6 years after taking his first professional victory in the Criterium du Dauphiné, Yury Trofimov (Katusha) returned to his winning ways in the French race when he took an impressive solo victory in today’s fourth stage of the 2014 edition of the race. The Russian made it into a 13-rider breakaway before dropping all his rivals on the Col de Manse while Chris Froome (Sky) never came under attack and safely defended his overall lead.
In 2008 Yury Trofimov emerged as a bright talent when the 24-year-old neo-pro won a stage in the Criterium du Dauphiné just months after moving from the mountainbike to the road. One year later he won another stage in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco but since then his progress seems to have stalled a bit.
Today he proved that he is still a very capable bike rider who can do big things on his days when he repeated his 2008 feat by winning a stage of the Dauphiné. In the traditional stage to Gap that is often won by an early escapee, he emerged as the strongest of the 13-rider group that decided the stage.
Trofimov had arrived late from Russia and so wasn’t fully recovered for the first two stages. He lost a bit of time which meant that he could forget about his GC campaign and focus on select stages.
With the famous Col de Manse featuring the finale, today’s stage suited him perfectly and he made sure to be there when 13 riders took off early on. With riders like Peter Velits (BMC), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r), Lars-Petter Nordhaug (Belkin), Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), Bob Jungels (Trek) and Gustav Erik Larsson (IAM) also in the move, it was a highly capable group that had a big chance of finishing it off.
With Bouet sitting just 2.43 behind Froome in the overall standings, Sky had to keep the break under control and for most of the day, the gap stayed at around 4 minutes. At one point, NetApp-Endura tried to chase it down but they came up short against the strong group, meaning that it was clear that the break would stay away by the time they hit the Col de Manse.
After some opening attacks, Trofimov launched a very powerful move halfway up the climb and no one was even close to matching his speed. He easily soloed away from his companions and kept extending his advantage all the way to the top.
Going down the descent, he took a lot of risks and almost came down at one point. It paid off, however, and he could cross the line for a solo win with a big margin, with Larsson and Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol) making late attacks from the chase group to complete the podium.
In the peloton, none of the race favourites attacked Chris Froome – neither on the climb nor on the descent – and Sky remained in control all the way. Instead, it was Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) who used the lull to take off and the trio managed to gain a few seconds over the peloton at the end. As they had all lost a bit of time in stage 2, however, Sky had no reason to worry about that trio.
The only change in the top 10 was Bouet moving into 7th, sitting 1.01 behind Froome who defended his 12-second advantage over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). He takes it into to tomorrow’s fifth stage which is a very hilly affair. The stage includes no less than 6 categorized climbs on a course that is always up and down and with the Cote de Laffey coming just 20.5km from the finish, it could be another very good stage for a breakaway.
A well-known finale
After yesterday’s pretty easy stage to Le Teil, it was back into hillier terrain in today’s fourth stage of the race which included a well-known finale in Gap. After a first part that mostly consisted of a long gradual rise from the start in Montelimar to Gap – with one category 4 climb along the way – the stage ended with a 25.5km circuit around Gap that consisted of the climb of the Col de Manse and the very technical descent down to the finish. In both 2011 and 2013 that finale featured in Tour de France stages and so most riders knew that especially the descent could be a very tricky affair.
At the same time, history proves that a break usually prevails in Gap and so many riders took to the start with an aggressive mindset. Three riders who finished yesterday’s stage didn’t sign in. Thor Hushovd (BMC) has realized that something is wrong and has decided to head home to find the reason while Daan Olivier (Giant-Shimano) had to leave the race due to a saddle sore. Finally, Benat Intxausti (Movistar) had too much pain in his shoulder after yesterday’s crash to handle his bike properly and so decided that there was no way he could continue the race.
A fast start
The riders left Montelimar for their 167.5km ride under a beautiful sunny sky but the temperatures were a bit more bearable than they had been over the last few days. Unsurprisingly, the start was very fast as a lot of riders wanted to join the early break.
The first rider to get a significant gap was Lieuwe Westra but his solo move was soon brought back. After more than 13km of racing, a 9-rider group with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) got clear but they were soon brought back too.
