Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) won stage one of the 2018 Critérium du Dauphiné as he sprinted clear from a reduced bunch at the finish in Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert.
On a day that had been expected to come down to a big bunch sprint, a high pace and attacks on the final fourth category climb ensured that pure sprinters such as Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb), Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept), and Fabio Jakobsen (Quick-Step Floors) were put out of contention.
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Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors), and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) all made attempts to get away, but in the end the group came back together with around 70 riders remaining to contest the finish.
In the end it was Impey who found himself carrying the most speed towards the finish, and made no hesitation as the path to the line opened in front of him, sprinting well clear of his rivals as Alaphilippe and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) trailed home in second and third.
Race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) also finished close to the front, crossing the line in fifth place to keep hold of his yellow jersey.
How it happened
The first road stage of the 2018 Critérium du Dauphiné saw a fast stage as the peloton climbed the category two Col de Leyrisse straight from the gun with numerous attacks flying off the front before Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Brice Feillu (Fortuneo–Samsic) and Lawson Craddock (EF Education First-Drapac) were able to make something stick.
Those three riders quickly established a gap of around three minutes, which extended out beyond five minutes on the Col des Desaignes and Côte de Saint-Agrève shortly before the midway point of the stage.
However Vital Concept and Quick-Step Floors seemed to be on a mission as they hit the front of the peloton shortly after the feed zone and trimmed the break’s lead back down below three minutes with 95km remaining of the day.
The good news for the break was that the rapid pace in the peloton did not continue, allowing them to stay in front for most of the rest of the stage as Quick-Step eased off the gas a little to only slowly chip away at their lead.
It was only with 28km remaining that the gap dropped below a minute, before rapidly dropping to around 16 seconds as Edet and Craddock dropped Feillu. However they didn’t last for much longer as the catch was made with 11km to go.
A crash shortly after brought down a number of riders near the front of the bunch, but did not disrupt the pace-setting at the front as Lotto-Soudal and Team Sky moved to the front ahead of the fourth category climb which would be crested with just 4.3km to go.
Tao Geoghegan Hart led Team Sky up the climb but his pace was not enough to deter an attack by Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing) who was able to open a few bike lengths over the bunch.
Teuns’s move was a strong one, but had nothing on the counter-attack by Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) who caused chaos in the group behind with a stinging acceleration to the top of the climb.
Alaphilippe was followed by the Team Sky duo of Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatkowski, but as the road flattened out more riders were able to get back on before Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors) and Michal Valgren (Astana) led down the descent towards the finish.
The pace was incredibly high on the fast run-in with the yellow jersey of Kwiatkowski among those jostling for positioning at the front, but as they came into the final 200m the waters parted for Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) to sprint towards the line.
The South African national champion was carrying a considerable amount of speed, and was duly able to sprint clear of Alaphilippe and Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) to take a comprehensive stage victory.
Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal) crossed the line in fourth with Kwiatkowski in fifth, the Pole holding onto his leader’s yellow jersey and actually extending his lead to two second over Impey, who moved up to second overall courtesy of his 10 second time bonus.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2018, stage one: Valence to Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert, 179km
1. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, in 4-24-26 4:24:26
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors
3. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
4. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
6. Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing
8. Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
9. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb
10. Jaime Roson (Esp) Movistar, all at same time
General classification after stage one
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky 4:31:51
2. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, at 2 secs 0:00:02
3. Gianni Moscon (Ita) Team Sky, at 3 secs
4. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 7 secs
5. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 8 secs
6. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 9 secs
7. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 13 secs
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, at 15 secs
9. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at same time
10. Michael Valgren (Den) Astana, at 16 secs