First things first: yes, Jonas Vingegaard won the queen stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné with a solo summit finish on the mighty Col de la Croix de Fer; and no, we’re not in the least surprised.
Let’s get through the setup fast. The stage was brutal, with the significant speed bump of the hors catégorie Col de la Madeleine before the double-header of Cols du Mollard (HC) and Croix de Fer (Cat.1). Victor Campenaerts – you read that right – led the race over the first two climbs to take over the KOM jersey, then Jumbo-Visma took over the front of the race. After alarmingly strong earlier efforts by Nathan van Hooydonck and Dylan van Baarle – neither really mountain men – Tiesj Benoot and Attila Valter took over.
What happened next you can write for yourself, even without having seen the stage. Valter began the accelerations to shed the dead weight from the group in the last 7 km, then launched the race leader just outside 5 km to go. And that, as they say, was that.
Only Adam Yates was prepared to respond to Vingegaard’s attack (sort of), and though the Brit was unable to grab hold of the wheel, he was able to stay clear of the rest of the field, which at this point was being scattered like paper to wind.
Among those having a day to forget were French hopeful David Gaudu, Spaniards Mikel Landa and Enric Mas, and third-place overall Julian Alaphilippe. Briefly with them was Egan Bernal, but his recent history supports this being a good ride, and it was about to get better, the Colombian soon climbing away from the floundering GC contenders to go after a decent finish.
With about 4 km to go, a reforming in the chase group allowed Ben O’Connor to regain control after momentarily losing touch earlier on, before pushing the pace himself. But it was Jai Hindley who came out best of the Australians, striding up the higher slopes to grab third on the stage and move up in the standings.
O’Connor’s fourth place at the summit was enough to hold onto the GC podium, but with just 12 seconds between he and his compatriot and one stage to go, Bora-Hansgrohe may be motivated to make something happen on Sunday.
The next to finish an admirable 1:10 down was 20-year-old Max Poole at the head of the chase group containing recent Giro-finisher Jack Haig, Guillaume Martin, Torstein Træen, Louis Meintjes and Ineos Grenadiers pair Dani Martínez and Carlos Rodriguez. Decent.
Top of the class
So, leaving aside the stage winner and reigning Tour de France champion, not to mention his team, who can mark the queen stage as a good day?
Adam Yates is the next-most obvious success story of the day, and while that’s clearly great news for the man himself, it’s also sure to have Tadej Pogačar rubbing his hands together. Remember stage 11 of last year’s Tour? (If you don’t, you could do a lot worse than checking out episode three of the new Netflix documentary, Tour de France: Unchained, and check out our special podcast miniseries too.)
On that most-dramatic, most-sensational, most-celebrated day in the Alps, Pogačar fell victim to the multi-leader structure of Jumbo-Visma, ultimately conceding almost three minutes and the race lead on the Col du Granon. With Adam Yates on flying form at the Dauphiné, the two-time Tour champion and UAE Team Emirates may get closer to matching Jumbo-Visma than ever, at least preventing the same thing from happening two years in a row – though looking at the Jumbo-Visma startlist, the defending team is likely to turn up with a different plan of attack while Primož Roglič stays at home post-Giro (at time of writing).
Also scoring high on the Col de la Croix de Fer are Hindley and O’Connor. Finishing 11 seconds apart and both within 65 seconds of the dominant Dane, each ought to be pretty happy with his effort. For O’Connor it’s a promising repeat of his form 12 months ago, and for Hindley, it’s proof France is hunting ground with the potential to be almost as lucrative as Italy.
As for Poole, the 20-year-old should get a gold star along with his bag-fresh white jersey. He’s one of a number of WorldTour debutants racing their first Critérium du Dauphiné – Lenny Martinez is another, Groupama-FDJ’s best finisher in 12th – but the young Brit has yet again shown his immense ability against some of the world’s best. He did exactly the same at the Tour of the Alps, Tour de Hongrie and put on a phenomenal performance at the Tour de Romandie, where he even got the better of teammate Romain Bardet.
These top performances are especially distinguished when you consider who fell short.
Work to do
It’s just one day in the mountains. Everyone has a bad day, a jour sans, from time to time. But at this point in the season, three weeks from the Tour de France, and against some of their key rivals for yellow, the Dauphiné’s queen stage is not the day on which to fall short.
Some of those who seemed to go pop with the first major accelerations were able to rally and limit their losses, among them Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz, and Alaphilippe – who, mind you, isn’t really expected to contest the yellow jersey in July, and whose finish just five seconds behind Carapaz ought perhaps to be applauded.
But outside the stage top 20 are a handful of riders who have climbed onto, or close to, the final podiums of Grand Tours in the past.
Enric Mas was hauled across the line by teammate Antonio Pedrero 2:49 after Vingegaard, Giulio Ciccone on their tail. Behind further still was David Gaudu at 3:01 in arrears, while Mikel Landa limped across the line 5:46 down in 31st.
Mas, Gaudu, and Landa will all head to the Tour with at least minor favourite classification, and will all be expected to net at least a top-10 result after three weeks of racing. So losing anywhere from three to close to six minutes in one day is worrying to say the least.
If it was just one of them, it might be fair to label this as a ‘bad day’, but that so many imploded at once simply reinforces the theory that there are few – or just a couple – riders who are so much better than the rest of the GC field, and their rivals are no closer to finding a way to bridge the rocky and impassable chasm.
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