Jakob Fuglsang secured the overall at the Critérium du Dauphiné after his Astana team controlled the race
Jakob Fuglsang took his second-career overall victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday, after the Danish rider defended his lead on the eighth and final stage. Team Ineos’s Dylan van Baarle won the final stage, out sprinting Jack Haig of Mitchelton-Scott.
Fuglsang’s victory vaults him into the short list of top contenders for the Tour de France, and comes amid the most successful season in the 34-year-old rider’s career.
“I look forward to the Tour de France, I think I’m on the right way and until now it’s already been a great season for me and Astana,” Fuglsang said after his victory. “This year everything seems to come really easy and perfect, there is no stress.”
Fuglsang’s best finish at the Tour de France came in 2013 when he finished 7th place overall. Since then the Dane has struggled with crashes and sickness at grand tours. In 2017 Fuglsang won the Dauphiné and appeared on the perfect trajectory to contend for the overall victory at the Tour; he crashed on stage 11 and suffered two fractures in his arm. Fuglsang eventually abandoned.
The 2019 Dauphiné victory could be a harbinger of success this July, however. Earlier this year Fuglsang won Liège–Bastogne–Liège, as well as the Vuelta a Andalucía.
Indeed it was Fuglsang’s Astana team that shepherded him to the victory during Sunday’s short and mountainous eighth stage, which took in multiple climbs in the French and Swiss Alps. The 113km stage from Cluses to Champery featured seven categorized climbs.
The fireworks that these short, mountainous stages often produce failed to materialize on Sunday, due to the relentless pace set by Astana at the front of the peloton. Other than attacks from Thibaud Pinot (Groupama FDJ) in the finale, Astana and Fuglsang never appeared to be under pressure. The abandonment of Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) due to illness midway through the stage also removed Fuglsang’s nearest competitor; Yates was in second place, just 8 seconds in arrears, at the time he stepped off his bicycle.
“I could just sit in the wheel of my teammates and they brought me all the way to the finish line,” Fuglsang said. “This victory for me is special because now I could actually ride in the yellow jersey, as in 2017 I won the race on the final day.”
Instead, the day’s action occurred in the large 13-man breakaway that Astana kept on a relatively short leash. In the move were American Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Julien Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), Dylan van Baarle (Team Ineos), Felix Grosshartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jack Haig (Mitchelton-Scott), Carlos Verona (Movistar), Sebastian Reichenbach (Groupama-FDJ), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Lotto-Soudal), Hermann Pernsteiner (Bahrain-Merida), Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) and Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic).
Haig attacked away from Kuss, van Baarle, and Hagen with 15km remaining on the Côte des Rives, a first category climb that was the final major hurdle before the finish. Haig’s initial accelerations shed his breakaway companions, but van Baarle was able to chase back to the Australian rider shortly before the summit.
The duo rode to the finish, where van Baarle won the sprint for the stage victory.
Van Baarle’s stage win gave Ineos two victories at the race after its team leader, Chris Froome, crashed out midway through the race.
“I’m so happy as this week had so many ups and downs,” van Baarle said after his win. “Everyone knows what happens to Chris and the team did a really great job with that. Obviously what happened to Chris affected us, it was a shock and it changed our line up. But we stayed together and showed that we are ready for the big race.”