Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) won the first mountain stage of this years Criterium du Dauphine from a photo finish sprint with Richie Porte (BMC Racing). Chris Froome (Team Sky) crossed the line in 3rd place.
It was only a short 145km stage at the Criterium du Dauphine today but with the Mont du Chat coming at the backend of the stage, it was certainly always going to be a tough day out. Serge Pauwels, our Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka climber, took the stage head on and found the early break of the day. Pauwels was joined by 5 other riders as they drove a high tempo, reaching a lead of 8-minutes over the peloton at one point.
With 60km to go, despite having a rider in the break, AG2R La Mondial started to chase the break furiously. The gap started to drop fast and by the time the tough 8.7km climb started, Pauwels group had just 2-minutes to play with. An early attack on the climb from Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was all that was needed to light the fires in the belly of all the main GC contenders. With the big names all going for it now, the break was never going to survive to the top of the climb with enough time to spare to then also make it down the treacherous 15km descent to the finish in Villars-les-Dombes.
Once Valverde was reeled in, Fuglsang and Fabio Aru (Astana) were the next two big movers and in the process they caught Pauwels and the rest of the breakaway as well. Porte and Froome caught Fuglsang just before the summit of the final climb but Aru started the downhill with a 10 second lead. It was not enough for the Italian to stay away though as he was caught on the downhill and the stage ended in a 4-man sprint, Fuglsang coming out on top. Pauwels would end as our best placed rider on the day, crossing the line in 25th and some 4-minutes down on the winner.
Serge Pauwels – Rider
I managed to get into the break which was my first goal for the day. It all looked pretty good because we got a pretty nice gap but then AG2R started to play a strange game. They weren’t confident in Oliver Naesen and they wanted to win the stage with Bardet. So they started chasing behind and Naesen wasn’t allowed to work anymore which was quite annoying for us. This made the gap come down very quickly in the end and all chances were then gone. I’m still missing a bit of my top shape but that is why I am here, to suffer a bit. Tomorrow I will try take it a bit easier and then maybe go in the break again on Sunday but we will see how the legs recover tomorrow.