTour win this season and my eighth win so far. I’m motivated by the big races, like the Dauphiné, the Tour de France. There will probably be another two sprints here, so we will try to win again. I'll do my best again tomorrow to get another stage win.”
“It is these races then that motivate me, I want to shine in the World Tour and to win here. That's why I made did the month of May at 70%. I was criticized because I was not at the top but I cannot be at my bestall the time. After the block with Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo, I enter my second period where the goals are the Dauphiné and the Tour. The third will be the world championships.
”Here I have the backbone of my team for the Tour without Julien Simon who injured his elbow and will have to do well in the late season but this is a good sign.
“This week, I wanted to win a stage and it's done. If I can win a second, I'm not going to deprive myself. The day after tomorrow, there is a 3km climb with steep passages in the finale. I'll try to be there. And Thursday should be a sprint too.
”I did a 10-day training camp in the Vosges. It was 28 hours of cycling a week and I returned before the Criterium du Dauphine. We trained in the hills with Cyril Lemoine, Geoffrey Soupe, Christophe Laporte, my brother Rayane and me. We were trained well. The goal is not to be a climber. I'll be in gruppetto in the Tour, but I need to have a good pedal stroke.
“My parents were there and that's rare. The last time was in the Tour de l'Ain and I won two stages. I knew they were there and I thought about it during the race. It gives me special motivation.”
Jens Debusschere: Nacer Bouhanni didn't deserve to win
Jens Debusschere got second behind Bouhanni.
“It was a very hectic finale, I had to choose between the train of Giant and Cofidis. There were a lot of roundabouts in the finale and also the GC riders were riding on the first rows of the bunch because they were afraid the peloton would split. I chose the wheel of Bouhanni. 150 metres before the finish there was a small gap in between the rear wheel of Bouhanni and my front wheel and because he is so explosive it was impossible to win. I did all I could.
"I want to thank Kris Boeckmans and Tony Gallopin for bringing me in a good position into the final kilometre. My sprint was okay, but Bouhanni was stronger. At the Tour de Picardie he beat me a few times as well, I can only hope to beat him one day.
"Tomorrow and the day after aren’t suited for sprinters, but Thursday there might be another opportunity.
"After the finish I saw the images. It amazes me to see that riders who talk about safety do such things. It didn’t affect my sprint, but I think it’s logical that the victory can’t go to a rider who wrongfully conquered it.”
Sam Bennett: With 50m to go, I thought I had it
For BORA – ARGON 18 it was clear that the man to support was Sam Bennett. Therefore, the team tactic was to stay together in the peloton and not to try to catch the early break.
BORA – ARGON 18 brought Sam Bennett well into the last kilometre. He decided to launch his sprint already with 300m to go. With a very confident performance he almost scored his first WordTour win. He was only passed in the last 30m. But his 3rd place means a boost in confidence for the next stages.
“The team did a great job to position me well. In the last 500m I decided to go up a little further in the wind by myself, then I thought I would just give it a go. In a tailwind sprint, it is better to lead early than to get stuck somewhere. But in the end it was just a little too early. With 50m to go I thought I had it, but then Bouhanni passed me. It is a pity to be so close and then still get overtaken, but everyone could see today that my speed is really good now,” Bennett said.
No room to sprint for strong Edvald Boasson Hagen at the Dauphiné
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Edvald Boasson Hagen place 4th on the stage.
It was big battle for position over the final 10km and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had Nathan Haas and Youcef Reguigui looking after Boasson Hagen for the finale. The Norwegian champion would end up on the wheel of countryman Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) with 2km to go. The Cofidis and Katusha trains made shoulder contact on a number of occasions leading into the final kilometer which made for a very nervy sprint. Boasson Hagen tried to find some clear road next to the left barrier to begin his sprint but the physical nature of the sprint made it difficult to get out of the saddle.
In the end it was a blanket finish with Bouhanni taking a hard fought win. Boasson Hagen crossed the line 4th for the African Team while the rest of the riders all finished comfortably in the main peloton.
Sports director Jean-Pierre Heynderickx said:
“Today was a typical sprint stage with only 2 riders going in the break. Our boys rode really well all day to look after Edvald for the sprint. It was a bit of a strange sprint as Edvald couldn’t really get going properly because there was a lot of pushing and stop-start. Honestly we wanted more from the stage but it was a strange sprint. Also, it is a World Tour race and the level is very high so 4th is not bad but we will aim higher in the next stages.”
