Pete Kennaugh soloed to a famous win atop Alpe d’Huez on stage seven of the Criterium du Dauphine.
The Brit distanced breakaway companion and former team-mate Ben Swift (UAE Abu Dhabi) on the early slopes of the final climb up to the finish and never looked back, taking the win by 13 seconds.
The pair had formed part of the day’s large 17-man breakaway on a brutal day of climbing in France, and later found themselves in a group of six on the penultimate Col de Sarenne.
But the pair distanced the rest of the break and went head-to-head in the battle for the stage win, with Kennaugh coming out on top.
Down the road Chris Froome was supported by the excellent Michal Kwiatkowski but lost a little time to race leader Richie Porte (BMC) in the closing stages, coming home 25 seconds back on the Australian. He remains second overall, a minute behind Porte.
Speaking after the stage, a shocked Kennaugh revealed his delight at his first win of 2017.
He said: “Being on Alpe d’Huez makes it all the more special. Plus, I didn’t even know I was coming to this race a week before. I was at altitude training in preparation for the Tour de Suisse and then three days before the race they said I had to come here because of injury and illness.
“Now, here I am. It’s funny how the world works sometimes!”
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Asked if he and Swift had spoken much in the closing stages, once they had distanced breakaway companions Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal), Kennaugh said: “We didn’t speak much. Over the top of the Col de Serrada we knew because we know each other so well that we’d have good cohesion and could pull away from the other two.
“Because we know each other so well we don’t really have to talk. Then it was a bit like the nationals – tense. We’re best of mates, but Alpe d’Huez is too big a win to gift either way so it was a fight to the line.”
The British national championships are on Kennaugh and Swift’s home patch this year – the Isle of Man – and he joked: “Tables could turn at the nationals – we’ll have to see!”
Such a strong win will increase Kennaugh’s chances of making the Tour de France team, but he is planning on enjoying this win for now.
“I’m sure they’ll pick the best team,” he added. “For me, if I go to the Tour then great, if I don’t, I’ve got another baby on the way in early August and I’ll reset my goals for the Vuelta.
“For now, I’m happy to be winning on Alpe d’Huez and I’m gonna enjoy the moment.”
Stage seven result:
1. Pete Kennaugh (Team Sky) 4:43:59
2. Ben Swift (UAE Abu Dhabi) +13″
3. Jesus Herrada (Movistar) +1:11″
4. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) +1:13″
5. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) +1:14″
1. Richie Porte (BMC Racing) 20:52:34
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +1:02″
3. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) +1:15″
4. Fabio Aru (Astana) +1:41″
5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:43″