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SISTERON, France (AFP) — Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) sprinted to his second stage victory of the 2015 Critérium du Dauphiné Wednesday at the end of a 228-kilometer stage 4 in Sisteron, France. An early breakaway of Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) had a healthy advantage of around five minutes with only 30km left in the stage, but as several teams finally organized a chase in the peloton, the gap started to come down quickly. The escapees’ advantage was closed down completely when a number of opportunists tried their luck from the pack on a pair of late climbs, and all of the action in the peloton drove a pace fast enough to eventually catch the two riders up the road.
Late attacker Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) held out in front until the final few kilometers, but he and all other hopeful aggressors were mopped up by the time the peloton entered the finishing straight. Bouhanni was the strongest rider in the bunch sprint, crossing the line ahead of Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling) and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Alpecin).
“I am very happy with my condition. I must have five or six second places since the start of the season but this was also my fifth victory,” said Bouhanni, who won three stages and the points classification at last year’s Giro d’Italia while riding for FDJ before joining Cofidis for the 2015 season.
“I am gradually getting better ahead of the Tour,” he said. “Now I am going to work on improving in the mountains with an eye on the Tour de France.”
Race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) finished safely in the peloton on the same time as the sprinters, as did his teammate Tejay van Garderen and other GC hopefuls Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Chris Froome (Sky), Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
“Most of the day was standard, but the last 25 or 30 kilometers were a bit hectic and sometimes a bit scary,” Dennis said. “Leading into the final climb, there was a lot of fighting going on to get to the bottom in the front. Then, the last two kilometers, there were a lot of people touching wheels in front of me. In the last 500 meters, there were a lot of near crashes. So it was a little bit of a stressful moment. But we all got through it unscathed.”
The Dauphiné continues with a 161km stage 5 from Digne-les-Bains to Pra-Loup on Thursday.