Moreno Hofland with mixed empotions after strong sprint at the Dauphiné
Moreno Hofland finished sixth in the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné today in France. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter delivered a strong kick after a tough stage ending. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) won the stage.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted in the final part of the race,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “With some improvising, Moreno Hofland arrived in a good position, eventually. He delivered a strong sprint.
“We are working hard to develop the lead-out around Moreno. It was a chaotic stage, which only allowed us a sixth place. I’m expecting he’ll try again in the fourth stage on Thursday, when he could be able to grab a better result.”
Hofland explained it went wrong with four kilometres to go.
“The first roundabout in the final part of the stage was there, and we wanted to be among the first 20 riders,” he said. “We failed and had to make up ground afterwards. I came out quite well regardless. I began sprinting immediately and took confidence that I moved up to second spot. The finish was a bit too far away, unfortunately, so a couple of riders were able to pass me. I’m disappointed about the way this stage went, but satisfied with my sprint.”
Daryl Impey shows good speed, Mitchell Docker on the attack
South African national time trial champion Daryl Impey sprinted to ninth place on stage one of the Criterium du Dauphine today with ORICA-GreenEDGE teammateMitch Docker animating the day’s earlier breakaway.
Impey was led out into a great position by Jens Keukeleire going into the final kilometre of the race, after excellent work by ORICA-GreenEDGE in the build up to the sprint.
The finish saw Impey just miss out on a higher placing after pushing hard against the pure sprinters and eventual stage winner, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).
Docker is almost back to full strength after sustaining injury in Paris-Roubaix and spent over 150kilometres in a two man breakaway. Adam Yates rolled in with the rest of the general classification top ten and remains in eighth overall.
Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was happy with the team’s performance on stage one.
“I’m really happy for Mitch (Docker),” said Lapage. “It was very good for him to get out there in the breakaway today, he was out there all day. You can see he is getting stronger every day.
“The team did a great job when the race came back together, everyone knew what they were supposed to do and we managed to get Daryl (Impey) into a really good position for the sprint.”
“All the general classification guys finished together,” continued Lapage. “It’s important to try and conserve energy on days like today and try not to lose time with the tough stages to come.
“Tomorrow will be another interesting day. The four climbs come before the finish which levels out and we have guys like Daryl and Simon Gerrans who are able to get over those climbs and contest the sprint.”
Disappointed Edward Theuns misses big chance at the Dauphiné
Edward Theuns sprinted to 10th place in the 186-kilometer first stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné Monday, an unassuming race until the last rider of a two-man breakaway was caught with 13 kilometers remaining.
With the breakaway contained, the final run-in was a messy battle; a result of a fresh peloton after a relatively easy race, and hungry sprinters that have few opportunities in the hilly eight-day event.
"It was an easy stage, a hot day, but quite a calm stage," said Theuns. "They let the two guys go pretty fast at the start, so it was relaxed until the final kilometers."
Markel Irizar and Fumy Beppu did the early work to set up the final sprint, herding final lead out man Niccolo Bonifazio and Theuns into three successive roundabouts with four kilometers remaining.
But in a fierce fight for positioning, maintaining key placement near the front became a test of will and luck as the peloton roiled and churned at top speed into the last two tricky corners.
Theuns lost the wheel of Bonifazio in the swirling eddy and was pushed backwards. Despite Bonifazio dropping back to find him again, there was no room or time to resurface. Theuns launched his sprint from behind in a last desperate attempt, but in the final meters knew it was over and cruised over the line in 10th place.
"It was not a really good sprint," agreed Theuns. "In the last five kilometers we were in really good position, Markel, Fumy and Niccolo did a great job. But in the last two kilometers, it came from all sides; there was pushing and pulling a bit, and I didn't manage to get in a good position and couldn't really go for a good sprint."
The overall classification remained unchanged as the team's GC leaders, Bauke Mollema and Ryder Hesjedal, finished safely with the peloton. Tomorrow the Dauphiné will see its first uphill finish, although tailored more to the punchers than pure mountain goats, the GC contenders will have to be attentive.
