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Critérium du Dauphiné: Brandon McNulty hopes to keep up American run of form as race heads into mountains

French race has seen strong results from Sean Quinn and Kevin Vermaerke in opening two days.

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Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) is hoping to keep up the American run of form at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

The opening days of the race have seen Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost) and Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) hitting third and fourth respectively in the stage results with Vermaerke now sitting fifth overall after making into stage 2’s winning breakaway.

After two days of rolling terrain, the climbers will get their first real chance to show themselves with the uphill finish on Tuesday’s stage 3 from Saint-Paulien to Chastreix-Sancy.

“We’ve got two [American] guys with top 5 results so it’s been a good showing so far, so we hope to continue that,” McNulty told reporters at the start of stage 3.

“I’ve been ok for the last few days but today will obviously be the test to see how I’m actually going, but I’m looking forward to it.”

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The Critérium du Dauphiné is McNulty’s first race since leaving the Tour de Romandie early after picking up a respiratory tract infection. It was the latest in a string of setbacks for the American this spring after missing Itzulia Basque Country due to a COVID-19 infection and crashing out of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Despite the missteps, McNulty has had a solid 2022 with three victories to his name so far at the Trofeo Calvia, the Faun-Ardèche Classic, and a stage of Paris-Nice. McNulty is looking to find that success again at the Dauphiné as he targets the overall classification.

“It’s been super nice finally having quite a few victories. I had a little mid-season reset and now I’m here to get some more results and then I go on to the bigger races at the end of the year,” he said. “For sure, the GC with the time trial tomorrow, it’s quite long, I’m definitely aiming for the overall.”

There will be some sterner tests for McNulty and his fellow GC hopefuls as the Dauphiné progresses with two big mountain stages at the weekend, and a 32km time trial Wednesday — which will be where McNulty will be looking to gain some big time advantages — but the summit finish at Chastreix-Sancy could still cause some trouble.

The riders will already be over 1,000 meters of altitude when the second category final climb begins. It is just 6.2km and averages 5.6 percent, but it has some tricky sections that could be used to force gaps between the overall favorites.

“You can definitely lose the GC, but I don’t know if it will be as selective to put huge gaps in. It’s definitely where you can lose it but not win it,” McNulty explained. “I think it’ll be hard but it’s not a super steep climb, there are some level areas on it. I think some guys will give it a go.

“It’s going to be full gas on the climb, but maybe you can save a tiny bit for the TT.”