Wout Poels has punched ahead for the stage win but behind Jacob Fuglsand and Emanuel Buchmann are ahead of the rest of the contenders. The photo tells us plenty about the week with the wet weather visible and an Ineos worker unleashed.
Stage 1 saw Edvald Boasson Hagen win and Dimension Data resurgent, although only briefly as they’d finish the week last on the team classification, an hour adrift of the next team… yet 21st out of 22 teams because Vital Concept didn’t finish with enough riders to count and until then they’d been the last team and hardly making the case for a Tour de France wildcard any time soon.
Stage 2 to Craponne showed Pro Conti teams can enliven races as Guillaume Martin narrowly lost out to Dylan Teuns – apparently named after Bob rather than Beverly Hills – won the stage. This was probably the best stage of the week, the sharp climb to Saint Victor was enough to blow the race apart thanks to an attack by Thibaut Pinot which saw a select group racing hard to the line, both hoping to contest the stage win and to hold off those behind like Dan Martin, Richie Porte, Steven Kruijswijk and Romain Bardet. It was a short climb but still informative as the same names were just off the pace for the rest of the week when in recent years they – excluding Kruijswijk – typically win stages.
Sam Bennett got his bunch sprint to keep his win rate up, he’s got seven wins from 34 days of racing, impressive efficiency. But Julian Alaphilippe has 10 wins from 29 days and he collected a stage and the mountains jersey. But no matter what the stats are on Bennett and how much this blog might rate him, he’s still not the A-list sprinter and probably needs a Tour de France showing.
Wout van Aert’s hardly a new name these days but was a revelation in the Dauphiné as he’s been strong in time trials before but not this good and he beat the whole field and for good measure won the following day’s stage to Voiron.
The time trial was dominated by the news of Chris Froome’s crash during his morning recon ride and the dreadful injuries which will need months of rehab. It makes you think, something as banal clearing your nose mid-ride ends up in a helicopter ride, hours of surgery and months of rehab. It might also make some Ineos riders think because they’re usually working as wagons on a train but this time Wout Poels and Dylan van Baarle got to play at winning. But it’s easy to say, or type, that they could move teams and start winning but Ineos pays generously and riders can earn more than they’d get elsewhere and not be bothered by expectations of victory.
Chris Froome wasn’t the only rider to exit. Tom Dumoulin quit as well and the final stage saw many riders succumb to gastric woes including Adam Yates, one minute sitting second overall, the next DNF and sitting on the toilet. Michael Woods didn’t start the final stage thanks to the same problems, Steven Kruijswijk quit too.
The Dauphiné’s often been one of the best races of the year but the 2019 vintage fell a bit flat. It had its moments but the hallmark of the race in recent years has been a frantic final weekend where the winner wasn’t known until the very end and has often been a highlight of the whole year’s racing. This time it wasn’t so, a mix of the poor weather, route and the peloton’s mood. Friday’s stage saw the GC riders huddle on the final climb, Saturday’s stage saw them grouped until the final climb despite the short distance and Fuglsang’s winning move to join Buchmann was launched the final two kilometres. Then Sunday’s stage saw the race for the yellow jersey locked down by Astana. To paraphrase Fuglsang’s own words Astana are not Ineos but they’re closing the gap.
None of this should take away from Fuglsang’s win, he made all the right moves including a ninth place in the time trial. It just meant the race didn’t have the Hitchcock suspense of previous editions. For Fuglsang this may not be as spectacular a win as 2017 when he profited from rivals marking each other to poach the lead on the final day, a dramatic win he’ll enjoy. But he’ll also find satisfaction in 2019, here he built his own win and crucially had to defend the lead.
The “Fuglsang 2.0” were saw in the spring classics is back and “Fuglsang 2.1” is handling the summer stage races rather well too although we should note the weather was more like March than April for most of the week. Does this translate into a Tour de France win? Of course not but he seems to be shaping races this season, once he could follow moves, now he’s launching them and it’ll be interesting to see him and Astana translate this into something during three weeks.
Tejay van Garderen finishes second overall thanks to finishing second in the time trial. He didn’t do much else of note but that was all he needed to do because it was such a strong ride that he made up for missing the move on Stage 2 and for losing a few seconds on the Stage 7 summit finish too. Emanuel Buchmann finishes on the podium and continues his progress, he won the best young rider prize here in 2016. This year’s white jersey went to Bjorg Lambrecht.
Among the others Thibaut Pinot had a good week, he’s re-worked his time trial position and is less aero but more comfortable and as a result is losing less time. Riders like Nairo Quintana probably have more work to do as the Tour de France’s first summit finish at La Planche des Belle Filles is hurtling towards us. Romain Bardet can make an instant impression if he wins today’s Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge (it’s on TV, forecast finish for 3.00pm CEST) and then it’s all eyes on the Tour de Suisse and the other Tour de France contenders…