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After a great duel with van Garderen on the final climb, Froome emerged as the strongest in the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné; the Brit won the race overall with a 10-second advantage

Photo: A.S.O./X.Bourgois

CHRIS FROOME

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CRITERIUM DU DAUPHINE

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RUI ALBERTO FARIA DA COSTA

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SIMON YATES

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TEAM SKY

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TEJAY VAN GARDEREN

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14.06.2015 @ 18:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Chris Froome (Sky) got a perfect confidence boost for the Tour de France when the Brit took his second victory in the Criterium du Dauphiné after an exciting battle on the final climb of the race. With a big attack 3km from the line, he came out on top in the duel with Tejay van Garderen (BMC) who cracked at the end, leaving the Sky leader with both the stage victory and the overall win in the mountainous race.

 

In 2013 Chris Froome won the Criterium du Dauphiné overall and went on to triumph in the Tour de France just a few weeks later. If that result can be used as any kind of indication, the Brit will again find himself on the top step of the podium in a few weeks time when the 2015 edition of La Grande Boucle has come to an end.

 

Today Froome repeated his 2013 victory in the traditional preparation race in the Alps when he came out on top in a hugely exciting duel with Tejay van Garderen. Like yesterday those two riders turned out to be the strongest and again it was the Brit who had the upper hand.

 

It all came down to the final climb of the Modane-Valfrejus and here Froome made his big attack in the steep section with 3km to go. Van Garderen tried to follow the Brit and for a long time he maintained a stable 5-second distance. In the end, he cracked and was even caught by Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) who sprinted to second and third respectively, meaning that the American was left without any bonus seconds.

 

At the bottom of the final 8km climb, Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) was the lone survivor of an early breakaway and he hit the ascent with an advantage of 1.10. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had taken off in pursuit while Rohan Dennis (BMC) set the pace in the 30-rider peloton.

 

Jose Mendes (Bora-Argon 18) made an attack on the lower slopes before Sky took control. Nicolas Roche set the pace but he was passed by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who was working for his teammate Michele Scarponi. The Italian brought Mendes back and set a brutal pace that made the peloton explode and quickly brought Cummings’ advantage down.

 

With 6km to go, Valverde was also back in the fold while Cummings was now just 55 seconds ahead. Moments later, the Tour de France champion swung off and Scarponi made an immediate acceleration. Initially, only Froome, Wout Poels (Sky), van Garderen and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) could keep up with him but Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r) brought a bigger group back together.

 

Scarponi continued to set a fast pace that whittled the main group down to just himself, Poels, Froome, van Garderen, Costa, Romain Bardet (Ag2r), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Yates, Benat Intxausti (Movistar), Daniel Martin (Cannondale), Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Rafael Valls (Lampre-Merida). Rodriguez attacked and he got an immediate gap while Poels took over the pace-setting.

 

The Dutchman set a brutal pace that sent Kiserlovski, Valls and Intxausti out the back door. Cummings was now starting to suffer and only had a 25-second advantage.

 

Rodriguez was brought back while Scarponi got dropped. As Poels emptied the tank completely, Martin also lost contact and now it was just a question of time before Froome would take off.

 

The Brit made his move with 2.8km to go and he flew straight past Cummings. Van Garderen took off in pursuit while Rodriguez, Bardet and Yates combined forces further back.

 

For a long time, van Garderen maintained a 5-second deficit but after they passed the 2km to go mark, he started to lose ground. Meanwhile, Costa made it back to Bardet, Yates and Rodriguez.

 

Just before the flamme rouge, Froome had an advantage of 12 seconds and it was now clear that he was going to win both the stage and the race. At the same time, Yates attacked and only Costa could keep up with him.

 

Inside the final kilometre, Yates and Costa caught van Garderen but they didn’t lend him a hand. The American had to do all the work and was unable to get any closer to Froome who won the stage with an 18-second advantage. Yates and Costa even beat van Garderen in the sprint, meaning that there were no bonus seconds for the BMC leader.

 

The result was enough to elevate Froome into first position and he won the race overall with a 10-second advantage over van Garderen. Intxausti had a bad day and so Costa moved into third, with the Basque and Yates completing the top 5.

 

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) won the points competition while Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) was the best climber. Yates was the best young rider and Movistar topped the teams classification.

 

With the Criterium du Dauphiné done and dusted, most of the riders will only do their national championships before they line up for the Tour de France. However, France still offers another preparation race next week when the four-day Route du Sud will field Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

 

A tough mountain stage

After yesterday’s queen stage, there was more climbing on the menu for the final stage of the race which brought the riders over 156.5km from Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc to Modane Valfrejus. The first part of the stage was mostly flat but was littered with small climbs. In the first half, the riders would tackle a category 2, a category 4 and category 3 climb before they got to the spectacular category 2 Lacets de Montvernier which will be tackled again in the Tour de France. In the finale they would first tackle a small category 3 climb before they hit the bottom of the final 8.4km climb that led to the finish.

 

It was a rainy day in France when the riders gathered for the start of the final stage. One rider was not present though as Luke Rowe (Sky) had fallen ill and left Chris Froome with just 6 riders to support him.

