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Westra catches Trofimov and Silin just 200m from the line and wins the queen stage of the Dauphiné while Contador makes a late attack to distance Froome by 20 seconds, moving into the race lead with one stage to go

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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CRITERIUM DU DAUPHINE

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LIEUWE WESTRA

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YURY TROFIMOV

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14.06.2014 @ 17:31 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after his narrow defeat to Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Lieuwe Westra (Astana) got his revenge on the most beautiful scene of them all when he won today’s queen stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné. Having been part of the early breakaway, he reeled in the Katusha pair of Yury Trofimov and Egor Silin just 200m from the line before producing a powerful sprint to take the win. Behind, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) exploited the weaknesses of a wounded Chris Froome (Sky) by launching a strong attack and put 20 seconds into the Brit to take the leader’s jersey on the eve of the queen stage.

 

24 hours ago everything was looking good for Chris Froome as he was sitting comfortably in the race lead in the Criterium du Dauphiné and had shown no signs of weakness. However, it all unraveled when he crashed on the descent in yesterday’s sixth stage of the race and even though he claimed to be relatively unhurt, he was clearly not his usual superior self in today’s queen stage of the race.

 

While his Sky team delivered an impressive performance to clearly show that they are the strongest team in this race, Froome himself was not firing on all cylinders. When his loyal teammate Richie Porte had taken over the pace-setting and whittled down the main group to just the Sky pair, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Andrew Talansky (Garmin) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), Contador launched one of his trademark attacks but this time there was not the usual reaction from the Tour de France champion. Instead of catching Contador’s wheel, he just stayed behind his teammate who tried to limit his losses.

 

Passing the flamme rouge, Contador was already 18 seconds ahead but Froome still hadn’t given up. The race leader launched a furious acceleration and started to get close to his archrival and for a moment, it seemed that he could possibly defend his lead.

 

However, Froome blew at the end and instead of catching Contador he was passed by Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). Crossing the line completely exhausted, he had lost 20 seconds to Contador, meaning that the Tinkoff-Saxo takes the lead with an 8-second advantage.

 

Unaware of this drama, Lieuwe Westra was involved in his own battle for the stage win. 24 hours after his narrow defeat to Jan Bakelants, the Dutchman was again in the mix as he had again made the right breakaway.

 

He seemed to be out of the battle when the Katusha duo of Yury Trofimov and Egor Silin had ridden away on the penultimate climb and for most of the final climb, it seemed that the pair could decide the winner themselves. With less than 2km to go, however, Westra couldn’t suddenly be seen just  few 100m behind and the Katusha riders started to get nervous.

 

They had a good reason to be so as Westra clearly had the momentum and he gradually clawed his way back to the leader. He made it just 200m from the line and launched an immediate sprint to which they had no response. Westra soloed across the line to take his second win for Astana after his earlier victory in the final stage of the Volta a Catalunya.

 

Contador now takes his 8-second lead into tomorrow’s final stage which is another really hard affair. In the first part, the riders go up two big climbs before tackling a long flats section. The stage ends with two climbs in quick succession and even though the ascent to the finish in Courchevel is not as tough as today’s, all is still to play for in the 2014 Criterium du Dauphiné.

 

The queen stage

After four easier days for the GC riders, it was back into the mountains for what was expected to be the hardest stage of the 7-day race. The seventh leg brought the riders over 160km from Ville-La-Grand to Finhaut-Emoisson and was a real mountain stage as it included five climb. After 22km flat kilometres, the riders went up three climbs in big succession before a descent and a flat stretch led them to the finale. Here the riders first went up the HC colde de la Forclaz before tackling the final 10.2km climb to the finish whose average gradient of 8% was expected to do a lot of damage.

 

Again it was beautiful sunny conditions by the time the riders started the queen stage but four riders never got the chance to test themselves in the stage. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Yoann Offredo (FDJ) who was riding with a broken sternum, Jack Bobridge (Belkin) who crashed a few days ago, and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) didn’t take the start.

 

A fast start

History shows that breakaways often prevail in Criterium du Dauphiné stages and so it was no surprise that the start was very fast. Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) knew that he could score a lot of points to strengthen his lead in the mountains classification and so he attacked straight from the gun.

 

He made it into an 8-rider group and when they were caught, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) gave it a go. He didn’t have any luck either and when he was brought back, De Marchi tried again. While Thomas Damuseau (Giant-Shimano) got back on his bike after a crash, the De Marchi group was caught and after 13km of racing, it was all together.

 

Riders get dropped

At the 17km mark, Julian Alaphilippe (OPQS) tried his hand but as he was brought back, things were still together when they hit the first climb of the day. While Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) left the race, riders started to drop off as the relentless attacking continued, with Igor Anton (Movistar), Mickael Delage (FDJ), Thierry Hupond (Giant-Shimano) and Aleksejs Saramotins (IAM) being some of the first casualties.

 

On the climb, Egor Silin (Katusha) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana) attacked and they were soon joined by Yury Trofimov (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) and Alaphilippe. A chase group with Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) took off and they managed to bridge the gap shortly after the top where Trofimov had taken maximum points ahead of Westra, Silin, Hesjedal, Alaphilippe and Taaramae.

