Richie Porte narrowly missed taking a second stage win on Critérium du Dauphiné stage 6 in a nail-biting four-man sprint to the line, taking second place and inheriting the leader’s yellow jersey.
After four flat stages and a time trial, stage 6 was the first General Classification battle in the mountains with the hors categorie Mont du Chat climb in the last 30km and the tricky descent to the finish line set to shake things up.
Multiple breakaway attempts played out in the opening 15km before six riders went clear and gained a solid advantage of almost eight minutes.
The peloton controlled the race situation for the first half before the teams eyeing the stage win started to bring the six riders back on the approach to Cote de Jongieux.
With 30km to go as Mont du Chat loomed, the breakaway’s advantage was down to five minutes. 5km later, it was Porte’s BMC Racing Team teammates who were at the front of the bunch.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) was the first rider to attack from the General Classification group on the ascent, as up ahead the breakaway started to split apart. Porte stayed calm and as the virtual yellow jersey, he responded to each attack to bring the group back together on multiple occasions.
Fabio Aru and Jakob Fulgsang (Astana Pro Team) launched a solid attack and as Porte responded, it was only Chris Froome (Team Sky) who could stay on Porte’s wheel. The duo eventually picked up Fulgsang and the trio reached the summit 10 seconds behind Aru.
On the downhill the trio caught Aru and the quartet navigated the tricky descent together before it flattened out 3km before the line.
In a rare sight, four General Classification riders went for the sprint, and as they crossed the line it looked like Porte was the winner. A photo finish revealed Fulgsang just edged Porte out of the win but Porte was able to take consolation in the yellow jersey.
Porte now leads the General Classification by 39 seconds over Froome and 1’15” on Fulgsang with two more days in the mountains to come.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“I’m really happy with how the stage went. It really came down to all the leaders racing one on one. No one really had any teammates except Aru. I wasn’t really looking forward to coming down that descent so, to come through that stage was good. In the end it was fast but it went well. I came so close to the stage win in the sprint, although maybe it was not the most exciting sprint with four GC guys. But, it’s great just to have the jersey. I know it’s an uphill battle to keep it but I think today went really well.”
“We went fast up the climb but coming down there was a lot of speed so it was nice to get down safely. From KM 0, the guys were on the front and we didn’t have much help until the final with AG2R La Mondiale. There was a lot of attacks but my team stayed calm and I was happy to come over the top with just me, Froome, Aru and Fuglsang. It was a good stage and a crazy descent in the end but I think I am in a good place.”
“It’s nice to have the jersey but I know that the next two days are going to be super hard. But, I feel up to it and we have the team here to try and finish it off on Sunday. I think I had the target on my back this morning but I have a fantastic team here. I feel good. I’m in good form and I would love to keep this jersey until Sunday.”
Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“We started as if we had the yellow jersey on our back. We knew Lotto-Soudal wouldn’t want to control so we were focused on the team from the beginning. There was a strong, dangerous move of 10-15 guys but then a good group of six riders went. We let them go and Serge Pauwels (Dimension-Data) was the biggest threat at 3’38” on GC. We were riding for the yellow jersey, not the stage win. We let the breakaway go out to more than eight minutes knowing we could close 4-5 minutes before the climb. Everything went well. Ag2r La Mondiale were motivated for the stage and that made it easier for us.”
“Riche was really strong on the climb. He was smart and calm, and followed the right riders. Then, he waited for the last 3km before he went deep. The descent was perfect and it will give him more confidence. We missed the victory. I think without the movement of Froome, Richie probably would have won as he looked really fast. Now, we defend the jersey. Richie is for sure one of the strongest here and we have a great team. It won’t be easy but we are in a good position.”