The Belgian also took the overall race lead and the KOM jersey on the first stage of the WorldTour race

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) rode to victory on the opening stage of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné, taking the overall race lead with it as he rode celebrating into the finish in Saint Etienne.

>>> Seven things to look out for at the Critérium du Dauphiné 2017

The Belgian had been part of a seven-man breakaway, but dropped the last of his rivals, Axel Domont (Ag2r) towards the top of the final climb on a hilly opening day of the Dauphiné.

De Gendt had around 1-40 on the main peloton behind as he crested the last of eight classified ascents, and had already put 20 seconds into Domont after he increased the pace.

He was then able to push on down the descent, and rolled into Saint Etienne safe in the knowledge that he’d secured his first win of the season.

Thomas De Gendt wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné (Sunada)

Behind, the key GC favourites, including Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Richie Porte (BMC), were able to finish safely together.

How it happened

Axel Domont (Ag2r), Silvio Herklotz (Bora-Hansgrohe), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) and Angel Madrazo (Delko) made up the day’s key breakaway and were allowed away early on and established a maximum gap of over six minutes.

Things rolled on calmly throughout the stage in drizzly, overcast weather, with the race coming to life on the 15km finishing circuits that included three ascents of a third category climb.

That circuit immediately put the sprinters into trouble, with likes of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) all struggling to hold on.

The signs looked good for the breakaway with with two laps to go on the finishing circuit, when they had a gap of 3-40, it began to look like they could hold on.

Dimension Data had done most of the chasing with little help, but Orica-Scott began to realise late-on that a stage win was slipping away and began to work hard to try and bring it all back together.

Up front, Domont and De Gendt went clear from their companions with 23km to go on the penultimate ascent of the climb, and it quickly became clear the former breakaway riders behind had nothing left to close them down.

The breakaway on stage on of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné

Domont and De Gendt had 2-30 on the peloton on final lap, but were rapidly losing time by the kilometre.

When De Gendt dropped Domont with just over 1km to go on the climb and held a significant gap over the top, it was clear that it was set to be Lotto-Soudal’s day with no way for the peloton to come back.

Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates), Pierre LaTour (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) were able to get away from the bunch on the final climb, taking two seconds on the riders behind but still finishing 57 seconds behind winner De Gendt.

Stage two will see the riders take on a more conventional sprint stage, with a 171km route from Saint Chamond to Arlanc.

Results

Critérium du Dauphiné 2017, stage one: Saint Etienne – Saint Etienne (170km)

1 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal, in 4-17-04
2 Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 44s
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Team UAE Emirates, at 57s
4 Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 59s
7 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis
8 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
9 Ben Swift (GBr) Team UAE Emirates
10 Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team

Thomas De Gendt in yellow at the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné (Sunada)

General classification after stage one

1 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal, in 4-17-04
2 Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 48s
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Team UAE Emirates, at 1-03
4 Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 1-07
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida, at 1-09
7 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis
8 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
9 Ben Swift (GBr) Team UAE Emirates
10 Michael Valgren (Den) Astana Pro Team