 

A break is formed

The leaders were now 4.20 ahead of the peloton while several riders were in between and after a small regrouping a 14-rider front group was created. In addition to Gallopin, Silin, Trofimov, Westra, Alaphilippe and Hesjedal, the move was made up of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Matthis Brändle (IAM), Blel Kadri (Ag2r), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), De Marchi, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Lars Boom (Belkin) and Daniel Schorn (NetApp-Endura) while Taaramae fell back to the peloton.

 

Westra was  best on GC, sitting just 5.59 behind Froome in the overall standings, and so Sky kept them under control. At the 60km mark, they were 5.25 ahead and since then Sky have kept the advantage between the 5- and 6-minute marks.

 

De Marchi scores points

Meanwhile, De Marchi had done a lot to secure himself the win in the mountains competition. On the Col du Corbier, he took maximum points ahead of Brändle, Silin, Gautier, Schorn, Westra, Hesjedal and Boom and on the Pas de Morgins, he led Brandle, Van Avermaet, Boom, Silin and Westra across the line.

 

In the valley, the peloton slowed significantly down, meaning that the gap started to grow and it reached 7.45 at the 113km mark. This prompted Tinkoff-Saxo to react and they started to set the pace in an attempt to bring things back together for Alberto Contador to win the stage.

 

Sky take over

Brändle led Schorn and Boom across the line at the intermediate sprint and at that point, the gap was down to 6.50. As soon as they hit the Col de la Forclaz, the peloton started to explode, with several riders dropping off on the lower slopes.

 

Sky again took over the pace-setting as a very strong Vasil Kiryienka led the group all the way up the climb. Riders were constantly sent out the back door, with Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) being a very prominent victim.

 

The break splinters

Up ahead, the break started to splinter and Brändle, Schorn and De Marchi were the first to get dropped due to a hard pace set by Hesjedal. The latter managed to rejoin the leaders but as Trofimov dropped the hammer, several riders got into difficulty.

 

Visconti exploited a short lull to take off but he was quickly joined by Trofimov and Hesjedal. As they slowed down, more riders rejoined them but now Trofimov decided that it was time to take off on his own. The Russian got an immediate gap but Gallopin gradually managed to claw his way back to them.

 

Trofimov takes off

Silin and Hesjedal joined forces a little further behind and they managed to rejoin the front before Westra also made the junction. Soon after Trofimov kicked again and this time there was no one stopping the strong Russian. Having seen the gap come down to 5.05, he started to increase his advantage and as he crested the summit, he was again six minutes ahead.

 

Silin was his nearest chaser and he passed the top with a 23-second deficit. The Katusha pair found together on the descent while Kiryienka led the peloton over the summit 6 minutes behind the leader.

 

Nibali with a brief attack

Tinkoff-Saxo briefly took over on the descent before Nibali tried to make a small attack. It was very non-technical though and so Kiryienka soon went back to work, leading the peloton onto the climb  5.40 behind the leaders,

 

An impressive Kiryienka set a hard pace that caused riders like Bartosz Huzarski, Damiano Cunego and Bakelants to drop off and they started to reel in the early escapees. With 6km to go, the Belarusian finally swung off, leaving it to Geraint Thomas and David Lopez to set the pace.

 

The main group explodes

Bart De Clercq, Tanel Kangert, Kenny Elissonde, Haimar Zubeldia and Kritijan Durasek all fell off the pace before Lopez swung off. Thomas continued for a little while, leaving just Thomas, Nieve, Porte, Froome, Contador, Fuglsang, Nibali, Anton, Talansky, Kelderman, Van Den Broeck, Yates, Moreno, Navarro, Reichenbach, van Garderen, König, Bardet in the main group

 

Anton launched an attack and passed more of the early escapees but when Nieve took over the pace-setting, he was soon reeled in. The tiny Basque Sky rider exploded the group as van Garderen, Yatees, Fuglsang, Navarro, Anton and Moreno all got dropped.

 

Contador attacks

With 2km to go, the gap was still 3.15 and it seemed that nothing could stop Katusha from winning the stage. König was the next rider to lose contact with the main peloton, when the cameras suddenly caught Westra getting closer to the front duo.

 

Nieve swung off and when Porte took over the pace-setting, Kelderman, Bardet and Reichenbach got dropped. Just as the group caught Hesjedal, Contasdor launched his attack and this time there was no reaction. Froome just stayed behind Porte while Hesjedal, Talansky and Nibali hung onto the Sky pair.

 

Froome makes his move

Contador passed the flamme rouge with a 20-second advantage which was the signal for Froome to kick into action. Initially, Talansky and Hesjedal could keep up with him but he was soon clear and started to get closer to Contador.

 

Up ahead, Westra caught the Katusha riders just 200m from the line and made an immediate sprint that saw him take the stage win. Behind, Contador fought his way across the line in 4th while Froome faded in the end and was passed by both Talansky and Hesjedal before crossing the line in 7th, losing 20 seconds and the lead to his archrival. 

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