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After Bardet had made repeated attacks on the final climb, Pinot beat his rival in a two-rider sprint on the final climb of the Criterium du Dauphiné queen stage; Martin beat Froome in a sprint for third while Porte lost time

Photo: Sirotti

CHRIS FROOME

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DANIEL MARTIN

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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ROMAIN BARDET

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TEAM SKY

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THIBAUT PINOT

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11.06.2016 @ 18:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) bounced back from a series of disappointments by winning the queen stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné following an exciting duel with archrival Romain Bardet (Ag2r). After Bardet had attacked his compatriots several times on the final climb, the FDJ leader won the two-rider sprint. There was almost ceasefire among the GC riders, with Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) beating Chris Froome (Sky) in the sprint for third after the pair had attacked inside the final kilometre.

 

For the Frenchmen, the Criterium du Dauphiné is turning into a copy of last year’s Tour de France. Back then, the two future hopes Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) both lost lots of time in the early part of the race and then set their sights on stage wins. They both managed to save the race, with Bardet winning a stage and moving back into the top 10 and Pinot conquering the queen stage on the penultimate day.

 

In the current race in the Alps, both have lost time in the early stages. Bardet had a crash in stage 2 and Pinot has not been in his best condition. However, just like in last year’s Tour, they bounced back in today’s queen stage where they joined a big breakaway and then battled it out for the stage win on the final climb.

 

Pinot had joined the break right from the start while Bardet used a brave attack from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) on the Col de la Madeleine to sneak away over the top and bridge across on the descent. With two teammates in the group, he increased the advantage to more than 3 minutes and then attacked on the final climb where only Pinot could follow.

 

Bardet repeatedly tried to get rid of his compatriot but he had no luck and so it came down to a two-rider sprint. Unlike in last year’s Tour stage to Mende, there was no Stephen Cummings arriving from behind and so they could play the game of cat and mouse in the final kilometre. Bardet launched the sprint but it was Pinot who turned out to be the strongest.

 

After Contador’s big attack, the GC riders stayed calm until the final climb where Sky just rode tempo to make sure that Bardet didn’t gain too much time. Inside the final kilometre, Dan Martin attacked and only Chris Froome could follow, with the Irishman even distancing the race leader slightly in the finale. The big loser was Richie Porte (BMC) who drifted backwards and had to settle for 10th and so he is now 21 seconds behind Froome in the overall standings, just like Bardet who moved into third.

 

After an aggressive start, it was a group of Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), Robert Kiserlovski, Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff), Thibaut Pinot, Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Laurens De Plus, Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Mikael Cherel, Jan Bakelants, Ben Gastauer (AG2R - La Mondiale), Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha), Tony Gallopin, Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), Serge Pauwels, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Marc Soler (Movistar), Thomas Voeckler, Perrig Quéméneur, Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Cesare Benedetti, Patrick Konrad (Bora Argon18), Andriy Grivko, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) that hit the mighty Col de la Madeleine at the midpoint with an advantage of three minutes over the peloton which was controlled by Sky.

 

Fabio Aru (Astana) attacked right from the bottom and was soon joined by Björn Thuaru (Wanty), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Dayer Quintana (Movistar). Moments later, the big attack from Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was launched as he accelerated with teammate Jesper Hansen. They quickly caught the Aru group while there was a minor crash in the peloton where both Luke Rowe (Sky) and Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) hit the deck.

 

While the Contador group had a lead of 15 seconds, the elimination started in the front where first Voeckler and later Grivko, Minnaard, Benedetti and Soler were dropped. In the peloton, there was also great selection, with names like Ryder Hesjedal (Trek), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Enrico Gasparotto (Wanty) being dropped. Borut Bozic and Fumy Beppu abandoned.

 

Quintana fell back to the peloton while the Contador group passed Voeckler and increased the gap to 30 seconds. Five riders from Sky led the peloton but could not match Hansen’s pace in the Contador group, which also dropped Thurau.

 

Salvatore Puccio (Sky), Rohan Dennis (BMC), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Argon 18), Jerome Coppel (IAM), Voeckler, Steve Morabito (FDJ), Thurau and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r) were among the many who could not follow Sky’s hard pace, and actually only 21 riders had survived 10km from the top. Here Hansen finally swung off, leaving it to Contador, Aru and Rodriguez to press on.

 

With Sergio Henao, Mikel Landa, and Chris Froome on his wheel, Wout Poels made sure that the peloton got closer and the gap was only 15 seconds when Konrad and Teklehaimanot were dropped from the front group. Also Sicard lost contact moments later.

 

The first rider from the top 10 to get dropped from the peloton was Bauke Mollema (Trek) and soon after Rodriguez had to let Contador and Aru go. They had again increased the gap to 20 seconds and approached the front group

 

While Quemeneur, Roy, Gastauer and Sanchez were dropped from the leaders, Vervaeke attacked in a solo move. However, he was caught again, and thus 15 riders had gathered in front with 77km to go.

