Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) took the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in a powerful sprint on Sunday, denying Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). The win marks the Norwegian’s fifth at the Dauphine.
“I’m really happy I could manage to take this victory,” said Boasson Hagen. “I was really suffering on these last few climbs. I managed to make it to the sprint and I had a good sprint.”
“I hope there is more to come, but it’s good for me and it’s good for Dimension Data to get this win,” he continued, remarking on his team’s first WorldTour win of the season.
The lumpy 142-kilometer stage came down to the wire, with a three-man breakaway being caught in the final 500 meters after the peloton had been split down to around 50 riders.
The racing was set over five categorized climbs, with a category one ascent to Puy Mary falling in the first 34km. The final half of the stage featured a loop ridden twice, with each loop including the category two climb of Cote de Roquenatou. The second ascent marked the final climb of the day, and came with only 18km to go. With a flat finish, the stage looked one for sprinters or classics-style riders.
A six-man break had gone away early, made up of Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Magnus Cort (Astana), Niklas Eg (Trek-Segafredo), Fabien Doubey (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Casper Pedersen (Sunweb), and Julien Vermote (Dimension Data). They gained over three minutes of a gap over the peloton, which was controlled for most of the race by Bora-Hansgrohe, working for GC man Emanuel Buchmann and sprinter Sam Bennett.
As the race came into the final climb of the day, the gap on the leaders was down to around a minute. However, an acceleration from Deceuninck-Quick-Step shattered the peloton, with many of the bigger sprinters falling off the back. Several fast finishers such as Boasson Hagen, Gilbert, Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) were still in contact however.
With many of the original breakaway now back in the bunch and only Cort and Naesen still out front, Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) bridged over to them, and the trio worked together well, extending their gap by 10 seconds to over 30 seconds in total. As the race entered the final 5km, it looked as though they would make it to the line.
However, Bahrain-Merida took to the front as the flat finale approached, looking to take the stage for Colbrelli, and the gap to the leaders vanished, with the trio being caught with 500 meters to go.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) sparked off the sprint, with Gilbert on his wheel. Nils Politt (Katusha) followed. Boasson Hagen timed his move with perfection however, sitting back in the bunch and moving up at the last minute. He came off Politt’s wheel and slingshotted to the line to take victory over Gilbert. Politt faded in the final meters, and van Aert launched a late comeback to take third.
Stage two is another hilly day that could be one for classics men or sprinters, and so Boasson Hagen may be able to retain his leader’s jersey.