 

A 7-rider group gets clear

As this was the final chance for many to earn selection for the Tour de France, it was an animated start with constant attacks. Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin) was the first to give it a try but he was brought back at the 3km mark.

 

The attacking continued until a 7-rider group had formed. After 6km of racing, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) who started the move, Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Bruno Pires (Tinkoff-Saxo), Perrig Quemeneur, Romain Sicard (Europcar), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) had built an advantage of 16 seconds.

 

Martin bridges the gap

The 7 leaders had to work hard to get a bigger advantage while riders tried to bridge across. Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha) took off in pursuit but Martin quickly left his companions behind. The German bridged the gap at a point when it was 35 seconds.

 

At the 20km mark, the escapees had extended their advantage to 1.05 and now the peloton slowed down. However, riders were still trying to attack and so lots of riders were in between the two main groups. After 22km of racing, Smukulis and Gautier were at 22 seconds, Bart De Clercq (Lotto Soudal) was at 28 seconds, Julien Simon (Cofidis) and Lars Boom (Astana) at 45 seconds and the peloton at 2.30.

 

More riders make it across

Smukulis and Gautier finally made the junction before they hit the first climb. Here Quemeneur led Kelderman, Pires and Martin over the top while Smukulis dropped back to De Clercq, Simon and Boom who had combined forces 28 seconds further back. A new group of Andriy Grivko (Astana), Mikael Cherel, Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and Cristiano Salerno (Bora-Argon 18) had formed and were 30 seconds ahead of the peloton which was 2.55 adrift.

 

Smukulis, De Clercq, Simon and Boom joined the leaders to make it a 13-rider front group. In the peloton, Sky took control and maintained a deficit of 3.20 at the 30km mark. At this point, the chasers were one minute ahead but they decided to sit up and wait for the peloton.

 

Sky in control

Sky remained in control and started to bring the escapees back. At the 63km mark, the gap was 2.15 and that distance had been maintained when Cummings picked up the sole KOM point on the day’s only category 4 climb.

 

Smukulis and Quemeneur were dropped on the next climb before Martin took off on the descent. In the feed zone at the 94km mark, he was already 50 seconds ahead of his former companions – Smukulis and Quemeneur had made it back – and four minutes ahead of the peloton. Here a crash brought down a few riders, including Manuel Quinziato (BMC) and Jose Herrada (Movistar) while Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) had to work his way back to the front after a puncture.

 

Martin takes off

While Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) left the race, Martin extended his advantage to 1.10 over his chasers by the time he hit the lower slopes of the famous Lacets de Montvernier. At this point, the peloton was 4.05 behind and now Cannondale-Garmin had taken over the pace-setting.

 

Sky again took over and it was Peter Kennaugh who did a lot of damage. Meanwhile, Herrada left the race due to his earlier crash.

 

The break splits up

At the top of the climb, Martin had extended his advantage to 1.45 over his chasers who were led across the line by Kelderman, De Clercq and Pires. Quemeneur, Smukulis, Timmer and Boom had all been dropped and while the former three were caught by the peloton, the latter made it back to the front on the descent.

 

The peloton briefly split on the descent and a big group with riders like Bauke Mollema, Riccardo Zoidl, Teklehaimanot and Tiesj Benoot had to work hard to regain contact with the peloton which was led by Kennaugh and Philip Deignan. With 45km to go, the gap was 3.45 but a very strong Martin managed to maintain that deficit for another 10km despite riding into a headwind.

 

A fight for position

Inside the final 35km, Martin finally started to lose some ground. With 25km to go, he was only 2.30 ahead of the peloton and a 1.00 ahead of his chasers that had again dropped Boom,.

 

With 20km to go, the gaps were only 30 seconds and 1.30 respectively and now the fight for position had really started in the peloton. Ag2r took control with Johan Vansummeren who took a huge turn before Cannondale took over. Jack Bauer, Nathan Haas and Kristijan Koren took some huge turns as they hit the final category 3 climb where the peloton exploded to pieces.

 

Martin is caught

Martin was caught by the chasers and didn’t even try to follow them. At the same time, Cummings attacked while Gautier tried to join him. The rest of the group had been whittled down to just Simon, Kelderman, Izagirre and De Clercq.

 

Mendes attacked from the peloton and was joined by Valverde while Bauer set the pace. However, Mikael Cherel quickly took over for Ag2r and he rode impressively well to bring the two attackers back. Riders constantly dropped back and just before they reached the summit, the Kelderman group was brought back.

 

Valverde attacks

Dennis took over the pace-setting for BMC and led the peloton over the top of the climb 35 seconds behind Cummings. The Brit did an excellent descent to gradually extend his advantage.

 

Valverde attacked on the tricky descent and quickly passed Gautier who fell back to the peloton. He pushed hard to build an advantage of 15 seconds while Cumings extended his advantage to 1.10 before he hit the bottom of the climb. Dennis did all the work until Sky took over on the lower slopes, setting the scene for the exciting finale.

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