The 2022 Critérium du Dauphiné was set to end on the Plateau de Solaison this Sunday afternoon. In a short but dynamic eighth and final stage, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team first went for victory by putting Michael Storer and Bruno Armirail into the breakaway. The Australian did take advantage of his French mate’s hard work, but he couldn’t hold off the bunch in the last climb, taking 19th place and the most combative prize. As for David Gaudu, he suffered a bad day, was unable to stay with best and finally placed seventeenth overall.
“We had little hope, but we had to try”, Michael Storer
Between Saint-Alban-Leysse and the Plateau de Solaison, only 138 kilometres were to be covered to complete the Critérium du Dauphiné, but no less than 3800 meters of elevation gain featured along the way. After a hilly start to the stage, riders especially had to deal with the Col de la Colombière and the ascent of the Plateau de Solaison in order to finish the event. The Groupama-FDJ cycling team started this last day of racing with a dual objective: the stage win and the overall. This is why, from the first climb of the day, Bruno Armirail and Michael Storer both attacked from the bunch to slip into the breakaway. However, the latter did not establish itself straight away, and they had to fight for almost twenty kilometres, including on the Col de Plainpalais (9 km at 6.5%), to finally take a gap on the bunch. The gap actually increased to two minutes… but not much more. In the back, the team from yellow jersey Primoz Roglic maintained the pressure and left no margin to the fifteen leading riders. At the bottom of the Col de la Colombière (12 km at 5.7%), the lead of the breakaway was only one minute and a half, and Bruno Armirail then took control to speed up the pace. The breakaway split and its lead returned beyond two minutes. After a huge pull, the Frenchman was dropped three kilometres from the top, and Michael Storer tackled the downhill further up the road together with George Bennett, Jan Hirt, Laurens De Plus, Eddie Dunbar and Kenny Elissonde.
Unfortunately for the fugitives, the pack also accelerated, and the gap was again 1’30 at the top. After a long descent and a bit of flat road, the leading men eventually started the ascent of the Plateau de Solaison (11.4 km at 9%) with only a minute lead. Storer proved to be among the strongest up front, but favourites group caught him and the others with seven kilometres to go. “It was a very hard day, and unfortunately Jumbo-Visma was riding too fast behind”, commented the Australian. “We had little hope, but we had to try anyway. I spoke with Bruno, and we had to go hard in the Col de la Colombière. We still rode fast today, I pushed quite big numbers, but it was not enough to hold off Jumbo-Visma”. Once he got caught, Michael Storer reached the finish line at his own pace, in nineteenth place, and was then awarded the most combative prize. “We were up there, we had a role in the race,” said Frédéric Guesdon. “The problem is that the peloton did not play with the breakaway, which obviously upset our plans for the stage win. Bruno and Michael did everything right, we can’t blame them for anything. We have no regrets. They were just beaten by stronger riders, who today were the GC guys in. Jumbo-Visma decided to go for the stage, so we cannot be disappointed from this point of view”.
“I’ll have to bounce back”, David Gaudu
David Gaudu, on the other hand, experienced a more difficult day to complete this Critérium du Dauphiné. Right up there in a small bunch of around thirty men with Kevin Geniets, Bruno Armirail and Rudy Molard at the bottom of the Plateau de Solaison, the French climber was quickly forced to let the GC group go. “There are days when things don’t go well, when the body says no. Today was one of those days”, the young man briefly said. “I tried to hold on but unfortunately, I realized I couldn’t. I am very disappointed, and I apologize to the team. There isn’t much else to say. I’ll need to bounce back and rest. The third week of the Tour is still a long way off”. David Gaudu reached the line with Rudy Molard and Kevin Geniets and eventually took seventeenth place overall, far from his morning goal. “We hoped to climb in the general rankings with David, but it did not go as we would have liked”, concluded Frédéric. “It’s sport, and today it didn’t go our way. He had a bad day, we are disappointed, but we must not forget that he had not raced for a long time. In the end, it’s still not a bad Criterium du Dauphiné. We won a stage and performed well every day. We must keep the positive, the week’s balance remains very decent, and the goal still is the Tour. We need to keep our spirits up and there is still a bit of work to do”.