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Primoz Roglic underlined his credentials as one of the hot favourites for the Tour de France this year after the Slovenian Jumbo-Visma rider won the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday.
With his compatriot and two-times Tour winner Tadej Pogacar and Ineos Grenadiers heavyweights absent for this race, Roglic cruised to victory on the back of a strong showing by Jumbo-Visma on the mountainous stages.
Roglic and team mate Jonas Vingegaard were in the breakaway group of riders on the eighth and final stage -- a 137.5 km ride from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Plateau de Solaison.
Once victory was assured, they rode to the finish line holding hands as Roglic pushed the Danish rider forward, allowing him to take the stage and finish second in the overall standings.
"I finally won some races in France so it's super nice," Roglic said. "It wasn't just us two, it was the whole team who had everything under control from the start.
"Jonas was super strong on the last climb [to Plateau de Solaison] and it's crazy, an incredible day for our team.
"As you can see, things are going in the right direction so we can be confident. We have some more time, some more work to do and should be ready for the Tour."
Australian Ben O'Connor finished third in the general classification, more than a minute behind Vingegaard.
"It was quite incredible. We had the plan that I should attack and he (Roglic) should follow me and we wanted to see if we could drop everyone," said Vingegaard.
"We succeeded with that so I think we can be very happy and proud with what happened today... To win a stage and finish second overall is a very, very nice result."
The Tour de France starts in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Friday July 1.
Meanwhile, Welshman Stephen Williams claimed his maiden WorldTour stage win as he sprinted to victory on the opening day of the Tour de Suisse.
The 177-kilometre stage, starting and finishing in Kusnacht, involved four 45km laps featuring the climbs of Pfannenstiel and Kusnachter, but it all came down to the last 400 metres.
Williams, a 26-year-old from Aberystwyth whose previous best finish for the Bahrain-Victorious team so far this year was 77th in the Tour of Romandie, beat Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal) in a race to the line.
With seven more days to go Williams leads the general classification into the 199km second stage between Kusnacht and Aesch.
"It's my first big race back since [the Tour de] Romandie and a good month of training," Williams, who underwent knee surgery in 2020, told reporters after his win.
"To win the first stage with a group like that was really special. So far, I don't think it has sunk in yet, to be honest.
"It's been a pretty strange few years, so to come here and win the stage – I'm over the moon."
Stage seven: Verona escapes to take first career win as Roglic seizes lead
Saturday June 11 – Saint-Chaffrey to Vaujany, 134.8km
Carlos Verona took the first win of his career at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Saturday, before Primoz Roglic took hold of the leader's yellow jersey with one stage remaining.
Verona, 29, was part of a strong group that formed on the first climb of the day, the hors catégorie Col du Galibier, with the Movistar rider going all the way to the finishing line after having dropped Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) on the final climb of the 134.8-kilometre seventh stage, the 5.7km climb up to Vaujany.
After overnight leader Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) lost contact with the general classification contenders on the ascent of the Croix de Fer, the second major mountain pass of the day, the Belgian's team-mates Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic were able to take a hold on the race. Following a flurry of attacks, Vingegaard took control on the front with a display that split the group of protagonists. Only Ben O'Connor (Ag2r-Citroën) and Roglic were able to respond.
Around 1.5km from the line and with Verona's maiden victory in the balance, Roglic attacked, off in pursuit of the Spaniard. Following a fierce attack that took around 15sec out of Verona's lead, Roglic briefly slowed before regaining his composure. The Slovenian, however, was unable to close the gap, Verona eventually crossing the line 13sec ahead of Roglic who took a commanding 44sec lead in the general classification.
Vingegaard moved up to second overall, with O'Connor climbing to third (at 1min 24sec), while Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), the Briton who won the Giro d'Italia in 2020, is now fourth at 1min 30sec.
Stage six: Canny Ferron lands biggest win of his career
Friday June 10 – Rives to Gap, 196.4km
Valentin Ferron won the biggest win of his career at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Friday after the TotalEnergies rider pounced from the six-rider breakaway and soloed all the way to the line at the end of the 196.4-kilometre sixth stage from Rives to Gap.
Despite making it all the way to the final straight alongside a group of riders with more experience and impressive wins to their names, Ferron played it cool, riding a canny race to deny Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Andrea Bagioli (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), Victor Lafay (Cofidis) or Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) the opportunity to take the win.
Ferron, the 24-year-old with just one other win on his palmarès – a stage at last year's Tour du Rwanda where he finished ahead of Rolland who was, coincidentally, also runner-up in Gap on Friday – timed his attack to perfection having drifted to towards the rear of the break before launching himself towards the finishing line.
