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"I would not have believed I could win that way today. I had the bunch very close behind me but I didn't want to give up."

Photo: A.S.O.

CRITERIUM DU DAUPHINE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
08.06.2016 @ 23:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabio Aru (Astana) did what most thought would be impossible when he successfully completed a marvelous solo attack on stage 3 of the Criterium du Dauphiné. Having launched what looked like a suicidal solo move with 13km to go, he held off the chasing peloton by two seconds to take his first win of the year, with a frustrated Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) beating Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek) in the sprint for second. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) survived a late mechanical and retained the lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Fabio Aru: I would never have expected that it would end like this

"I would not have believed I could win that way today,” said a super happy Fabio Aru immediately after crossing the finish line. "I had the bunch very close behind me but I didn't want to give up. 

 

“To be honest, even yesterday I have had good legs but in the final I decided to help my team mate Diego Rosa to stay at the front and then I didn't fight for the stage win.

 

“Today that climb at 20km to go was quite difficult, I felt very good sensations so I decided to test myself, first with a small group including my team mate Luis Leon Sanchez, then all alone until the end.

 

"I'm of course very happy because a victory in an important race like the Dauphiné gives me the right motivation to continue in the training to be at my best for the Tour.

 

“It was an easy day on paper but it's been hard all day. I tried to go in the hill and my team-mate Luis Leon Sanchez made it across. After I went solo, I only thought of pushing at the maximum. I've never thought I'd win this way.

 

”I'm very happy. Thanks to my team-mates and my family. They're always close to me and very supportive.

 

”The Tour de France is the main goal of my season. I'm looking at preparing it the best I can. The Dauphiné is very important in that perspective.

 

"This morning I thought about trying something. I came into this race having not raced for a long time. My last race was Amstel Gold and I then spent 23 days training at altitude. So when I arrived here I didn't have the speed in my legs and I lost time in the opening time trial. That stage wasn't really for me.

 

"On stage 2, I didn't race for myself but to help Diego Rosa and Luis Leon Sanchez so that they could be at the front. Then with 700 metres to go I let go but even though I lost some time yesterday I felt better than I did in the first two stages. I already felt good and was even better today. I am here to build my condition for all future races.

 

“This is my first Critérium du Dauphiné and it was a good idea to try something but I never imagined winning like that.

 

"I'm building my form here ahead of the Tour de France. I want the best preparation possible for the Tour and I'll return to Sestriere again for another 10 days on Sunday evening, after the Dauphine. I've already seen some of the stages for the Tour in the last week.

 

”It'll be my first Tour de France and I want to keep my feet on the ground. I'm very fascinated by this race. We'll have a strong Astana team and two leaders with Vincenzo Nibali. It's better to have him in the team than against the team.

 

"It's natural in my career that I come to the Tour this year after winning the Vuelta. With the Giro and the Vuelta I've competed against the best riders, Froome, Contador, Nibali, Valverde, Quintana and Rodriguez but I don't know the Tour so I'll keep my feet on the ground.

 

"I can't say what I'll be able to do in the Tour but I'm happy to do it with Nibali. It's better to have him in the team than outside and I want us to work well together at the Tour, and then together again at the Olympics.

 

“The crash in the Basque Country was serious. It seemed less serious than it actually. I suffered from back problems for a month. I have just spent 23 days in Sestriere and I will return on Sunday evening at the end of the Criterium du Dauphine with my team for 10 or 12 days. I took advantage of being here to do a recon of the stages of the last week of the Tour, which will be very demanding. I know the last three stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné are very hard and I have to go see how the legs respond. There are three summit finishes, I hope to stay with the best and see what I can do.

 

“The win at the Dauphiné is the proof that I am on the right path.

 

Alexander Kristoff: Nacer Bouhanni had told me that the climb was easier than it looked on paper

A lone rider forced the teams of the sprinters to work for the catch, but on stage 3 in the 68th Critérium du Dauphiné it was two-seconds too late for Alexander Kristoff and the others as Fabio Aru took a solo victory in Tournon-sur-Rhône on Wednesday. It was not for a lack of trying, however, with the entire KATUSHA team working to bring the race back together.

