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The U.S. rider on Team DSM snuck into the day’s winning move and the break just fended off the pack to challenge for the win.
Vermaerke was bitterly disappointed at the line, however, after his legs ran out of gas to finish fourth in the stage.
“I am pretty disappointed, to be honest,” Vermaerke said. “We had a plan to get me into the break and we thought it would be a good stage for the break to go. The team set me up to be in there and the break cooperated all day.”
The fact that the fourth place is his best result since turning pro in 2021 with Team DSM didn’t serve as a salve.
“I am really disappointed I didn’t have a sprint there in the end, because you don’t get many chances to win a stage at the Dauphiné,” he said. “I let that one fall through my hands. That’s going to sting for a while.”
Also read: Critérium du Dauphiné race preview
Speaking to VeloNews at the start of the stage, Vermaerke said he would try to ride into the break, and moments later, his teammate helped set him to make the surge to ride into the six-rider break early in the stage.
The group built up a four-minute lead over two third category and a second-category climb, losing just one of their number along the way, and the gap was still under a minute with 10km to go. Battling a stiff headwind, the group committed to the line and finished just a few seconds ahead of the chasing GC pack.
“We knew it was pretty technical coming into the last ‘K’ and maybe if I started in the back I could have come in better, but it was touch and go in the moment,” Vermaerke said at the line. “I am just disappointed right now.
“There was a headwind, it was pretty hard in the last 20km. We knew it was going to be close when we had one minute. We just made it, but it wasn’t good enough for the win.”
Battling for a spot on the Tour de France squad
With the mountains looming later this week in the Alps, the Team DSM rider knew his best chance to help himself was to go on the march.
The second-year WorldTour pro was not only chasing a stage win but a possible shot at starting the Tour de France as well.
Vermaerke told VeloNews at the start of the stage there is a chance he could get the nod to start the Tour next month.
“I am not sure. I am on the long list for the team, so there’s a chance I will go to the Tour,” he said. “I am trying not to think about it too much, and whatever happens happens. The Dauphiné is a pretty big race, too, so I am going to enjoy it.
“If I do not go to the Tour, there’s a good chance I will go to the Vuelta,” he said. “The goal is to do a grand tour this year and I am really looking forward to it.”
There was some consolation for Vermaerke as the 21-year-old grabbed the best young rider’s jersey and will carry it into Tuesday’s third stage.
The former U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion earned some podium time and he climbed into fifth overall, not a bad day’s work.
“This is the highest level of racing, so to be up there in the finish is always a good sign,” he said. “I always push myself to do better. It’s a good sign, but when you’re that close, it makes you more bitter when you miss out.”