Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates) recorded his first professional victory on the Criterium du Dauphiné’s stage 4time trial, the three-time U23 world TT champion quickest over the 31.1 km course to move into the overall lead of the race.
Jumbo-Visma’s Jonas Vingegaard, the defending Tour de France champion, was second on the stage, 12 seconds down, with Soudal Quick-Step’s Rémi Cavagna third, 27 seconds adrift.
The Danish pair of Bjerg and Vingegaard replace Christophe Laporte and Julian Alaphilippe as the top two on GC, the UAE man now with a 12-second lead over Vingegaard. Fred Wright’s impressive fourth on the stage moves him up to third overall, 34 seconds down.
Behind the current podium come some climbers who will likely rise up further in the coming days as the heads uphill. Ag2r Citroën’s Ben O’Connor sits fourth, 29 seconds behind Vingegaard after a strong TT performance, while Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), Dani Martínez (Ineos Grenadiers), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Bahrain-Victorious Jack Haig (not so) fresh from the Giro all now sit in the top 11 spots on GC following impressive efforts.
Amongst the GC losers of the day were Enric Mas (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) who lost around three minutes to Bjerg’s best time, and Richard Carapaz (EF Education EasyPost), who shipped 2:39. Meanwhile, Egan Bernal, still on his comeback from injury, finished two seconds faster than Carapaz.
For Vingegaard, it was reassurance that things are heading in the right direction for July.
“I think of course I would hope to win the stage and take the yellow jersey but I think Mikkel did a really good time trial today, I think I also did a really good time trial,” Vingegaard said after the finish. “It was really impressive by Mikkel and by now it looks like he will take the jersey but hopefully I can take it in the next few days.”
“Yeah for sure,” he answered when asked whether it was better to not have yellow tomorrow. “Then we don’t have to pull.”
In a display of the Dane’s hunger for victory this week, he was already analysing moments after the end of his effort where he may have lost those 12 seconds to Bjerg, especially after clocking a 12-second advantage at the first intermediate time check:
“It was the plan to go off hard, I think maybe I went a bit too hard and tried to save a bit in the middle and go hard again in the last part but when I had to go there was nothing to go with,” Vingegaard explained. “So yeah maybe I should have gone a bit easier in the start and then I’d have had a bit more at the end.”
Bjerg, often found in service to Tadej Pogačar instead of exploring his own out-sized talent, was overcome with emotion when his victory was confirmed.
“I worked so hard for this pro victory, I’m just so relieved that I’ve finally got it now,” Bjerg said, choking back tears.
“I’ve felt like I had so many chances to do it but just didn’t live up to my own expectations. Even this morning I doubted myself, said the course was too hard. My manager texted me to just go for it today, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m just so happy.”
Explaining how he went about it, the 24-year-old said he held a little bit more back on the first climb.
“The first climb I wanted to go hard but not above my limit because there were some really hard climbs coming later … the last five km I was on time with Cavagna and then could just power it home. I just thought about my wife and then I just rode to the finish line.”
Bjerg finally thanked his team and sponsors for the improvements to their equipment over the winter and said it was up to the riders now to show off how fast they could be – a potential warning to Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma as the two teams gear up for their battle at the forthcoming Tour.
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