The break is formed
After 21km of racing, the day’s break was formed when Andriy Grivko (Astana), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Maxime Bouet (AG2R), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Pim Lightart (Lotto), Gustav Larsson (IAM), Damiano Caruso (Cannondale), Bob Jungels (Trek), Peter Velits (BMC), Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Jan Bakelants (OPQS) and Lars-Petter Nordhaug (Belkin) got clear to form a 13-rider move. As the peloton slowed down, they quickly got a nice gap that reached 2.15 at the 25km mark.
While Lachlan Morton (Garmin) left the race due to injury, a crash brought down Vincent Jerome (Europcar) who was able to rejoin the peloton. Sky had now taken control of the bunch and kept the gap stable at around 4 minutes for some time.
NetApp start to chase
The advantage went up a bit and when it had reached 4.50, NetApp-Endura joined the Sky riders on the front. The German team was one of 8 to have missed the move and had not yet given up on their stage win ambitions.
While Bakelants beat Jungels and Grivko at the top of the category 4 climb, NetApp-Endura set a steady pace to keep the gap stable at around 4 minutes. However, they failed to get any close and with 65km to go, the gap was still 4.40. Hence, they soon disappeared from the front, leaving the work to Sky.
A battle for position
Gianni Meersman (OPQS) abandoned the race in the feed zone while Vasil Kiryienka, Xabier Zandio and Danny Pate set a pretty hard pace for Team Sky. With the 13 escapees working excellently together and Bouet being just 2.43 behind Froome, the British team had to ride fast to keep the situation under control.
With 35km to go, the battle for position started to intensify as all the big teams wanted to keep their leaders in a good position for the climb. As a consequence, the gap started to come down and it was down to just 3.30 with 31km to go. At that point, the escapees had passed the intermediate sprint, with Bakelants leading Meier and Grivko across the line.
Puncture for Froome
Froome had an untimely puncture that briefly took the momentum out of the peloton but as soon as he was back in the group, the pace went back up. The battle was now extremely fierce as Tinkoff-Saxo took control with Michael Valgren, Sergio Paulinho and Nicki Sørensen.
Sky got swamped a bit as Belkin took over with Lars Boom. Moments, later Lotto hit the front and they led the peloton onto the climb.
Caruso makes the first attack
Up ahead, Caruso made an immediate attack and was joined by Velits and Bouet. The trio stayed ahead for a little while but Larsson did a massive job to reel them in. Grivko was the first to fall off the pace and as Larsson continued to ride hard on the front, Meier was the next to succumb.
As soon as the peloton hit the climb, riders started to drop off but as the battle for position stopped, it briefly slowed down. Sky again took control, with David Lopez riding a steady tempo for a long time.
Trofimov takes off
The slower pace allowed Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) to rejoin the peloton after having been dropped and he made an immediate attack with Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol). They were later joined by Westra but the trio were soon back in the fold.
Up ahead, Trofimov made his move 18km from the line and he quickly got a big gap. Behind the chasers started to attack each other while Trofimov continued to extend his advantage.
Hesjedal makes his move
Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) was the next rider to attack from the peloton and he dangled a few metres ahead for a long time before he was passed by Hesjedal who took off on his own. When Le Mevel was brought back, his teammate Yoann Bagot was the next to attack but Sky and Lopez didn’t react at all.
Things got slightly out of control when Kristijan Durasek (Lampre), van Garderen, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) and Bardet attacked and when they joined Bagot, Sky had to react. Geraint Thomas took over the pace-setting and he brought the group back.
Bardet tries again
Bardet and van Garderen attacked again and this time they had more success. They joined Hesjedal to form a strong trio that quickly gained a 15-second gap over the peloton.
Trofimov crested the summit with a 20-second advantage over his nearest chasers. The Bardet trio was 15 seconds ahead of the peloton that was led over the top by Thomas.
A fast descent
Trofimov rode really fast on the descent to extend his advantage to 35 seconds while the Bardet group caught Sicard. In fact, Bardet was riding so fast that he gapped his companions but as they entered a less technical section, they found back together.
Jungels and Erviti both went down in a crash and while the latter joined the Bardet group, the former was left behind. They also caught Grivko and Meier to make it a bigger group inside the final few kilometres.
Solo win for Trofimov
No one was stopping Trofimov though and he took a big solo win. Larsson made a late attack to take second, follow a few seconds later by Ligthart. A small group sprinted for fourth, with Nordhaug emerging as the fastest.
Grivko led the Bardet group across the line, 1.31 behind Trofimov, while the peloton followed at 2.10. Froome finished safely near the front and had no trouble defending his lead.
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