 

”We really tried to close the gap but we ran out of energy and Aru rode really well. I was riding as fast as I could – I could not go any faster. In the sprint I felt like I had OK control so it is disappointing to not be able to win. I talked to Bouhanni about the last climb and he told me it was not so hard, so we wanted to close the gap and we did chase and control it, but Aru was just too strong in the end. We couldn’t come closer to him in the descent even though we were on the limit. He was so fast and kept his advantage. I felt quite good today so it’s a pity we could not win. It was somewhat disorganized in the peloton, but we were chasing with many guys so it was not for lack of trying. Aru is a good GC rider and I think we will see more of him in the future. We just couldn’t catch him back,” said team leader Alexander Kristoff. 

 

"We tried to close the gap but we just had no more strength and Aru made a number. I went as fast as I could. In the sprint, I felt strong but Aru was too strong no matter what. With Giant, Cofidis and LottoNL, we controlled the race, but on the climb we couldn’t keep control.”

 

With Team KATUSHA and Cofidis working to close the gap, the group came within two seconds at the line, but Aru took the stage win with his brave ride. Kristoff won the sprint group for second place and Niccolo Bonifazio of Trek-Segafredo was third. The winning time was 4:19.54 on the 187.5km stage from Boën-sur-Lignon to Tournon.

 

”It is a little disappointing when you see all of the work the team did today and then to not get the victory. First we worked with Jacopo Guarnieri, Michael Mørkøv and Marco Haller and then on the climb we saw Angel Vicioso, Alberto Losada and Jurgen Van den Broeck make an amazing race. Then to see that Alexander was only 2-seconds behind in the finish, of course it is disappointing. We send congratulations to Aru because he showed his true quality as a rider today and won a stage that was not necessarily one for him. I was confident Alex could pass this climb and be ready for the sprint, that’s why we committed to chase everyone back. This is good for our riders to see how well they can work and will continue to work the rest of this week and then for the upcoming Tour de France. For Alex it is also important for him to see that the team around him is strong and confident,” said sports director José Azevedo.

 

Bad luck for Trek helped Aru win stage at the Dauphiné

The sprinters, including Niccolo Bonifazio, had to dig deep to get over a tough category-two rated climb for another chance at victory in stage three at the Critérium du Dauphiné Wednesday, but despite managing the tough uphill, their chance was spoiled by Fabio Aru (Astana), who held off the peloton and soloed to the win.

 

Niccolo Bonifazio sprinted to second from the bunch, and third overall, after successfully cresting the three-kilometer climb with the front group. 

 

Aru, who slipped off the front from a late escaping nine-man breakaway, dangled out front like a carrot, holding between 5 and 10 seconds advantage, and a catch seemed imminent with well over 11 kilometers to go. 

 

But a technical descent that panned out four kilometers from home allowed Aru to eke out a few more valuable seconds, and teams - including Trek-Segafredo who suffered from ill-timed mechanicals – had little firepower left in the reduced bunch for an organized chase.

 

"The problem we had today was when Ryder (Hesjedal) had a flat tire at the end of the downhill before the final climb, and I had Fumy (Beppu) and Markel (Irizar) help him come back, but it took eight kilometers," explained director Alain Gallopin. "When he came back, Haimar (Zubeldia) helped him, and then Edward (Theuns) broke a wheel.

 

"Bauke, Haimar, and Ryder were in the front group, and Haimar helped pull for Niccolo as Ryder was at his limit after chasing back. Niccolo was close, and I think if we had Edward and Markel to help in the last bit… I think without these mishaps we could have helped Niccolo be more close to the win. Maybe tomorrow."

 

Zubeldia did what he could, assisting Katusha and Orica-GreenEdge in the chase, but a feisty and determined Aru managed to hold off the catch, arriving two seconds ahead of the peloton, led across the line by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Bonifazio.

 

Bonifazio said "The race was very hard today; all day the pace was very high. In the final climb, I managed to stay with the first group; I focused on staying with Kristoff, but unfortunately Aru had already gone on the climb, and we were not able to close the gap.

 

"In the sprint I followed Kristoff as well, but he is really, really fast and I could not come around him. But I am happy with my result. I felt good on the climb, and I had good legs."