 

Contador and Aru were caught by the peloton that was just 150 behind the leaders. This meant that the speed went down a bit, and thus the group increased in size to 33 riders.

 

Roy and Gastauer came back to the front but they did not get much time to expand the lead. Aru attacked again and quickly caught teammate Sanchez. This time Sky didn’t respond and therefore the Astana duo had a lead of 30 seconds two kilometers from the top.

 

Contador refused to give up and attacked again, but this time Sky brought him back immediately. Bardet countered the move and he made the group explode. Froome, Landa, Contador and Richie Porte (BMC) chased but the Basque quickly had to drop off. At the same time, the front group split in three three and the first reached the top with a lead of 52 seconds over Aru. The Froome group crossed the line 1.22 behind and 7 seconds behind Bardet. A group with Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) followed 23 seconds later.

 

Pinot beat Cherel and Vervaeke in the KOM sprint, after the trio had escaped in the final part of the climb while Pauwels, Grmay, Bennett, Hermans, Kiserlovski, Kreuziger and Impey were first from the next big group. The FDJ captain could not keep up on the descent and he was picked up by Pauwels, while Froome, Porte and Contador were caught by the 20-rider peloton.

 

Bardet passed the Aru group while Pauwels rejoined Cherel and Vervaeke who were now 10 seconds ahead of Pinot. The rest of the group was at 25 seconds, the Aru group at one minute and the peloton at 1.35.

 

Cherel briefly escaped on his own but Vervaeke and Pauwels quickly got back. Meanwhile, Bardet joined the big chase group which was now made up of Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), Robert Kiserlovski, Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Laurens De Plus (Etixx-Quick Step), Jan Bakelants (Ag2r), Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEDGE), Jürgen Van den Broeck (Katusha), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal), Georg Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida). They picked up Pinot too while Sanchez, Aru and Sicard rejoined from behind

 

Pauwels attacked from the front group but Cherel quickly got back. Vervaeke also made the junction and the trio again started to cooperate to extend their advantage to 45 seconds. The peloton was now 2.25 behind and so BMC started to chase.

 

With Bardet in the chase group, Bakelants and Cherel went full gas and quickly brought the front trio back. With the Ag2r pair riding on the front, they hit the penultimate climb with an advantage of 2 minutes.

 

Halfway up the climb, Sanchez started to work with Cherel and Bakelants and at this point, the group had been whittled down to Hermans, Kreuziger, Kiserlovski, Pinot, De Plus, Sanchez, Aru, Bakelants, Cherel, Bardet, Van den Broeck, Pauwels, Bennett and Impey. As the gap was not coming down and Bardet was virtually in yellow, Sky put Poels back on the front to work with Moinard.

 

Surprisingly, Aru was dropped from the front group and so Sanchez had to wait for his captain. Also Impey lost contact as Bakelants and Cherel set a brutal pace.

 

While Aru, Sanchez and Impey lost ground, Pauwels and Hermans also had to surrender. In the peloton, Moinard and Poels brought Vervaeke, Gallopin and Roy back before the former ended his work and left it to the Dutchman to lead the chase.

 

Hermans made it back to the front group which continued to increase the advantage as they approached the summit. Pinot accelerated to lead the group across the line in the KOM sprint while Poels led the group to the top 3.15 later.

 

Bardet was a threat to Dan Martin’s GC position and so Tony Martin hit the front to work with Poels on the descent. They slowly reduced the gap to 2.55 while also bringing Aru and Sanchez back in the process.

 

Froome took no risks on the descent and even briefly hit the front before Martin and Poels went back to work. At the bottom of the final climb, they brought De Clercq, Impey, Pauwels and Sicard back and hit the ascent with a deficit of 2.45.

 

Poels set the pace on the lower slopes and immediately created a selection as Gallopin, Impey, Benedetti, Martin, Pauwels, Sicard and Andre Cardoso (Cannondale) were dropped. Mikel Landa quickly took over for Sky and reduced the gap to 2.20 while also sending De Clercq, Jerome Coppel (IAM) and Jesus Herrada (Movista) out the back door.

 

With 10km to go, Bakelants ended his work and this prompted Bardet to attack. Pinot tried to follow but the FDJ captain soon cracked and left the Ag2r rider as the lone leader.

 

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Damiano Caruso (BMC) were the next riders to get dropped from the peloton as Landa reduced the gap to just 2 minutes. Meanwhile, a strong Pinot made his way back to Bardet and the two archrivals started to work together.

 

With 7km to go, the main group had been whittled down to just Landa, Henao, Froome, Porte, Contador, Martin, Rolland, Yates, Alaphilippe, Navarro, Rosa and Meintjes but they were no longer making any progress on the leaders. However, they constantly brought riders from the early break back as Cherel, Hermans, Bakelants, De Plus and Kiserlovski were the first to get caught.

 

Landa emptied himself as they approached the final 3km, bringing Van den Broeck back and dropping Rolland and Navarro. As the gap had dropped to 1.30, Bardet tried to attack twice but he couldn’t get rid of Pinot.

