Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) won the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine after dropping his final breakaway companion, Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) on the final climb of the stage. Domont held on for 2nd while Diego Ullissi (UAE Emirates) took 3rd place from the main field.
It was a cool start to the Criterium du Dauphine as the peloton started the 170km stage with a bit of light rain about. It turned out to be good conditions for a bike race though and so the pace was on the up all day. Over the the first climb of the day a break of 7 riders formed and the peloton which was led by Team Sky and Trek-Segafredo let the attackers get a lead of 5’30”.
With the gap not coming down our African Team went to the head of the peloton with 80km to go. Ben O’Connor, Natnael Berhane and Jay Thomson then took on the lions share of the workload and started to peg the leaders back. With no assistance from any other team in the peloton though, our 3 riders working on the front could only get the gap to 7 up front down to 2’45” with 30km to go.
As De Gendt kept pilling on the pressure up front, eventually Orica-Scott came to assist with the chase but it was all too late. One by one De Gendt rode his counterparts off his wheel, cresting the final climb alone and with just 7km to go. The Belgian took a good win ahead of Domont while a late move from Ulissi ensured he took 3rd place. Our African Team was left slightly disappointed to come up empty handed after being one of the few teams to try and make a race of today’s stage.
Roger Hammond – Sport Director
It was just one of those difficult days. We obviously wanted to bring it all back together for Edvald but we were the only team interested, We took it on but we needed some help on the finishing circuits. Nobody wanted to help and so the break held on. Not taking anything away from Thomas De Gendt, he did a pretty impressive ride to be honest and he was really strong. The last hurra came for us in the final kilometer when somebody rode across Edvald and took out most of the spokes in his wheel but he didn’t go down and he still got the bunch time in the end.