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With a dominant ride up the short, steep Mont Chery, Contador won the Criterium du Dauphiné prologue, beating Porte by six seconds; Froome had to settle for third with a time loss of 13 seconds

Photo: A.S.O.








05.06.2016 @ 15:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) got a significant confidence boost for the Tour de France by riding to a storming victory in the unique mountain prologue at the Criterium du Dauphiné. Sprinting up the brutally steep Mont Chery in a time of 11.36, the Spaniard was six seconds faster than Richie Porte (BMC) while defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) was left disappointed with third, 13 seconds behind the Spaniard.


Going into the Criterium du Dauphiné, Alberto Contador played his usual mind games, playing down expectations and claiming that the main goal was to build condition for the Tour de France. However, he could barely hide that he was very pleased with his condition and when he rolled down from the ramp for today’s unique mountain prologue of the French race, it was evident that he was not up for an easy ride.


The stage was a very special affair as it consisted of the 3.9km climb of Mont Chery which averaged a massive 9.7% and had long sections of 14-15%. That made it a perfect stage for a punchy climber like Contador and he was clearly looking for an important confidence boost for his big goal in July.


Contador got exactly what he was looking for as he managed to win the short stage. The win was definitely pleasing in itself but he probably drew even more confidence from the winning margins. Most importantly, he put 13 seconds into archrival Chris Froome who could only manage third and got his title defence off to a surprisingly poor start.


Froome was not even Contador’s nearest challenger. Instead, Richie Porte again proved that he will be a very serious contender for the Tour de France by sprinting up the climb in 12.42 which was just six seconds slower than the Spanish winner. That allowed him to slot into second and beat his former Sky captain, certainly a satisfying outcome for the Australian.


Due to the fear of rain, Froome had opted for an early start and he lived up to expectations by beating then-leader Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) by 11 seconds. He faced a long wait in the hot seat and for a long time, no one was even close to his time. He had to wait until the Contador and Porte rolled down the ramp as the third and second last riders respectively before he realized that his effort was not enough to win the stage.


Alaphilippe had set an early best time and that would be enough to end the stage in fifth. In general, it was an excellent day for Etixx-QuickStep as team captain Daniel Martin was three seconds faster in fourth.


While Froome failed to win the stage, Sky proved strong collective strength as Wout Poels finished sixth and Mikel Landa was 12th. On the other hand, Sergio Henao didn’t have a great comeback ride as he finished outside the top 30.


Romain Bardet (Ag2r) won the battle of the Frenchmen as he finished a fine seventh while Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) also proved to be ready with an 8th place. As opposed to this, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had very bad rides, losing 0.52, 1.08 and 1.02 respectively. In fact, it looks like Diego Rosa could be the best Astana rider this week as he had a fine ride to finish 9th.


With the win, Contasdor is of course the first leader of the race. He should have a relatively easy first day in the leader’s jersey. Stage 1 includes four category 4 climbs in a lumpy first half but the second half is completely flat, meaning that the sprinters are expected to get one of their few chances in the eight-day race.


A unique prologue

The 68th edition of the Criterium du Dauphiné kicked off with a unique mountain prologue that brought the riders from the city of Les Gets up the 3.9km climb of Mont Chery. It averaged a massive 9.7% but the gradient was 14-15% on several sections, meaning that it was a stage for pure climbers and not prologue specialists.


It was a cloudy day when Zico Waeytens (Giant-Alpecin) rolled down the ramp as the first rider. However, he wasn’t the first rider to reach the finish as he was passed by Louis Meintjes who stopped the clock in 12.30 to set an early mark, with Waeytens losing 1.53 over the short distance.


Best time for Yates

Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty) slotted into second with 14.03 but it was George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) who was expected to pose the first threat. However, he had to settle for second with a time of 13.00 and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale) was only four seconds faster to push the Kiwi down one spot.


Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) and Youcef Reguigui (Dimension Data) had fine rides to make it into the top 5 with 14.22 and 13.45 respectively but it was Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) that everybody was waiting for. The Australian had made the prologue a big goal and he fully lived up to expectations by stopping the clock in 12.07 to shave 23 seconds off the best time.


