Petr Vakoč made a big impression and finished seventh on the 180km rainy leg that brought more changes to the overall standings.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step were among the key players for the second day running at the Critérium du Dauphiné, on a savage stage which ended up shuffling the cards and leaving an important mark on the general classification. Eight ranked climbs were sprinkled on the route between Mauriac and Craponne-sur-Azoc, and it was on the first that a 13-man group containing Julian Alaphilippe and Rémi Cavagna plugged away.
Winner of the season’s first Monument, Milano-Sanremo, Julian claimed maximum points on the first five climbs of the stage and made significant inroads in the KOM classification. On the false flat that took the riders to Côte de la Baraque, Rémi – a native of the Auvergne region, which the race traversed on Monday – put in several charges, and at one point got clear, before being reeled in by the other escapees. The furious forcing of the peloton, which travelled at an average speed of 44.8km/h, spelled the end of leaders’ time in the front with two climbs still on the menu.
That was the cue for two other Deceuninck – Quick-Step riders – Philippe Gilbert and Petr Vakoč – to go on the attack and open a 50-second buffer over a small field which was counting under 50 riders on the excruciating slopes of Côte de Saint-Victor-sur-Arlanc, a 3.1km-long climb boasting a 9.4% average. The group imploded and many riders got distanced when two riders forged a small gap, which they kept all the way to the finish in Craponne-sur-Azoc.
A debutant at the Dauphiné, Petr gritted his teeth and rode with great composure, limiting the losses over the top of the last ascent, as he got overhauled by a strong group featuring many of the pre-race GC favourites. The Czech, who in February made his return to competition after an injury that kept him on the sidelines during the entire 2018 season, impressed as he continued his upward trajectory, sprinting to seventh place – his first individual top 10 placing of the year.
Sports director Brian Holm gave his take on Monday’s action-packed stage, which the team concluded with six riders, after Tim Declercq’s abandon: “Like yesterday, it was a very hard stage and we tried to get something out of it. Loulou and Rémi rode strongly, but Ineos chased everything down. As soon as there was a regrouping, Phil went away with Petr and they did a good job on this tough parcours. The whole team raced well, but unfortunately we missed out on the win; still, there’s a few more chances left this week and we’ll continue trying.”
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images