“It’s huge for me, we worked hard every day and it’s a WorldTour race so this is exceptional for me,”Ferron said. “It’s the biggest win of my career. You don’t get many chances like this so you have to take them. I don’t have the best sprint and I knew [Italian sprinter] Bagioli would have the advantage, so when I knew the line was close I just had to go for it – I can’t believe I made it.”
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished 32sec behind Ferron, on the same time as the bulk of the race leaders and general classification contenders, to keep hold of the yellow jersey and his 1min 3sec advantage over over Mattia Cattaneo (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). Van Aert's team-mate Primoz Roglic is third at 1min 6sec, but with two mountainous stages to come the Slovenian is expected to challenge the Belgian all-rounder.
Stage five: Van Aert breaks breakaway riders' hearts
Thursday June 9 – Thizy-les-Bourgs to Chaintré, 162.3km
Wout van Aert won his second stage at this year's Critérium du Dauphiné after the breakaway was caught in the final 200 metres of the 162.3-kilometre fifth stage from Thizy-les-Bourgs to Chaintré with the Jumbo-Visma rider extending his overall lead.
Three days after failing to catch the breakaway, once again the peloton appeared to have misjudged the strength of a four-man break, before Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers took up a fierce chase in the finale.
With the finishing line within sight, Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) went solo off the front of the quartet, but the Frenchman was unable to hold off the charging pack with Van Aert taking the win ahead of Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), while Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) was third.
“It was a nervous final,” Van Aert explained. “In the beginning, it looked like the first controlled stage and we had the breakaway in check but they started to speed up and we kept losing ground so, in the final kilometres I was stressed that we would be just too short to catch them but, in the end, I passed them a few metres before the line and I could just win.
“I have to thank all of my team-mates. I know that everybody says this after a victory but if you watch today all six others were there for me and it makes this victory for me even more special.
“Until the last kilometre, I was focused on catching the break and then I was quickly shifting into trying to do a good sprint. Luckily, I had Christophe [Laporte] with a master pull in the end. I asked the boys to do everything they could and if even our GC [general classification] guys of 60 kilos are pulling in the front then you know you have to finish it off.”
Van Aert extended his overall lead thanks to the 10sec time bonus he earned for the stage win, while Britain's Hayter moved up to fourth having gained a 4sec bonus for his third place.
Stage four: Ganna lands time trial as Van Aert extends lead
Wednesday June 8 – Montbrison to La Bâtie d’Urfé, 31.9km (time trial)
Filippo Ganna held on to narrowly beat Wout van Aert in the stage four time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Wednesday, while the vanquished Belgian extended his lead on general classification.
Having set a benchmark time of 35min 32sec for the 31.9-kilometre time trial from Montbrison to La Bâtie d’Urfé, the Italian sat in the hotseat as he watched the general classification contenders tackle the relatively flat course.
After Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Ethan Hayter went closest at 17sec, the world time trial champion's focus switched to Van Aert, with the Jumbo-Visma rider going slightly faster at the first time check. The Belgian, however, faded before completing the course 2sec slower than the Italian.
Van Aert extended his overall lead and will take a 53sec advantage over Mattia Cattaneo (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) into stage five, with team-mate Primoz Roglic a further 3sec down on general classification.
Britain's Hayter moved up to fifth overall – on the same time as fourth-placed Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) – while Ineos Grenadiers team-mate and compatriot Tao Geoghegan Hart climbed to seventh at 1min 45sec.
Stage three: Gaudu benefits from Van Aert’s ‘rookie mistake’
Tuesday June 7 – Saint-Paulien to Chastreix-Sancy, 169km
David Gaudu timed his late attack to perfection as the Groupama-FDJ rider beat Wout van Aert at the line to win stage three at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Tuesday.
On what was the first uphill finish in the eight-day race that many are using as a final warm-up ahead of next month's Tour de France, a strong group of riders came to the fore on the Montée de Chastreix-Sancy before Van Aert surged towards the line and almost certain victory. The Jumbo-Visma rider was denied, however, after a determined Gaudu beat a celebrating Van Aert to land a fifth WorldTour race of his career.
“You have to watch the replay,” Van Aert said. “I raised the arms a bit too early and I'm actually really ashamed to lose it like that, just a big disappointment to not finish off our work today, and being so close.
“I had it in my hands. I just had it... it's even something when you see it with someone else you question how it's possible – but now I understand the feeling.
