A slightly hilly stage opened the 74th edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday. It was certainly not hilly enough to see a fight between the general classification contenders, but it surely was enough to get rid of the pure sprinters. At the finish in Beauchastel, Wout van Aert then won the sprint. David Gaudu, like all his teammates, safely finished in the leading bunch.

Barely a week after the end of the Giro d’Italia, the preparation for the Tour de France is in full swing. Considered one of the main rehearsals before the French event, the Critérium du Dauphiné then started on Sunday in Ardèche. The opening day of racing was made of 191 kilometres, with two loops around Beauchastel that included a climb of about nine kilometres. Long before that, three men broke away to establish the day’s breakaway: Pierre Rolland (B&B Hôtels-KTM), Maxime Bouet (Arkéa-Samsic) and Laurens Huys (Intermarché-Wanty Gobert). The peloton first let the gap grow to three minutes before keeping it around two minutes after the first hour of racing. “Kevin, Olivier and Val could try to go in the front, but we wanted it to be a larger group, of 7-8 riders”, said Frédéric Guesdon. “I think a lot of teams had the same idea, because everyone knows that the break can make it in the first stage here. The start was still quite hard, and it was not so easy to be in front. Only three took the lead, quite early, and that probably satisfied a lot of teams. From then on, the goal was to stay around David and to get back to race mode for everyone”.

“To improve over the week”, Frédéric Guesdon

In the second part of the race, the peloton kept the breakaway under control, and started the last climb just two minutes behind. The gap was very quickly closed as Trek-Segafredo increased the pace to drop the pure sprinters. The peloton therefore reduced a bit, the day’s breakaway got caught, and Valentin Madouas followed a few moves approaching the summit before everything came back to normal. “We needed to be very attentive on the last climb and to be positioned on the descent so as not to be caught behind splits, which they did well”, added Frédéric. “We wanted the riders to get back in the rhythm in this opening stage, and they were not going so bad eventually. We now intend to improve over the week”. At the finish, the seven riders from the team did indeed arrive in the main peloton, outsprinted by Wout van Aert in Beauchastel. “Everything went well for us”, concluded Frédéric. On Monday, a rather particular stage will be on the menu for the riders on the Critérium du Dauphiné. They will have to survive a long ascending portion of about twenty kilometres, before gradually descending towards Brives-Charensac in the last forty kilometres.

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