Alexander Kristoff: When I almost crashed, my sprint was over
It was one of at least two stages for the sprinters in the 68th Critérium du Dauphiné on Monday’s stage 1 and Team KATUSHA’s Alexander Kristoff was in the hunt for a win. But a bit of bumping, barging and headbutting disrupted the effort, leaving Kristoff looking for results on another day.
”I had to fight with Bouhanni to get to my teammate’s wheel. I was on Jacopo Guarnieri but then when I went to start my sprint I touched his wheel and almost crashed so my sprint was over. At least I didn’t crash. I’m not sure exactly what happened as I went straight into him, but again I’m glad I didn’t crash. I felt OK today so it’s a pity I could not finish better,” said team leaderAlexander Kristoff.
The chaotic sprint was taken by Nacer Bouhanni of Cofidis, followed by Jens Debusschere of Lotto-Soudal and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon), all on the same time of 4:27.53. Kristoff was 11th.
”The team was very good today. It was just some bad luck at the end. I felt I had plenty of power to give in the sprint but when I almost crashed with 200m to go there was no chance. It was a hectic final but we were there to take the lead at the end with Cofidis. There is at least one more stage for the sprinters, maybe two,” added Kristoff as he looks ahead to other opportunities.
“There was a fight with me and Bouhanni to get the wheel of my teammate Jacopo Guarnieri. Bouhanni was fighting with me but I managed to get the wheel.
“I wanted to start my sprint but my wheel touched my teammate's and I almost crashed again - then my sprint was over. At least I didn’t crash but I don’t really know what happened. I felt okay but that was shit.
"It was the battle with Bouhanni to get the wheel of my teammate. I was behind Jacopo (Guarnieri) and Nacer used his elbows to push me. But it's good, I managed to keep Jacopo’s wheel. At least I felt good, but it only gives me more regret not have been defended my chances better.”
“I was good at California and won a stage there, and that’s the goal here. There are a few sprinters here but not too many, so hopefully I can manage it,” he told Cyclingnews.
"There’s Bouhanni and he’s racing in his home country and for sure he wants to perform. There are other guys and it won’t be easy but there’s a good chance.”
John Degenkolb: It was a disadvantage for me that the sprint was so hectic
Team Giant-Alpecin were visible at the front of the peloton looking after John Degenkolb. The sprinters team continued to guide the peloton until the break had been brought back 13km from the finish.
Then it was down to the sprint teams to fight for positions and to set up their lead-out trains during a frantic finish before Nacer Bouhanni emerged to claim victory with Degenkolb finishing in 12th place.
John Degenkolb said: “It was my first sprint on the WorldTour level and also for the lead-out train. It was an extremely chaotic finish and that was not to my advantage. But the team is here to work and improve on our lead-out train and I look forward to the next opportunities during the week.”
He later tweeted:
Coach Aike Visbeek added: “We had a clear plan to go for John. The guys lost each other a bit on the important 4km corner. They came back but then it became a very hectic finish. We will analyse the last 7km together and focus on the next sprint opportunity.”
Federico Zurlo gets first chance to sprint at the WorldTour level
The peloton approached the last kilometer at full speed and Federico Zurlo who was the designated fast wheel for LAMPRE-MERIDA, could rely on the support from Luka Pibernik who was very good at exploiting a mix of power and riding skills in leading the teammate to the best positions in front of the bunch.
The sprint was very hectic but Zurlo was not scared and he tried to defend the position until his path was closed 300 meters from the finish, just before the sprint was launched.
"Pibernik was great in leading Zurlo to the front positions of the bunch ,” sports director Philippe Mauduit explained. “Federico was just behind Bouhanni and Kristoff, who were fighting in a very intense way: the sprint became hectic, Zurlo succeeded in defemding his position. However, he could not be in the top ten because, just before he would start his final action, he could not find the necessary space.
"The stage had a predictable pattern, the escape of two riders was doomed since the sprinters would not miss the opportunity.”
In-form Samuel Dumoulin: It was not really a sprint for me
Samuel Dumoulin finished 15th.
”A breakaway of two riders got clear very quickly. At first we thought it was going to be a long day. Eventually they fought well in hilly terrain with many changes of direction. We finally rode at a fast pace. In the early days, it always hurts a little.