“This is a rookie mistake. I can't describe it in any other way”, Van Aert continued. “The team worked hard all day with one goal in mind. We desperately wanted to win a stage again. Therefore it is all the more painful that I let it slip out of my hands in such a way. Something like that has never happened to me before. I could kick myself. I was so close, but I gave it away.
“When I passed the Cofidis rider on my left, I thought I would push my wheel over the line first. On a finish like this, you lose pure speed very quickly. David passed me very quickly and I realised I had made a mistake.”
Explaining the finale, Gaudu said: “When they launched the sprint, I was a little boxed in and a bit far, and I thought it was over. But I felt I had some power, so I gave it all. Wout was still up there but I saw him losing a few places in the climb before. When I realised that I could come back to him, I thought about that. I told myself that he was maybe tired, that I could perhaps get him… I came back with drafting, and I told myself: ‘I’m gonna get him’. And that’s what I did!”
Despite missing out on a second stage win of the week, Van Aert regained the leader's yellow jersey – he also leads the points classification – and now leads Gaudu by 6sec on general classification, while Victor Lafay (Cofidis) moved up to third at 12sec.
“Tomorrow I will do everything I can to defend my yellow jersey,” added Van Aert. “Hopefully I can also compete for the stage win again. I have some making up to do.”
Stage two: Vuillermoz leads after winning from breakaway
Monday June 6 – Saint-Péray to Brives-Charensac, 169.8km
Alexis Vuillermoz held on to land his biggest win for almost seven years when the TotalEnergies rider won stage two at the Critérium du Dauphiné and take hold of the leader's yellow jersey on Monday.
Vuillermoz, a stage winner at the Tour de France in 2015, may have been the last rider to join the day's breakaway, but the 34-year-old had enough left in the tank at the end of the 169.8-kilometre stage from Saint-Péray to Brives-Charensac to overhaul Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X) and Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ).
For the second stage running Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) struggled on the climbs, though unlike the previous day the peloton was unable to rein the escapees back in ahead of what they had expected would be a bunch gallop finish.
After building a lead of almost five minutes, breakaway riders Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic), Le Gac, Skaarseth, Kevin Vermaerke (DSM) and Vuillermoz worked well together, although Belgian neo-pro Xandres Vervloesem (Lotto-Soudal) lost contact. Despite the efforts of the peloton, the five-man breakaway went all the way to the finishing straight where, with around 300 metres to go, Le Gac surged off the the front before he was overhauled by Vuillermoz and Skaarseth. Overnight leader Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) led the peloton over the line 5sec later, the Belgian losing his leader's yellow jersey to Vuillermoz in the process.
Stage one: Van Aert pounces to deny Hayter and take early lead
Sunday June 5 – La Voulte-sur-Rhône to Beauchastel, 191.8km
Wout van Aert proved once again why he is one of the favourites to win the green jersey at this year's Tour de France when the Jumbo-Visma rider pounced at the last to deny Ethan Hayter a fifth win of 2022 in the opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
On what was a tough 191.8-kilometre stage from La Voulte-sur-Rhône to Beauchastel, a number of the pure sprinters were dropped on the final climb, unable to then regain contact before the anticipated sprint finish due largely to the pace being set by south London rider Hayter's Ineos Grenadiers team-mates.
Having been guided towards the head of the field by Michal Kwiatkowski, Hayter was given a textbook lead-out with two-time world time trial champion Filippo Ganna pulling hard on the front. Unfortunately for Hayter, though, Belgian national champion Van Aert positioned himself perfectly at fourth wheel before opening up his sprint around 150 metres from the line. Van Aert, who is targeting the points jersey at next month's Tour de France, was able to hold off Hayter, while Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost) took third.
“A lot of teams were interested in dropping a few sprinters,” said Van Aert. “I could hang on and felt good for the sprint. It was really nice. On the climbs I felt quite comfortable, and a hard stage suits me when it’s like this but then in the sprint there were guys like Hayter, and you have to beat them. He’s doing great this season, so it was tough to pass him, but in the end it happened so I’m happy.
Van Aert later said he would try to defend the leader's yellow jersey, or keep it in the team that includes Primoz Roglic. The latter is also using the Critérium du Dauphiné as a warm-up race to next month's Tour de France. “Why not? We’re here with a strong team,” Van Aert said.
“I think that the coming stages suit me quite well so I’ll try and defend the lead if that’s possible. Then at the weekend I can hopefully hand it over to Primoz. But there are a lot of tough stages coming up first.”