A much needed victory for Dimension Data
The stage win and leader’s jersey will be welcomed not only by the rider, but also his Dimension Data team, who failed to pick up any stage victories at the Giro d’Italia, in what had thus far been a rather barren 2019 season.
This was in part due to the continuing return to fitness of Mark Cavendish, who has only recently beaten the Epstein-Barr virus that has plagued his form and performances for the past two seasons. With Cavendish at the Tour of Slovenia to prepare for the Tour de France, Dimension Data will look to build on their success this week as the Manxman and his team prepare for another attempt at hunting down Eddy Merckx’s stage victory record in July.
Breakaway nearly makes it
When you have the likes of Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Magnus Cort (Astana) as escapees, it’s unlikely to be the usual tale of cat and mouse between the breakaway and the peloton.
As the riders ascended the Roquenatou 20km from the finish line, the six-man break started to falter, with only Naesen and Cort managing to stay up the road, with another talented rider Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) soon joining them.
The trio came so close to staving off the bunch, with the catch only being made with 700m left to race, with the ensuing sprint from a reduced peloton proving an awkward affair.
Sprinters miss out after lumpy run-in
The lumpy parcours provided a category one climb 34km into the race, but that was too far out to really be decisive. Instead, two ascents of the category two Roquenatou in the closing 40km would whittle the peloton down and result in a smaller bunch going on to contest the victory, with a number of fast men missing out.
The likes of Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), who won a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire, and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) made it to the line to finish in the top 10, but Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) was dropped on the first ascent and Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) couldn’t keep up on the second, while André Greipel (Arkéa-Samsic) was also one of the last to finish 15 minutes back.
Deceuninck – Quick-Step are back
The Belgian team didn’t win a stage at the 2019 Giro d’Italia, with Elia Viviani coming closest after crossing the line first before being disqualified for an irregular sprint.
But that didn’t seem to matter after their phenomenal spring Classics campaign, and the pressure also seems to be off the team at the Dauphiné, with Alaphilippe saying he had no ambitions for the GC but would like to win a stage, although if he didn’t it wouldn’t be a catastrophe.
That doesn’t mean Deceuninck – Quick-Step wouldn’t try, though, and on stage one where right up there at business end of the race when it mattered. As the breakaway were caught, Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert were immediately at the front of the race. The Frenchman led out the Belgian and had it not been for Boasson Hagen’s craftiness, Gilbert would have beaten Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) to the line to take the stage win and yellow jersey.
Bjorg Lambrecht shows his class
As the race started coming back together up the final ascent of Roquenatou with 20km to go, Bjorg Lambrecht (Lotto-Soudal) leapt from the peloton and started hunting down the remnants of the breakaway.
The 22-year-old soon caught Oliver Naesen and Magnus Cort, just as the duo were fading, and breathed new life into the escapees, helping to extend the gap back out to 35 seconds and keep them out of the clutches of the peloton right until the death.
Following a string of impressive performances in the spring Classics, with fourth at La Flèche Wallonne, fifth at Brabantse Pijl and sixth in the Amstel Gold Race , Lotto-Soudal signed up the Belgian youngster to ride for them for another two seasons last week.