“The finale was very fast with a tailwind and with a big battle for position. Everyone played the game in the team, even if it was not our preferred course.
”For my part I felt good. It's not the kind of sprint that I like the most, especially since there was no particular difficulty before the finish. I missed out on getting a good position, I almost crashed in the final kilometer.
”I wanted to be in the top 10. I'm 15th. It's still positive. The condition is there, the team is motivated. Tomorrow will be a great opportunity for our puncheurs. And two days later, I can do something.
"We had the scenario we envisioned with a break of only two riders that developed immediately, he said in a statement. We thought it was going to be a long day but they fought well in the front and the ground was quite hilly with changes in direction.
Greg Van Avermaet: The sprint was too dangerous
A bunch sprint capped off the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, which saw Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) take the win and Richie Porte cross the line safely in the peloton.
Greg Van Avermaet was well positioned for the sprint but pulled back as the lead in to the line became a hectic fight between Bouhanni and Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) in the sprint.
Greg Van Avermaet said:
“With 800 meters to go I was sitting in a really good position, in fourth or fifth wheel. But then Bouhanni and Kristoff were battling for position and almost crashed each other, so I decided not to risk things. It was a really hectic finish.”
Richie Porte: Tomorrow there will be fireworks
“Today was quite a nice day. It was relaxed in the bunch and the team kept me in a good position all day, and especially in that hectic final. It worked well and we stayed out of trouble. I felt quite good to be honest. I feel good on the bike and at where I need to be heading into July, so that’s quite exciting,” Richie Porte said.
“Tomorrow it will be all about the GC guys seeing where the other guys are leading into the Tour de France, so I think there will be fireworks and it should be good.”
Sports director Valerio Piva added:
“The objective for today was to stay out of trouble. It was clear that it was a stage for the sprinters, so we wanted to protect Richie and to avoid any gaps in the final sprint. The team did a really good job and I think it was an ideal opening stage, before we get into the harder climbs tomorrow.”
Paolo Tiralongo confident that he will be in his best form for the Tour de France
"Finally this year we have found warm temperatures, the ones that I love and that are necessary to prepare the Tour de France at the best," said Paolo Tiralongo after the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"Today was a stage for the sprinters and it went as expected. We kept our captain in the front positions in the final to avoid any risk and everything went well.
"I'm in my 17th year as a pro rider and I feel very good: my condition is growing and I'm sure I'll be well prepared for the next month: we did a very good training camp in Sestriere. Now here at the Dauphiné we will try to find the best racing rhythm and I can say, from my experience, that we are on the right way.”
Movistar stay safe in first sprint stage at the Dauphiné
After the hardness of Mont Chéry in the time trial yesterday, the first road stage of Criterium du Dauphine -186kms between Cluses and Saint Vulbas - would be for the sprinters.
Nacer Bouhanni (COF) claimed victory in Saint Vulbas ahead of Jens Debusschere (LTS) after an ostentatious fight in the final meters. The first Movistar Team to cross the finish was Marc Soler (25th), who already showed his good form in the prologue. The rest of the team led by José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía came to the finish without losing contact with the leading group and therefore kept the top-ten of Jesus Herrada.
Four climbs of 4th category in the first half of the route did not give rise to any change in the top positions of the table. Undoubtedly, a privileged place for the telephone squad before the mid - mountain stage, 167km long between Crêches sur Saône and Chalmazel-Jeansagnière .
Team Sky: The line is thin between fighting for position and being close to a crash.
Team Sky finished stage one of the Criterium du Dauphine safely on a day for the sprinters in France.
Chris Froome lost no time to his general classification rivals to maintain third place overall as Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) emerged after a wild final 10 kilometres to win the sprint in Saint-Vulbas.
On paper it looked like it would be a straightforward day in France, with just four fourth-category climbs to contend with across the 186km stage, but the pace went through the roof in the closing stages as both sprint and general classification teams looked to protect their leaders.
Team Sky moved to the fore to protect Froome, with Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe putting in big stints at the front of the pack, before Michal Kwiatkowski took over inside the final 2km to guide him home safely. Froome held firm during a physical run-in to remain just 13 seconds off the lead.
