Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) took victory in the sprint finish on stage four of the Critérium du Dauphiné, beating Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to the line.
The win means Norwegian champion Boasson Hagen moves into the lead in the points competition, taking the green jersey from Bouhanni, while Alaphilippe moves up to fourth in general classification with a six second time bonus for his runner-up finish.
The finish into Belley was far from a straight forward, flat out sprint-fest. Winding corners and a bit of a ramp up to the line meant it was always going to be down to the fast men to fight it out solo rather than relying on their sprint trains, and frenetic pace in the final few kilometres meant things were fractured more than the likes of Cofidis and Katusha would have liked.
But that type of sprint suited the likes of Boasson Hagen, who, despite working off of teammates like Nathan Haas, was able to show his tactical nous in picking the right line through the final corner, and was able to hold his sprint ahead of the two chasing Frenchman to take the victory. It’s his first in the WorldTour since 2013.
Alaphilippe’s presence was the most surprising, with the Tour of California winner beating some more notable fast riders to the business end of the sprint to gain some time in GC.
Contador finished in a group nine seconds down on the lead group which contained Froome as well as Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quick Step).
Despite the hectic finish, the day had been a fairly sedate affair for the peloton, with Maxime Bouet (Etixx-Quick Step), Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) getting away after the flag dropped with no reaction from the bunch behind.
They gained over five minutes and despite a relaxed looking peloton, there was little they could do on a flat course to hold off the sprinters’ teams when they increased the pace.
Bouet made a fine solo effort away from his companions towards the finish in his home town of Belley but was caught with just over 4km remaining on the 176km stage, leaving the sprinters to fight it out on what is likely to be the final opportunity for them in this year’s Dauphiné.
Friday’s stage five will see the riders take on the 140km course from La Ravoire to Vaujany, with a category two finish that will see the GC riders really make moves in earnest for the first time in this race.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2016 stage four, Tain l’Hermitage – Belley (176km)
1. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, 4-39-26
2. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
4. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
6. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
7. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
8. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
9. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora Argon 18
10. Luka Pibernik (Slo) Lampre Merida, all same time
Critérium du Dauphiné 2016, overall standings after stage four
1. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, in 17-52-45
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 4s
3. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at 6s
4. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step, at 9s
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-Quick Step, at 12s
6. Jesus Herrada (Esp) Movistar, at 27s
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge, at 31s
8. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, at 35s
9. Daniel Navarro (Esp) Cofidis, at 43s
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 48s