 

Julian Alaphilippe fourth at the Dauphiné: I wanted to get some bonus seconds

Fifth in the general classification, less than half a minute behind race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), white jersey Julian Alaphilippe took advantage of both the selective finale and his sprinting skills to notch a fourth place, his best ever result in the Criterium du Dauphiné, and his 10th top 10 placing of the season:

 

"It was a good day for us, during which we were active right from the start, with Niki [Terpstra], who jumped in the escape. We were aware that the last part – with the hard climb and the tricky descent – was complicated, so that's why we stayed in the front row of the pack. Unfortunately, Tony [Martin] crashed on the downhill, otherwise he would have been there to help us with the chase. I wanted some bonus seconds, so I got involved in the sprint, but missed on taking the bonifications. Despite this, I'm satisfied with my result and I look forward to the next stages.
 

“I do this job for having fun on the bike. I take things as they come. This is my third participation to the Dauphiné. The past two years, I didn't have fun. I suffered a lot. But this time around, everything goes well so far. I manage to get good results, like today. Wearing the white jersey is an additional satisfaction.”

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen recovers from late crash to take fifth at the Dauphiné

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka waited for the category 2 Cote de Secheras that started with 24km to go, to as this was always going to be the deciding factor of the stage. The African Team had Edvald Boasson Hagen right up in the front row of the peloton with Serge Pauwels, Nathan Haas and Igor Anton also all in close proximity to support the Norwegian Champion.

 

It was a technical descent which played into the attackers’ favour as the peloton were held up on two occasions by crashes. Boasson Hagen was involved in one when he had to slam on the brakes with 5km to go and put a foot down to avoid going over Tony Martin.

 

Boasson Hagen was able to chase back to the head of the peloton just as the final kilometer started but Aru was yet to be caught, and in the end, he wasn’t caught. The peloton sprinted it out for 2nd place with Boasson Hagen finishing 5th on the stage for the African Team.

 

Boasson Hagen said:
 

“It was a fast day and I was feeling really good today. Omar Fraile kept me in a good position and also the rest of the guys too, particularly into the last important climb. I was in a good position all the way but unfortunately I was behind a small crash and had to brake. I lost a lot of position there and had to chase to get back into the sprint. In the sprint I was feeling quite good but I had to spend too much energy in the final so I didn’t get all the way up. Aru also stayed away, so it was a pity today but otherwise a nice day.”

 

Sam Bennett shows great form on Dauphiné climbs

BORA – ARGON 18 was open to different possibilities. The first goal was to get in the early break with one rider. The rest of the team was up to support Sam Bennett on the last climb.

 

BORA – ARGON 18 missed the break and on the climb they tried to control the pace in the peloton with Sam Bennett sitting in the wheel of Bartosz Huzarski on the front of the race. Bennett managed to hang on to the peloton over the last climb andthe team tried to organize the chase of Aru.In the end Bennett was 6th after a real strong performance of the whole team.

 

“The guys did a brilliant job today in protecting me the whole day. On the last climb we set a steady pace and I was up there on the front of the peloton. That gave me room to drift back when the attacks began. On the decent there was a crash where I had to brake hard and lost my position. The team then brought me up again, but I think we lost the race there because we had to spend a lot of energy for this. Im the sprint I did not want to go early again, but today I was a little blocked. But I am happy with my performance and again – great job from the whole team today,” said Sam Bennett.

 

Another top 10 for Daryl Impey at the Dauphiné, Yates on the attack

South African Daryl Impey sprinted to seventh place on stage three of theCriterium du Dauphine today, with ORICA-GreenEDGE teammate Adam Yatesretaining seventh on the general classification.

 

A fast and lumpy stage three followed a breakaway trio for the best part of 140kilometres before a late attack by Fabio Aru (Astana) won the stage followed by a frantic bunch sprint for second place.

 

Impey fought well in the speeding pack as it closed in on Aru in the finishing straight with the ORICA-GreenEDGE rider again coming close in a sprint on French soil.

 

2014 Tour of Turkey winner Yates, rode well throughout the stage and formed part of the group who tried to break clear before Aru escaped. The Briton remains in seventh overall, 31seconds behind race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) with four more days to go.

