A tough two-up sprint that went down to the wire
200km of road in the breakaway eventually had to be separated by a photo finish. The breakaway group were clearly aware that Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) was the fastest finisher of the three leaders, with each of the trio launching attacks to try and solo away to victory in the closing 10km.
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Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) was dropped in the closing kilometres, as Gregor Mühlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) led Alaphilippe out into the final 500m before opening up his sprint with 150m to go.
The Austrian looked strong, with Alaphilippe seemingly stuck in his wheel for what seemed like an age, as the pair hurtled towards the line. But then the Frenchman came around the Bora-Hansgrohe rider at the crucial moment, throwing his bike over the finish line to win by the finest of margins.
Alaphilippe is unstoppable
Alaphilippe was quite public about his misgivings concerning his ambitions and form coming into the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, but he has proven himself wrong after victory on stage six.
The Frenchman said he had zero ambitions for the Dauphiné GC, would obviously like to win a stage but that if he didn’t it wouldn’t be a disaster. This nonchalant attitude was nowhere to be seen as the flag dropped and racing got underway on stage six, with Alaphilippe attacking early to animate the day’s proceedings, before kicking out again in the closing kilometres as he pushed his breakaway rivals to the limit in the hunt for his eventual stage win.
His second ever stage win at the Dauphiné is the latest victory of a 2019 season that also includes wins at, deep breath, Milan-San Remo, Strade Bianche, La Flèche Wallone, one stage at the Tour of the Basque Country, two stages at Tirreno-Adriatico, two stagez at the Vuelta a San Juan, and a stage and the overall at the Tour Colombia.
Alaphilippe now has a 14 point lead in the king of the mountains classification over Casper Pedersen (Sunweb) and his ability to keep it as the race goes drastically uphill in the final two stages is set to be tested.
It’s undeniable, however, that the form that sealed the 27-year-old the polka dot jersey at last year’s Tour de France will be on display once again this July. At the moment it feels that if Alaphilippe turns up to a race he wants to win, there’s not much that can stop him.
Wout Van Aert shows he’s human after all
However, clad in the green jersey holding a 29 point lead over Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Van Aert dropped away on the approach to the final climb of the day, the second category Col de Beaune.
The Belgian eventually finished in 65th plae, 15-06 down on Alaphilippe and nine minutes adrift of the GC group he was in until the race sharpened, proving the 24-year-old is human after all.
Adam Yates remains in yellow
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) said after the race that he expected the finale of stage six to be harder for the GC riders, but there was little action behind as Alaphilippe, Mühlberger and De Marchi battled it out for victory up front.
After his second place in last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné was followed by a disappointing performance in the 2018 Tour de France, Yates will be hoping one place higher in the warm-up will see him go much better than 29th overall come the main event in July.
But, if he hopes to take this first yellow jersey before his tilt at the proper one, a couple of sizeable days in the mountains stand in the way, which must be dealt with first and will give a clear indication as to whether the Brit has the legs to mount a serious challenge at the Tour.
GC tightly poised for tomorrow
Yates currently leads Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) by four seconds, Tejay Van Garderen (EF Education First) by six seconds, with Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) seven seconds back.
The rest of the top 10 on GC all sit within 40 seconds of the Mitchelton-Scott rider and include riders such as Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and Wout Poels (Ineos).
Considering the parcours on the final two days of the 2019 Dauphiné, we should be in for some terrific racing. Stage seven provides three category one climbs before a HC summit finish above 1500m of altitude.
Stage eight then throws up an equally challenging day, with the race concluding uphill after eight categorised climbs. It would take a brave soul to pick a winner from the top 10 as it currently stands. One GC rider, however, who hinted already that he was unlikely to find himself at the pointy end of the race is Tom Dumoulin, who again dropped from the group of favourites towards the end of the race and lost more time. The Dutchman now sits in 42nd place in the overall classification, 13-54 back.