Kwiatkowski slots into second

Steve Morabito (FDJ) had a solid ride to slot in to third with 12.50 but he was quickly pushed off the podium by Damiano Caruso (BMC) who was fractions of a second faster than Meintjes in second place. However, he had barely caught his breath before Michal Kwiatkowski had knocked him into third as he was nine seconds faster in 12.21.


Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) had a great ride to make it into fifth before Jerome Coppel (IAM) went five seconds faster. Pierre Rolland’s (Cannondale) diesel engine never got going so he had to settle for seventh with 12.42. Marc Soler (Movistar) was just three seconds slower as he slotted into 8th.


Alaphilippe takes the lead

Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) defied gravity by posting the third best time of 12.29 before Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) had a disappointing ride for 10th. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) continued his trend of not being great at the Dauphiné as he had to settle for 8th in 12.38.


Many had expected Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) to do well on such an explosive climb and he didn’t leave anyone disappointed. The Frenchman sprinted up the climb in a time of 12.00 to move into the lead, lowering the mark by 7 seconds.


Great ride by Navarro

Ben Hermans continued the good BMC showing by posting the seventh best time of 12.30 but it was Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) who got most of the attention. On a climb that should be too explosive for him, the Spaniard showed excellent form by slotting into third with a time of 12.19.


Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha) had a disastrous ride for 24th place before Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) created a surprise by slotting into 10th with 12.34. As expected, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) was not in contention as he could only manage 24th.


Froome moves into the hot seat

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had expected a top performance but he had to settle for fifth with 12.28 and so the attention quickly turned to Froome who had started just three minutes later. The Brit proved that he is ready to defend his title by storming up the climb in 11.49 to go 11 seconds faster than Alaphilippe.


Romain Bardet (Ag2r) had played down expectations before the stage but proved that there was no reason for concern. The Frenchman slotted into third with a time of 12.05.


Excellent ride by Rosa

Diego Rosa (Astana) showed that Fabio Aru will be supported well in the mountains as he moved into fifth with a time of 12.13. As opposed to this, Pinot’s lieutenant Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ) had to settle for 17th with 12.39.


Mikel Landa (Sky) proved that he is back in form after the Giro d’Italia by posting the seventh best time of 12.20 while there was big disappointment for Bora-Argon 18 captain Dominik Nerz who could only manage 62nd. Instead, it was Jesus Herrada (Movistar) who delivered a small surprise by slotting into sixth with 12.15.


Fantastic performance by Gasparotto

Ryder Hesjedal (Trek) showed that he has recovered from his illness by posting the 10th best time of 12.25 while Igor Anton (Dimension Data) could only manage 19th. Dario Cataldo (Astana) also showed good form with a 14th place, just like Brent Bookwalter (BMC) who slotted into 18th.


Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) showed that he has maintained his good form from the Giro as he posted the 12th best time but it was Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty) who got most attention. The Italian continued his dream season by moving into 10th on a climb that should have been too hard for him.


Bad day for Kreuziger and Henao

Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) had a very bad day as he could only manage 27th with 12.44 and the climb was too steep for Rohan Dennis (BMC) who was just seven seconds faster in 23rd. Things were even worse for Sergio Henao (Sky) who could only manage 32nd in his comeback race.


Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18) had a solid ride to slot into 19th and Daniel Moreno (Movistar) had a disastrous ride to take 36th. Things weren’t much better for Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) who could only manage 54th.


Disaster for Aru

Louis Vervaeke had hoped to do a good ride but he could only manage 24th with 12.35. Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) was also left disappointed as he had to settle for 42nd.


Many were curious to see what Fabio Aru (Astana) could do in a stage like this but the Astana captain had a very bad ride as he slotted into 42nd with 12.44. Instead, it was Martin who proved his good form as he sprinted up the climb in 11.57 to take second place.


Contador wins the stage

Martin had barely caught his breath before Contador who had started two minutes later, appeared on the finishing straight. The Spaniard got a very important psychological boost by stopping the clock in 11.36 to beat Froome by a massive 13 seconds.


Contador got an immediate scare as Porte soon appeared but the Australian came up six seconds short. As Wout Poels (Sky) had to settle for sixth, the Spaniard could step onto the podium to receive his leader’s jersey.



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