 

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage was satisfied with how the stage went and pleased with the overall performance of the team.

 

“The whole team rode very well today,” said Lapage. “We kept Adam (Yates) up there in a good position and he read the attacks well on the final climb and made sure we didn’t lose any time.

 

“For sure Daryl (Impey) is getting closer in the sprints, he battled hard after some good work by the guys in the final few kilometres and for the second time this week finished in the top ten.”

 

“We are really satisfied with our position ahead of the real mountain stages at the weekend,” continued Lapage. “Adam has been riding very intelligently, conserving energy where he can and we saw again today how alert he is.

 

“Tomorrow is definitely the last chance for the sprinters, it could be a day for the breakaway but without any serious climbs it looks probable that the stage will end in a sprint finish.”

 

Nacer Bouhanni: I was really on my limit

“I'm not disappointed because it wasn't a winning sprint finish,” Nacer Bouhanni said after his 8th place.” I was really at the limit in the climb but I fought hard to stay in the bunch. I sprinted for second place but I felt I was not exactly the best today. Without having exceptional legs, we can't have regrets. Tomorrow it'll be a different stage. Theorically it'll be for pure sprinters. I hope it'll be a better day for me.”

 

"Early in the stage we talked with Alexander Kristoff about working together and make it to a sprint. I was at the maximum of what I could give. It was really a more difficult climb than I thought. I could see the other sprinters. There was Kristoff, and also Degenkolb was in front of me.

 

"We sprinted for second place, it's a shame. I did not have exceptional legs. I just wanted to test myself on this kind of stage, see where my fitness is. It's getting better and better.”

 

"Unfortunately, the guys from the train were not there,” Cofidis manager Yvon Sanquer told L’Equipe. "Guarnieri, Morkov and Haller were not there for Kristoff and Soupe and Laporte had failed to follow Bouhanni. Finally, the sprinters made it but not their train. Only Dani Navarro and Rudy Molard were there and they are not fast riders. That’s insufficient.  We were missing one or two guys to do the job .

 

Enrico Gasparotto: The riders in front of me will be going for the bunch sprints at the Tour

The team Wanty-Groupe Gobert got this Wednesday its first ten in this Critérium du Dauphiné. Enrico Gasparotto took the ninth place of the third stage in Tournon won by Fabio Aru. Dimitri Claeys spent the whole day in the breakaway.

"It was a very fast day. I didn't have a good feeling on the bike. I fight the whole day and finally I'm happy with my sprint", Enrico Gasparotto said.

Dutch national champion Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Dimitri Claeys (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) rode away from the peloton right after the start. They got a top advantage of 4'40" on the peloton which rapidly decreased the deficit.

 

"Our goal is to be part of the breakaway. I'm happy to have spent the day at the front of the race", Dimitri Claeys explained. 

After 100 kilometres, the time gap was reduced to 2'20". Two riders Cyril Gautier and Perrig Quémeneur came across the leading trio to form a front group of five riders. With 26 km to go it was all together again before the last climb of the day: the category 2 climb, the Côte de Sécheras.

 

"I fought to be in the first positions of the peloton before the last climb", Enrico Gasparotto continued.

Many riders attacked on the climb but Fabio Aru forged on by himself with 12 km to go. The Italian rider managed to resist to the peloton's comeback and won the stage. Alexander Kristoff won the sprint for the second place. Enrico Gasparotto took the ninth place of the stage. A good result for the Belgian pro-continental team.

 

"It is a good result for me and for the team. I'm happy for Fabio Aru. The guys who beat me will be the riders who are going to fight for the flat stages in the next Tour de France", Enrico Gasparotto concluded.

Richie Porte: Today was even harder than yesterday

For BMC, Greg Van Avermaet was up there in the sprint, crossing the line in 11th place.

 

Richie Porte said:

 

“It was a hard day. Everyone sort of thought that it wasn’t going to be but in the end it was probably harder than yesterday, in a different way. It was just tough all day. It was a hectic finish in the last 30 kilometers. It looked quite straight forward on paper but the sprinters had other ideas. I don’t expect it to be any easier tomorrow, I honestly don’t think there’s a single easy day at this race.”

