Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) took victory in the sixth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, sprinting from a break which lasted for over 200 kilometres.
The Frenchman made the decisive move around 10km after the flag drop, taking with him Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) and Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe).
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The trio worked together consistently to build up a monster lead close to 14 minutes at most.
Fireworks kicked off on the final climb, with De Marchi distanced, leaving just Mühlberger for Alaphilippe to dispatch in the closing metres, via a photo finish bike throw.
Over six minutes later, Wout Poels (Ineos) won the bunch gallop from a reduced GC group – with Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) safely finishing and retaining the leader’s jersey.
How it happened
Stage six of the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné was always going to be a war of attrition – with eight classified climbs rearing their heads over the course of the 228 kilometres from Plaine de l’Ain to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.
The final summit finish came before a technical 7.5km descent, laden with 20 hairpins – making this a race for a rider who could both climb, and descend. A break of three, however, denied the chances of anyone left in the peloton.
Under heavy rain, the bunch set a high pace from the opening kilometres, with riders losing contact soon after the flag drop. At around the 10km mark, Alaphilippe attacked – taking with him De Marchi and Mühlberger.
This caused a split in the peloton, which came together again soon after – whilst the three leaders were allowed to ride away.
With 20km covered, the break had built a buffer of 1 minute 10 seconds. The peloton showed no interest in chasing, allowing the gap to stretch to five minutes with 185km to go.
Once the break reached the first of eight classified climbs – the category two Col de la Chambotte – they had built up a gap of 7-45, a lead which grew to 9-15 over the course of the 5km ascent at 7.8 per cent.
Next up was the category four Côte de Lachat – shorter and shallower at 2.9km and 4.7 per cent. Alaphilippe was first over the summit, drawing him level with KOM jersey Casper Pedersen (Sunweb).
Soon after came the Col de Frêne, then the Côte de Châteauneuf. With 85km left of the day, the lead was as much as 13-50 – whilst Team Ineos and EF Education First came to the fore of the peloton in an attempt to control the losses.
Over the Côte d’Aiton and Côte de Saint-Georges-d’Hurtières, Alaphilippe lead once again – picking up more climber’s points – and with 65km to go, the gap was holding steady at a consistent 13-40.
Reaching the summit of the sixth climb, José Gonçalves (Katusha-Alpecin) attacked the peloton, riding clear by 30s.
He had ahead of him a long chase to the leaders, who were well over 12 minutes up the road. Ultimately, his fight was unsuccessful, as the peloton scooped him up 30km from the line.
The break quickly dispatched of the 1.6km Côte du Bochet (1.6km at 7.4 per cent), their lead stretching to 12-24, leaving only the 8.1km Col de Beaune to do battle with, before the long descent to the line.
The trio continued to work together – battling strong crosswinds which would later split the peloton – but losing little of their significant time gap.
Back in the bunch, GC teams came to the fore with protected riders sitting close to the front as the break passed through the last lap bell before a final circuit with 16km to go.
Once the bunch thundered through the finish line to the sound of the bell, the break had 12.6km left, with a lead of 9-18. Confident in success, the trio’s organisation was faltering, as thoughts turned to the win.
Accelerations kicked off soon after, Alaphilippe surged but De Marchi and Mühlberger followed immediately. The French rider called his team car for a bidon, but was refused – being within the final 20km.
Behind, both stage four and five winner Wout van Aert (LottoNL-Jumbo) plus Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) were dropped from the peloton – the latter reportedly still struggling with injuries following his Giro crash.
Whilst Ineos drove the pace with a line up at the front, yellow jersey Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) looked comfortable in the wheels. Wanty–Groupe Gobert’s Guillaume Martin took a flyer from the bunch, dangling ahead on the climb for some time, before being brought back.
More attacks came from the break with 9km left, this time from De Marchi – but his accomplices followed and countered, almost putting him in trouble before the trio came back together, only for more of the same.
The three continued their battle until the summit – where Mühlberger and Alaphilippe had a small gap over De Marchi, which continued to extend until he was left out of contention on the fast descent.
On to the hairpins, the Deceuninck-Quick-Step rider enjoyed a brief cyclocross foray onto the grass at 5km to go – leaving Mühlberger to do most of the work, with De Marchi some 15s back.
With 500 metres to go, Mühlberger remained on the front – glancing back as Alaphilippe snaked t0-and-fro on his wheel.
Mühlberger opened his sprint, leading from the front with 150m to go, but the Frenchman came around him in the closing metres towards the line to take the win whilst the third in the trio, De Marchi, crossed the line looking somewhat dejected 22s later.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2019, stage six: Saint-Vulbas – Plaine de l’Ain to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne (228km)
1 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep in 6-00-54
2 Gregor Mühlberger (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
3 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) CCC, at 22s
4 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos, at 6-10
5 Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana Pro Team
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
7 Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
8 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
10 Alexey Lutsensko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team, all at same time
General classification after stage six
1 Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott in 23-35-04
2 Dylan Teuns (Bel) Bahrain-Merida at 4s
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) EF Education First at 6s
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team at 7s
5 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Team Jumbo-Visma at 24s
6 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ at 25s
7 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 26s
8 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team at 30s
9 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team at 40s
10 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Ineos, all at same time