David Veilleux (Europcar) escaped an early breakaway to win stage 1 of the Critérium du Dauphine on Sunday.
The escapees — Veilleux, Thomas Damuseau (Argos-Shimano), Jean-Marie Bideau (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) and Ricardo Garcia (Euskaltel) — built up a lead of nearly nine minutes in the hilly 121km stage around Champéry before Veilleux went it alone. It was a tough opening day, with two category-1 ascents, one cat. 2 and the cat. 3 finale at Côte de Champéry.
Damuseau and Garcia pursued their former companion, but couldn’t bring him back, as behind Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) launched a doomed solo pursuit. Further back, Vacansoleil-DCM, Orica-GreenEdge and Movistar took charge of the bunch, which contained GC hopefuls Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Chris Froome (Sky).
With 5km to go it was clear that neither Damuseau and Garcia could catch the Canadian, but there was some question as to whether the peloton would sweep them up.
Veilleux hit the red kite alone and pressed on to take the victory, along with the first yellow jersey of the Dauphiné. Behind, as the bunch surrounded Damuseau and Garcia, Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing) attacked out of the peloton, hoping to steal second place on the day.
But it wasn’t to be — the Sky-led bunch ran him down in the finale and it was Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma) taking the runner-up spot at 1:56, with Tom Slagter (Blanco) third a second later. Richie Porte (Sky) finished fourth, with teammate Froome best of the overall hopefuls in fifth. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) crossed eighth with Contador 11th.
Riding the prestigious Tour de France warm-up race for the first time, Veilleux said it was better than a dream to win a stage.
“What’s funny is that two days ago I dreamt that I was coming to the end of a Dauphiné stage in the lead but was passed on the line. I came second,” he said. “This is better than the dream.”
While Veilleux’s team is not expecting him to challenge for overall success a week from now, they are hoping to keep the leader’s jersey for a few days.
“We’ll defend the jersey and we hope to keep it until Wednesday’s time trial,” said sports director Andy Flickinger. “Now it’s a bonus for the team.”
Monday’s second stage will take the peloton over a hilly 191km from Chatel to Oyonnax.
• Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) fell off the pace on stage 1 and came in 106th at 8:16 down. Team boss Jonathan Vaughters tweeted afterward that Talansky was recovering from a stomach bug. BMC’s Thor Hushovd had an even worse outing, crossing 164th at 15:40.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the Dauphiné.