 

Sports director Valerio Piva added:

 

“Today’s objectives were similar to Stage 2. We wanted to keep Richie out of trouble as much as possible and stay around him, which we definitely did. It was also a good stage for Greg depending on how the stage played out. We looked to get in the breakaway but in the end with only three riders in the breakaway that went away, it was never going to stay away. On the final climb Richie did a good job to respond to Contador’s attacks. Greg was up there in the sprint but with Aru staying away, and the pure sprinters up there, it was difficult for him.”

 

Tsagbu Grmay tests his climbing legs at the Dauphiné

Tsgabu Grmay tested himself on the France roads where he'll maybe race in July at the Tour de France, being the first Ethiopian rider to participate in the Grande Boucle.

The African cyclist from LAMPRE-MERIDA was one of the protagonists of the final kilometers when he counter-attacked with Rolland.

Luka Pibernik was the first LAMPRE-MERIDA rider to cross the finish line: he was 12th.

Conti and Meintjes retained the 13th and 14th position in the overall classification.

No luck for John Degenkolb in Dauphiné sprint

Team Giant-Alpecin were present at the front of the bunch protecting John Degenkob as the breakaway were caught with 25km remaining.

 

John Degenkolb finished in the main bunch in 14th place, 2″ back.

 

Coach Aike Visbeek said: “We focused on a sprint with John today. On the category two climb in the finale the peloton got decimated due to the high pace but we still had Koen [De Kort], Lars [van der Haar], and Chad who [Haga] were supporting John in the first group.

 

“We had a clear plan for John today. The guys did a good race and we took responsibility as we wanted to prepare the sprint for him. John managed to be there in the finale but there was not enough organisation in the bunch to sprint for the victory.

 

“In the end, Koen made a big effort to try and catch the leader but it was too late. John got boxed in during the sprint, but it was good to see that he was with the first part of the group over the final climb.”

 

Injured Alexis Vuillermoz: It was a nightmare

"I suffered all day. It was a nightmare,” said Alexis Vuillermoz who crashed yesterday. “I had great pain in my hand andstruggled to hold the handlebars and to brake.
 

It was very fast. I tried to stay strong in the head to finish the stage with the peloton. I have to keep a low profile for the coming days. I need to rest a little. I will look at my recovery. "

 

Ag2r manager Vincent Lavenu told L’Equipe: 

 

"We had told Cyril (Gautier) to be attentive to counter-attacks when the peloton got closer to the leaders. This is exactly what happened. He was very motivated and it could be a good opportunity but the sprinte teams have locked the race and the 5 riders were caught before the last climb, the strategic point. It's a shame. Finally, the sprinters worked but they were caugh out by Aru. It was interesting to everyone, a good show. It was not really a finish that could suit Romain (Bardet). But he is always vigilant, that's why we have seen him in a good position. The big day for him is the day after tomorrow." 

 

Sports director Julien Jurdie added:

 

"With Romain it was a bit complicated. He had pain from the crash and he complained about his back today. The instructions were to be present at the front on this climb. We knew that at the top, after the summit, it was not really flat and if a team went there, there could be splits in the peloton. So it was important to protect Romain and therefore be placed at the front. We had not forbidden him to go on the offensive if there were opportunities. Well, it was Aru who benefited. It was fast but we did not expect anything in particular today.”

 

Sky: Fabio Aru was no threat to Chris Froome

Chris Froome got home safely on stage three of the Criterium du Dauphine to maintain third place overall.

Fabio Aru (Astana) attacked on a late second-category climb and the Italian produced a determined effort to stay away from the bunch on the long descent to the finish in Tournon-sur-Rhone, winning the stage by a mere two seconds.

 

Behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the reduced bunch sprint to claim second, with Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) third. Froome, flanked by Wout Poels, came home in the bunch and finished 23rd, while race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) suffered a mechanical 5km from home and had to battle hard to rejoin the bunch.

 

He swapped bikes with team-mate Roman Kreuziger and managed to get back on with just 2km left, recording the same time as Froome to maintain the 13-second advantage between the pair. Richie Porte (BMC) remains second, six seconds back on Contador.

