Stage one of this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné was supposed to be the easy stage. Already shortened to five days as a result of the compressed calendar due to the coronavirus crisis, the Dauphiné is simply riddled with mountains this year, and today was the easiest of them all. But all you had to do was look at the faces of some of the riders as they approached the finish, as their expressions told an entirely different story. For while there were no high mountains on the opening stage, the 218-kilometer ride from Clermont-Ferrand to Saint-Christo-en-Jarez, rarely had any flat sections, and combined with latent humidity, took its toll.
And four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome certainly would not argue. After all, he was one of the day’s principal victims, finishing over five minutes down on the eventual winner, Wout van Aert.
Van Aert of course, is fresh off of stunning victories at Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo, and is virtually unbeatable, as is his Jumbo Visma team, who simply increased the pressure throughout the stage, keeping team leader Primož Roglič out of trouble, and setting van Aert up perfectly for the stage win.
But things will change tomorrow as the 135-kilometer stage 2 finishes on the steep Col de Porte just outside of Grenoble.