Stage 1 of the Critérium du Dauphiné saw the peloton tackle a nervous 170.5km stage, featuring eight categorized climbs, with Richie Porte finishing safely in the bunch behind solo stage winner Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal).
After multiple attacks a group of seven riders went clear after 10km of racing and slowly built a solid advantage over the peloton, which reached a maximum of seven minutes.
The peloton had picked up the chase by the time they passed the finish line for the first time ahead of three laps of the 15km circuit, and the gap was down to 3’30” with 30km to go.
Ahead, De Gendt and Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) went solo from the breakaway, and riders started to drop from the peloton as they tackled the category three Cote de Rochetaillée climb.
Porte was well protected at the front of the bunch with his teammates around him and despite some strong efforts from riders at the front, De Gendt and Domont still had 1’45” with 10km remaining.
De Gendt launched the winning move 2km later and behind, the gap started to fall. 5km before the finish line it was Nicolas Roche who was leading the peloton, with Porte in his wheel.
Despite the efforts of the reduced bunch, De Gendt held on to take the win and Porte finished safely in the bunch with the other General Classification contenders 59 seconds behind.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“It was a hard stage to get things started. It’s just nice to get the race started as it seemed like we’ve been sitting in the hotel room forever. I think the team did a fantastic job today. It was the first time to ride with Kilian Frankiny and for me, he is going to be so good in the future. He was brilliant. He may be a neo professional but he was up with us the whole time and he was punching with some of the biggest names in cycling.”
“I think the signs are good for this week. We have a fantastic team here so we’ll just see how the next days go. Obviously the next weekend is the big crunch time. I think the GC guys will be on the look out everyday. There will be some hard starts with quite a lot of uphill starts but we’ll be looking more towards the time trial and mountain stages.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“I’m satisfied with how the team raced. I asked them to be really attentive at the beginning because it was really important. One moment after 10km, there were 30 riders away. We were well-represented at the front. It was up to the teams who wanted to win the stage to chase. For us, the priority was to stay out of trouble and keep Richie in front. At the end, the race was really hard. We saw a lot of riders dropped but, Richie finished with the main group and that’s what is important.”