 

Mikel Landa had tracked Aru's attack on the Cote de Secheras and a lead group of nine riders quickly formed 10 seconds ahead of the peloton, but just as it was about to be swallowed up by the bunch Aru pounced.

 

The Italian would stay away on the subsequent descent to record an unlikely and impressive victory, while Team Sky kept numbers around Froome at the front of the chasing pack to guide him home safely.

 

Speaking exclusively to TeamSky.com Sport Director Nico Portal praised the strength of the team's performance on day four.

He said: "The plan was for Ian Stannard and Michal Kwiatkowski to lead us to the foot of the last climb and that worked perfectly. At the top we had everyone else - all six guys - and then Landa jumped on the dangerous move. He was super good.

 

"There was a lot of guys getting dropped on the climb which shows how the stage, even without a big mountain, was very tough and the pace was so high. We stayed at the front and we're still the first team on the general classification which is nice."

 

After Michal Kwiatkowski, Sergio Henao and Landa fired numerous attacks on stage two, Portal admitted the tactics were slightly different for stage three.

 

He added: "Yesterday was something different. We played a different tactic and put some pressure on, which we can do with this group. Maybe some people were thinking: 'Wow what are Sky doing? Will they do this in the Tour?' We wanted to race.

 

"Today we concentrated on Chris more and we didn't want to lose any time on GC. Because Aru isn't close to Chris on GC, we were able to let the sprint teams chase so we didn't expend any excess energy."

 

Bad day for LottoNL-Jumbo at the Criterium du Dauphiné

George Bennett was the only Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider able to finish in the first group during the third stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné today. The rider from New Zealand finished 35th in the group with Fabio Aru (Astana) racing into Tournon solo for the win.

 

The escapees could not gain much space during the third stage. The group nailed them down with 26 kilometres to go. Team LottoNL-Jumbo hit the front en masse at that moment, but only Bennett was able to survive the Cote de Sécheras.

 

The sprinters will have their last chance in the fourth stage on Thursday to Belley.

 

“The finish is slightly uphill,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “That’s interesting for many riders. I don’t think Moreno Hofland is one of the favourites to win the stage, but we’re going to do our best to bring him in the right position.”

 

Alberto Contador survives late scare at the Dauphiné

Finishing in the bunch with the sprinters, Alberto Contador took the race leader’s yellow jersey for the fourth time, maintaining his six second lead in the GC contest.

 

As the race was nearing its end, Contador suffered a mechanical, which had the potential to put some time into the race leader had there not been support from his teammates. Sport Director Sean Yates, summed up what happened.

 

“Alberto had a puncture, which could have caused a problem and some time gaps, but he borrowed Kreuziger’s bike, which got him to the finish.”

 

Contador was grateful that his teammates were there when he needed them.

 

"These things can happen. I had a mechanical in the final stretch and I tried to keep going but the tubular was rubbing against the frame. Luckily, Roman Kreuziger was just behind me, so I could borrow his bike, even if it's a bigger size than mine. It was a bit difficult to pedal on the seat but it was only 4km to go and another teammate was waiting for me to bring me back in the peloton. I managed to finish the race without any problems. We had to take quick decisions in a split second but we did it very well.

 

 

"The change happened very quickly. At first I didn't want to change but the back wheel was broken and I had no choice.

 

"There was no panic and I was quickly back in the bunch. Also there's not as much pressure here as there is in some races. If I had lost time today it would not have mattered that much.

 

“I was in 6th or 7th position when the rear wheel broke. I wanted to reach the last 3 kilometers but it was impossible. I also managed to avoid the crash. Kreuziger was there, he gave me his bike, Kiserlovski helped me to get back to the peloton. This went well but these are situations you need to know how to handle.”

 

With Contador crossing the line in the bunch with the sprinters, there was no change in the GC standing, and the Tinkoff leader kept his hold on the race lead and the yellow jersey for another day.

 

After what was a less intense day for the team – albeit still a fast-paced day – Sport Director, Sean Yates, summed up the day’s racing.

