Olivier Le Gac, usually a loyal domestique, almost experienced his day of glory this Monday in the Critérium du Dauphiné. In stage 2 towards Brives-Charensac, the man from Brittany managed to join the day’s breakaway which, after a thrilling finale, managed to stay away from the bunch. In the home straight, the rider from Groupama-FDJ started his sprint from afar in order to surprise his breakaway’s companions, but two men eventually caught him with twenty metres to go, including winner Alexis Vuillermoz. A frustrating conclusion to a great day in the front.
“The guys encouraged Olivier on the radio”, Thierry Bricaud
Through an undulating terrain, accumulating nearly 3,000 meters of elevation gain, stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné was quite unpredictable. Like the previous day, the Groupama-FDJ cycling team had therefore decided to give it a go at the start. “We planned at the briefing to fight for the stage win through the breakaway”, said Olivier Le Gac. “Given Sunday’s scenario, we knew that some teams would not collaborate with Jumbo-Visma”. “We had this breakaway scenario in mind for yesterday and today”, recalled Thierry. “This scenario of a victorious breakaway was possible, and it often happens in the Dauphiné since there are not many sprinters and because it is difficult to control”. The fight to get in the front eventually lasted for about twenty kilometres, and Olivier Le Gac then managed to take a gap together with Kevin Vermaerke (DSM), Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic), Anders Skaarseth (UnoX), Xandres Vervloesem (Lotto-Soudal), while Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) joined the group a bit later. The six men were able to enjoy a four-minute lead before Jumbo-Visma, defending the yellow jersey, set the pace in the back. At the bottom of the main climb of the day, the Col de Mézhilac (12 km at 4%), the gap was still four minutes between the two groups.
There were certainly still seventy kilometres to go, but the leading men really believed in their chances. “We had a good group in front, we spoke well between each other, and we accelerated in the long climb, which allowed us to put a little pressure on the pack”, explained Olivier. Therefore, despite a clear chase in the peloton, the breakaway still had a 3’30 lead when reaching the top. The road did not immediately go down, however, and the five remaining riders at the head of the race eventually tackled the long descending section with just 1’30 of a gap. “They managed their lead well, although it was never very substantial”, said Thierry. “Then, they gave everything in the final to play for the win”. For about twenty kilometres, the gap then did not fluctuate much before slightly reducing in the two small climbs featuring in the last fifteen kilometres. At the top of the final one, Olivier Le Gac and his four mates still maintained a thirty-second lead. “We all worked well together, and there were riders in good shape in front,” added Olivier. “The guys behind also encouraged Olivier on the radio and gave him small tips”, added Thierry. “In front, they kept believing in it and they did well because they eventually fought for victory”.
“I’ll have to try again”, Olivier Le Gac
Under the flamme rouge, the breakaway still had more than a ten-second gap. There was therefore a bit of gambling before the final battle. “I was in the first position after the corner with 600m to go, I moved aside and Anthony Delaplace launched”, said Olivier at the finish. “I left a small gap to gain momentum and try to surprise them. I think I managed to do that, but I just struggled in the final 100 meters, and I got caught at the very end”. Despite this smart attack, he did not benefit from a wait-and-see attitude among his rivals. He was then overtaken in the last twenty meters by Alexis Vuillermoz and Anders Skaarseth, who prevented him from getting a huge victory. “We’re a bit frustrated that he did not put his hands in the air today, but there is nothing to blame Olivier for, because he did everything he needed to”, greeted Thierry. “He did a nice attack, at the right time, but he missed a little something. He is a generous rider who works for his leaders all year round, and when given the opportunity, he knows how to seize it. It would have been a great reward for him to take this victory”. “It feels good to be part of a breakaway that makes it, but of course I’m disappointed not to win”, concluded Olivier. “I’ll have to try again”. In the meantime, he sits in third place in the general classification of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Monday evening, four seconds behind the yellow jersey.