David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) produced a superbly executed throw to steal the win from Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) on stage three of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Van Aert, who launched his attack early in the closing stages of the race on the summit finish up Chastreix-Sancy, looked like he had the power and strength to hold onto the stage win. As he celebrated what he thought would be his second win at this year's Dauphiné, though, Gaudu sprinted up his blind side and threw his wheel towards the line.
The Frenchman finished half a wheel ahead of Van Aert, whose premature celebrations left him hanging his head immediately afterwards. However, his spirits will improve somewhat as he reclaims the yellow jersey for the fourth stage tomorrow, an individual time trial.
Cofidis rider Victor Lafay finished on the final step of the podium.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage two concluded with a dramatic breakaway sprint, won by Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies). The Frenchman entered the third day wearing the yellow leaders jersey, ahead of a 169km race from Saint-Paulien to Chastreix-Sancy in a hilly stage.
The day started with an early breakaway, formed of Omer Goldstein (Israel-Premier Tech), Sebastian Schönberger (B&B Hotels-KTM), Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling) and Thomas Champion (Cofidis). They quickly gained 90 seconds on the peloton, which seemed content in letting the quartet go as the pace looked comfortable for all of the riders.
Little else happened in the opening 40km, with the lead rising to 2-30 during this time. Goldstein did decided to drop out of the breakaway during this period, though, re-joining the peloton to leave just three riders out front.
The first of three categorised climbs of the day, up Côte de Saint-Vert, presented a 3.5km climb at a 6% gradient. Schönberger crossed the summit first, and during the descent the break's lead gradually rose, reaching as high as three minutes 40 seconds.
At this stage, a trio of B&B Hotels-KTM riders, in the form of Pierre Rolland, Alexis Gougeard and Miguel Heidemann all attacked from the peloton. They quickly gained on the riders out front, and, with 100km remaining in the race, joined the lead breakaway group. This meant there was now four B&B Hotels-KTM riders in the six-man breakaway.
With the peloton a further three minutes back, B&B Hotels-KTM managed to control the tempo and get mountains classification leader Rolland into a stronger position to take maximum points on at least one of the remaining two classified climbs. Rolland won the intermediate sprint to Issoire with just over 70km left, before crossing the categorised climb at Côte de Besse-en-Chandesse first with only 33km remaining.
By then, Heidemann, Gougeard and Champion had all dropped out of the breakaway, with the day's climbing properly starting just after the sprint to Issoire. On the approach to the second categorised climb at Côte de Besse-en-Chandesse, with just 30km to go, the peloton was 2-15 back.
During this climb, multiple riders dropped out of the peloton as they struggled to maintain the pace. The time gap between the bunch and the breakaway continued to gradually come down as well, with it just under a minute into the final minute. With Jumbo-Visma driving on the peloton, this fell even further over the next kilometres, with the gap just 35 seconds heading into the final 10km.
Heading up the final climb of the day, the Chastreix-Sancy - a 6.2km climb at 5.6% - Rolland dropped out of the breakaway, with Schönberger caught shortly afterwards. Jonas Gregaard decide to attack at this point, though, but his effort proved insufficient as the peloton, led by Jumbo-Visma, comfortably closed the gap.
The summit finish up Chastreix-Sancy meant it was unlikely a sprinter would take a stage win, and an attack by Tsgabu Grmay (BikeExchange-Jayco) midway up the climb saw the pace intensify rapidly. Rémi Cavagna (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) decided to follow, but Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) quelled each attack.
GC leader Vuillermoz struggled at to keep the pace as he dropped off the back of the bunch, while at the front no attacks were forthcoming with 2km to go. Wout Van Aert couldn't hang on either, but Primož Roglič expertly slowed the tempo down to provide his teammate the perfect opportunity to get to the front.
Off the wheel of Vingegaard, Van Aert launched his attack and looked certain to take another stage win at this year's Critérium du Dauphiné. However, in a dramatic twist,
David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) nicked the win on the line with a superb throw. Van Aert, celebrating too early, didn't see the Frenchman come on his blind side as the Groupama-FDJ man took the race win.
Van Aert hung his head in disappointment after crossing the line, realising he had thrown away a guaranteed victory. He will wear the yellow jersey for the individual time trial tomorrow, though, which will somewhat add some relief to his mistake.
In the end, Gaudu finished half a wheel ahead of Van Aert, with Victor Lafay (Cofidis) finishing third.
CRITÉRIUM DU DAUPHINÉ, STAGE THREE: SAINT-PAULIEN TO CHASTREIX-SANCY (169KM)
1. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 4-09-38
2. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma
3. Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis
4. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-EasyPost
5. Kevin Geniets (Ned) Groupama-FDJ
6. Nick Schultz (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious
8. Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Victorious
9. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar
10. Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE THREE
1. Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 12-50-32
2. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 6 seconds
3. Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis, at 12s
4. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 16s
5. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at same time
6. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) EF Education-EasyPost
7. Esteban Chaves (Col) EF Education-EasyPost
8. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma
9. Steff Cras (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
10. Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën
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