Froome wore the polka dot jersey on behalf of race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), who was in the yellow jersey, but will revert to his usual Team Sky kit for stage two.
After the stage Sport Director Nicolas Portal was happy to see the team come through a sketchy finale as Froome just about stayed upright and out of trouble.
"In the finish the guys did really well. We had a plan to put Froomey in a really good position so he could avoid any crashes," he confirmed.
"With the sprint teams it's always hectic and you could see on the TV there was a big fight between the lead-out trains. It's dangerous, but that's why we want to be in a good position. The line is thin between fighting for position and being close to a crash. That's why we're always trying to have guys around Chris who know how to race in the wheels and move him up.
"Other than that today was pretty good for the team. We had a small incident during the stage where Sergio had an insect in his helmet on the climb. He crashed and that also caught up Ian Stannard. It was nothing major - just a bit of skin - and both guys were there at the finish.
"There were a couple of easier hours towards the start of the day where Tinkoff controlled the stage. Then in the last 70km after the feedzone the speed started to increase."
Etixx-QuickStep leaders stay safe in Dauphiné sprint stage
For Etixx – Quick-Step is was an easy day, in which the team worked to protect white jersey Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin, who were both sitting in the top 5 overall following their solid ride in the Les Gets prologue. Alaphilippe and Martin concluded the stage safely in the pack, while in the sprint Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) got the better of his rivals, taking the win ahead of Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) and Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18).
Frederik Backaert puts Wanty-Groupe Gobert in the spotlight at the Dauphiné
The team Wanty-Groupe Gobert spent the whole day at the front in the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné between Cluses and Saint-Vulbas (186 km). Frederik Backaert attacked at kilometre 0 and was caught at 13 km before the finish.
"The team asked me to attack today. I directly managed to get a gap on my first attempt", Frederik Backaert said.
The Belgian rider decided to attack almost immediately.
"We need to show us every day. Today, we were three riders appointed to be part of a breakaway : Frederik Veuchelen, Dimitri Claeys and me."
At kilometre 6 he was joined by the Australian rider Mitchell Docker.
"It would have been better with more riders because it was tiring."
The duo obtained a top advantage of 5’20’’ lead on the peloton. The two riders started then the four category 4 climbs of the day. Frederik Backaert was first at the first three climbs. Mitchell Docker took the last point on the last climb.
"I knew that Alberto Contador already had ten points in the mountains classification. It was not planned."
While the gap was coming down, Mitchell Docker felt tired and Frederik Backaert went solo at 24 kilometres before the finish. He resisted another 11 kilometres before being caught by the peloton.
"It was difficult to resist to the peloton's comeback. I’m glad I showed the jersey. I did a good job but I'm sad not to be on the podium", Frederik Backaert concluded.
Alberto Contador: I wanted to avoid the mistake I made at Paris-Nice
After a strong performance on yesterday’s prologue, Alberto Contador started today with the yellow jersey on his shoulders. On a day that was marked out as likely to end in a sprint finish, it was a straightforward affair for Contador and the Tinkoff riders to defend the jersey. Keeping safe in a hectic and frenetic bunch sprint, Contador crossed the line with the same time as the sprinters, keeping the race lead for another day.
While the route was fairly flat, the pace was high from the start, as Contador observed.
"It was a relatively calm day but with a fast pace from the start. We knew the sprinters team would be in charge, so it was important to stay in front, especially in the finale in order to stay safe and avoid any gaps. We achieved that, we didn't lose any time or suffer from any crash, so I'm satisfied.
“It's a pretty quiet day with a high rhythm in the finale. I've remained at the front of the peloton in order to avoid risks of crashing and getting caught into splits in the bunch. It wasn't a fight between a team [Sky] and another [Tinkoff]. It was just a question of remaining well positioned to stay clear of any kind of crash. Luckily, there wasn't any. It makes me happy.
“Cycling has changed: from the smallest to the biggest race, it's highly competitive. Maybe it's because sponsors ask for more but there's no quiet finale anymore. It's been a day to test the legs. Mines weren't at their best but day by day, I'm hoping to get better.
"We actually rode at the front and really fast so we could avoid falls, all the way until the final three kilometres. I think that I lost Paris-Nice by four seconds because I had not been careful enough in the closing stage and lost time here and there. I tried today to make sure I didn’t lose any time.
