Road

Critérium du Dauphiné stage 1: Wout van Aert continues winning streak

Team Jumbo-Visma in absolute control in the final 20km to deliver Van Aert into a winning position in the final meters.

Wout van Aert continued his winning streak on the opening day of the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné.

Speaking to the press pool following his win, van Aert said, “Apparently I have good legs. I came really tired in the hotel yesterday after a few days off. The team still wanted to do the perfect job for me today because we saw some chances in this stage and when you have such a team – Tony Martin to begin and all of these strong leaders to pull for me in the end – I had so much motivation to go all out in the sprint. It feels great.”

The Jumbo-Visma star won both Milano-Sanremo and Strade Bianche in the previous weeks, since the season restarted after the COVID-19 pause.

“For sure it is another achievement that I didn’t have yet. I got the yellow jersey in the Dauphiné, it looks quite similar to the one in the TDF. So, maybe that is a step up for the future. I’m going to enjoy my day tomorrow and then we will change roles and I will help the team,” van Aert added.

Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) came from way back and challenged van Aert’s late uphill attack in the final 300 meters, nearly missing the win by less than a bike length.

Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) was right on Impey’s wheel, but could not get around the fast-charging South African in the closing meters of the first stage of the Tour de France dress rehearsal.

The day-long break saw Michael Schär (Team CCC) get caught by Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept) with just 25 kilometers to go.

The two were pursued by Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept).

But within just 2km of Pacher making it to the front of the break, the rider from the continental team slid out on a fast descent through a series of hairpin turns.

Kragh Andersen and Slagter then made it up to Schär, and the three traded attacks for several kilometers before Schär threw in the towel and dropped back to the hard-chasing main bunch which included all the GC favorites, except for Chris Froome (Team Ineos) who struggled to maintain contact with the back of the peloton.

With just 15 kilometers to go, Jumbo-Visma exercised absolute control over the front of the group, barely sharing leadership with Team Ineos.

From this point, van Aert stayed safely tucked behind teammates Sepp Kuss, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Dumoulin, and Robert Gesink.

In the final kilometer, van Aert positioned himself to attack from the front, and when he did, Bernal and Impey reacted swiftly, but both just ran out of road before the line.

For their efforts, Bernal now wears the white jersey of the best young rider, while Schär — who just this week announced his transfer to AG2R-La Mondiale for the 2021 season — is now in the polka-dotted KOM jersey.

Impey said of the day’s events, “I had a good feeling. Second of a rather difficult stage, it’s really nice. Losing to Wout, it’s okay even though it would have been nice to beat him. In the sprint, I knew I had to stay near Wout but there was also [Egan] Bernal and [Michał] Kwiatkowski. I tried to go to the right but lost speed and Wout made the hole. I came back on him a bit but he was too strong.”

Stage two undulates over 135km, from Vienne to Col de Porte, and over several categorized climbs before arriving at the final ascent of the day. To be sure, the hors catégorie Col de Porte will favor the climbers.