 

“Some days are going to be more involved than others. There was a tough climb near the finish where the racing really started, and while it wasn’t a mountain stage, it was far from easy. It was a quieter day for us, with less need to control the pace. The breakaway riders weren’t the best climbers, and with other teams wanting to push for the stage win, there was less need for the team to work to pull in the break. We wanted to take it easy and didn’t want to commit to pulling in riders who weren’t a threat. Other teams had an interest in the sprint and so took up the sprint, so it all came back together. Aru did a great ride to the finish but it must have been frustrating for the sprinters.”

 

Continuing, Yates was pleased to see the sprint teams working hard today.

 

“The plan, as always, was to keep Alberto safe, not lose time and try and save as much energy for the later stages. The team’s worked hard the last two days so it was good that there was less need to control the race. That said, it was definitely a fast day, with some up and down at the start. It was also cooler especially on the climbs with some wind too.”


Contador was pleased to have his teammates on hand to support him to the finish, but was more relaxed about the outcome in this race.

 

“It was a delicate moment but as I said before, I am less stressed in this race, compared to, let's say, Paris-Nice. I take it in a more relaxed way. Fabio Aru deserved his win - he's a rider that brings excitement to the races he takes part in, so it's a good outcome.

 

“Of course Fabio Aru was impressive today and he is a candidate for the Tour de France. He has proven that he knows how to win a Grand Tour. He did it at the Vuelta and made the podium at the Giro. It was a very hard stage for him to win today. He's a very spectacular rider. He's exactly the kind of the rider that cycling needs. He'll be a rider we have to watch at the Tour.

 

”He just won a difficult stage, it was difficult to get a win today and I'm very happy for him.

 

“We cannot say that the average speed is higher because the roads of the Critérium du Dauphiné are difficult and it is not possible to ride very fast but for me it is good to have such stages before arriving in the mountains. I get speed in the legs.

 

“I probably need 30 minutes to explain why I am training at altitude. Sky have set an example for many. I did a test in the winter of 2014 and it worked well. This season, thanks to that, we were ready for the first part of the season. I do not think that altitude was for me but to be concentrated on cycling for three weeks dedicated to the recovery, eating well and thinking only about the bike is good. This is also how we made a difference.”

 

Tomorrow, the Critérium du Dauphiné takes on a 176km route from Tain-l'Hermitage to Belley. With two fourth category climbs covered after 93.5km, there remains an undulating parcours to negotiate for the remaining 80km to the finish. With a fairly flat final kilometre, provided any breakaways are caught, a bunch sprint seems likely.

 

Yates was expecting there would be less need for the team to control tomorrow’s stage.

 

“It’s the last chance for the sprinters tomorrow, so they’ll be going for it. We’re expecting it’ll be another day where the sprinters will take up the chase, so we’re hoping to conserve some energy for the mountains. There were quite a few dropped today, so we’re seeing some bigger time gaps in the GC, so the breaks are less of a threat than they have been these past couple of days.”

 

Quiet day for Jesus Herrada at the Dauphiné

After his exhibition on Tuesday's finishing ramp of Chalmazel, Jesús Herrada had his only task today in keeping his valuable 6th place overall. Stage three in the Critérium du Dauphiné (182km between Böen-sur-Lignon and Tournon-sur-Rhône) came to be quite more difficult than expected, as focus not to lose contact with the main group on the Côte de Secheras, key on today's route, made riding in the peloton stressful. Located 22km from the finish line, this Cat-2 ascent - with a short 'wall', 2.9km, at an average 8.3% gradient - served as launch pad for an initial attack from Tony Martin (EQS), who created some further moves from behind which the Movistar Team responded to in the same way as yesterday: awaiting their moment.

 

The squad directed by José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía wasn't as lucky as in stage two, as a late move by Fabio Aru (AST) caught the sprinters out and even led to more nerves and crashes like Martin's, together with Edvald Boasson Hagen (DDD), on the final descent. The Blues kept Herrada's top-ten overall, 6th at 27” from Alberto Contador (TNK), with Dani Moreno in 24th spot at just over one minute from yellow. Stage four (176km) from Tain-l’Hermitage to Belley should bring some respite to the GC contenders before the big mountains kick off on Friday with Vajaunay's finish (Cat-2).

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