“I think that riding in front lowers the risk. I ride in front to avoid crashing before the last three kilometers and then I sit up while remaining attentive. You know, today's cycling is different, a win is decided by a few seconds. In March I lost Paris-Nice by 4 seconds because I had not been vigilant enough in the finales of the flat stages. And that's why Geraint Thomas won.”
From the stage’s finish, Sport Director, Sean Yates, knew Contador would be in a good position to keep the yellow jersey.
“Defending the jersey was fairly straightforward today, and being on a sprint stage this was as easy as it could be. While there were two guys up the road there are only two stages for the sprinters in this race and they’re not going to pass up those opportunities – we knew they would pull it back together.”
As the whole team had come in safely, Yates was pleased with the teamwork today, riding at the front and keeping the break in touch.
“As the yellow jersey team we wanted to take control and not let the break get too far out, and the sprinters’ teams worked with us to do that. The gap was kept small so there would be less hard work pulling it in and lots of teams had an interest. For us in the end it was just a matter of keeping Alberto safe and avoiding incidents.”
Echoing Yates’ comments, Contador saw how the team took control at various points in the stage.
“Wearing the leader's yellow jersey doesn't change much in the way we race. Maybe the only difference is that the team would take a bit more responsibility. However, it's a nice feeling to have it.”
Tomorrow’s stage sees the race’s first uphill finish, along with an uphill start that might bring with it some surprises. The 167.5km stage features four tough categorised climbs, and after the prologue will give the climbers and GC riders something to aim for, with both the stage win and time bonuses up for grabs. The first few kilometres of the stage would set the tone for the day – and the team’s strategy, as Yates explained.
“There are a hard few days ahead of us though, and tomorrow we’ll need to try and defend the jersey. Tomorrow there’s an uphill start and it will be hectic from the off, but once the stage is underway we’ll have a better idea of how things will go. There are time bonuses available so we want to make sure the other GC riders don’t take those and chip into Alberto’s lead. We’ve got a good team though – they’re motivated and Alberto is in fine form, so we’ll take each day as it comes.”
Coming to the Critérium du Dauphiné after spending some time at a training camp, Contador felt his form was improving daily.
“It was also a good day to build speed in the legs since they are still a bit lazy but I can feel my form getting better every day. Tomorrow, I know there is a small uphill finish but I haven't been able to look at it closely. Again, we will have to be attentive but this is something we will see tomorrow. As I said before, the Dauphiné is a good test to see our form and a good opportunity to fine-tune it for the Tour de France. I have good sensations right now and I look forward to a week of great racing.
”I know there's a hill in tomorrow's finale but the truth is that I haven't read much of the road book yet. I'll have to pay attention. I believe the final hill is short. It might suit someone like Dan Martin.”
"I don’t know that much about the final climb. All I know is that the final climb isn’t that tough. It's more of a stage that would suit someone like Dan Martin or Simon Gerrans. A lot will depend on the pace of the stage, but I don’t think that it will be a real stage for the GC riders.
“I have the leader's jersey here but I do not want to think about the GC. At Paris-Nice I wanted to win, in Catalonia and the Basque Country I wanted to win. Here it is different. We'll see how it evolves over the week. I want to do a good race but the main objective remains the Tour.”
Thibaut Pinot avoids unnecessary time losses in Dauphiné sprint stage
The first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné was won in a sprint by Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and since the FDJ team knew that it would be a sprint, they did not expect much. As sports director Thierry Bricaud said, it was a day of ''rare tranquility. “
"It was likely that it would be decided in a sprint and we simply wanted to rediscover the racing pace. For the riders here, it was the first race race for several weeks. It was also a day with some heat and we had to negotiate that too but everything went well.”
Even if there was no need to take risk, Thibaut Pinot and his teammates were vigilant in the finale.
"They should not be trapped and miss a split and this is why William [Bonnet] was with his leader in the finale. Then we had to stay attentive in the last three kilometers. Tomorrow, with a stage in the Forez and a series of climbs, it will be tricky and it will probably be harder but first we can say that it was a good stage today. It was exactly what we had hoped for before the start."
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|20.03 - 26.03: Volta Ciclista a Catalunya|
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|25.03 - 26.03: Portugal Cup DHI #3|
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