 

With 3km to go, Henao took over from Landa and he quickly brought Kreuziger and Bennett back. He reduced the gap to 1.30 as they approached the final kilometre.

 

Pinot was no longer cooperating with Bardet who upped the pace again as they passed the flamme rouge. However, the strong FDJ leader stayed glued to his wheel. Henao swung off and so Froome was riding on the front as they passed the flamme rouge.

 

The game of cat and mouse started in the front where Bardet was constantly looking back. He launched a long sprint but Pinot easily came around and took a convincing win.

 

In the finale, Martin made a big attack that only Froome could follow. Meintjes and Contador gave chase while Porte drifted to the rear end of the group. Martin kept riding hard all the way to the line, even distancing Froome by three seconds in the finale. Meintjes and Contador reached the finish 8 seconds later while Porte finished 10th, 14 seconds behind the Sky captain.

 

Hence, Froome extended his overall lead to 21 seconds over Porte and Bardet. However, nothing is decided yet as the final stage is another tough one in the mountains. It’s uphill right from the start and then the riders will tackle another three categorized climbs on a day full of ups and downs before they get to the main challenge. The category 1 Col du Noyer averages 8.4% over 7.5km but is much steeper for most of the time and as the top comes just 11.5km from the finish, it will be the scene for a big battle. After the top, the riders will descend to the bottom of the 3.8km uphill drag to the line that averages 5.9%.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, it was time for the queen stage which brought the riders over 141km. from La Rochette to a summit finis at Meribel. After six flat kilometres, the riders tackled the category 1 Col de Champ-Laurent and category 2 Col du Grand Cuecheron in quick succession but the main challenge was the HC climb of Col de la Madeleine which started after 50km of racing. After the top, the riders tackled a long descent before another category 1 climb, Montee des Frasses, served as a warm-up for the final climb which averaged 6.6% over 12.3km.

 

Rain had been forecasted for queen stage, but luckily it was dry as the riders gathered at midday. Only Bora-Argon 18 captain Dominik Nerz did not take the start.

 

Lots of attacks

Like yesterday, it was a terrific aggressive start to the stage. First five riders, including Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), escaped but they did not have much luck. Instead, Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18) attacked and he hit the first climb with a lead of 15 seconds over Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) and Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) and 30 seconds over the peloton. Teklehaimanot joined the two chasers but the trio was quickly brought back, and shortly after, it was also over for Benedetti.

 

Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) was the next man to try his hand, and he quickly gained a substantial gap over a chase group of around 20 riders. At the same time started the elimination started in the peloton where Borut Bozic (Cofidis) and Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) were among the first to get droped.

 

A big breakaway gets clear

Kiserlovski was caught by the chasing pack, and the 24-rider group quickly gained a lead of 1.10 as the peloton took a small breather At the same time Ryder Hesjedal (Trek), who had hoped to hit the break, had bad luck to suffer a mechanical.

 

The group consisted of Ben Hermans (BMC Racing), Robert Kiserlovski, Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff), Thibaut Pinot, Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Laurens De Plus, Tony Martin (Team Quick Step), Mikael Cherel, Ben Gastauer (AG2R - La Mondiale), Daryl Impey (Orica GreenEdge), Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha), Tony Gallopin, Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), Serge Pauwels, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data), Marc Soler (Movistar), Thomas Voeckler, Perrig Quéméneur, Romain Sicard (Direct Energy), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Cesare Benedetti, Patrick Konrad (Bora Argon18) and Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) and so it was an excellent group that had gathered. Also Nauleau made contact, while a lone Andriy Grivko (Astana) found himself a minute behind the front. At this point, the peloton was 2.10 behind.

 

Grivko makes the junction

While Grivko approached from behind, and Igor Anton (Dimension Data), Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r), Arthur Vichot (FDJ) and Fumy Beppu (Trek) were among the many to get dropped from the peloton, Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Jan Bakelants (Ag2r) attacked and also they got closer. However, after Nauleau had been dropped, Grivko started to lose ground as Roy set a fast pace for Pinot. After the gap had at one point been down to 10 seconds, it again went out to nearly half a minute.

 

Grivko dug deep to finally bridge the gap just before the KOM sprint which was won by Teklehaimanot ahead of Grmay, Pauwels, Cherel, Impey and Voeckler. Bakelants and Sanchez reached the top 1.05 later, while the peloton led by Sky had lost 3.04. At the same time, Anton and Haas abandond.

 

Sanchez and Bakelants get across

Sanchez and Bakelants made contact on the descent and so 27 riders started the second climb with a lead of 1.40 over Nauleau and 2.50 over the peloton. Again Teklehaimanot won the KOM sprint, this time in front Grmay, Pinot and Voeckler. The peloton was still 2.50 behind at the top. The riders had covered 27.4 km during the first hour.

 

While Sky continued to keep the gap at around 3 minutes, Nauleau was brought back. At the bottom of the Col de la Madeleine, the gap was still 3.05 but moments later Aru attacked to start the exciting finale.

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