Jakob Fuglsang in the form of his life
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) won his second Critérium du Dauphiné title after beating Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) by 10 seconds in 2017, and the margins were equally as slim this time around, as he edged out Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) by just 20 seconds.
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The win caps off a remarkable first half of the calendar year for the Dane, who also won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April and took podiums at Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Fuglsang, like most others, will now turn his attention to the Tour de France, where he will be looking to improve on his best ever finish of seventh in 2013, having placed 12th last year.
With notable GC absentees Chris Froome (Ineos) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) and the likes of Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) unsure of their form, could the 34-year-old finally achieve a podium spot at the Tour?
Uncertainty over Adam Yates
Everything was going so well for Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) until the final 50km of the last stage. Climbing off his bike with stomach problems, he left behind just an eight second gap to race leader Jakob Fuglsang, and who knows what could have happened on the final climb of the race.
Certainly, no-one else was strong enough to challenge the Dane on the day, and so the question remains whether the Brit has got what it takes to ultimately go the distance in stage races.
Of course, you can’t make provisions for illness or the terrible weather on stage seven that could have been a contributing factor, but the 26-year-old will be hoping for some better fortune in July, as he looks to replicate or better 2016’s fourth-place finish, and not 2018’s 29th.
Ineos still strong without Chris Froome
Froome’s horrific crash, nasty injuries and now long spell off the bike couldn’t have been worse news for Ineos, who were surely relishing the supposed problems of turning up to a Tour de France with two previous winners of the race.
However, not only do they still have Geraint Thomas, who will now be under strict orders to stay out of harm’s way at the Tour de Suisse, but the final two stages of the Dauphiné reminded everyone they have strength in depth, as two of their riders picked up stage wins.
Wout Poels timed his attack perfectly on stage seven to bridge up to Fuglsang and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in the final kilometre, before going past them with 250m left to take the stage victory.
Then on the final stage, Dylan van Baarle showed he is adapting well to life at Ineos after his move last year, comfortably beating Jack Haig in a two-up sprint.
Add this to Pavel Sivakov and Tao Geoghegan Hart having breakthrough seasons with impressive performances at the Tour of the Alps, Ineos have a bright future even if that of their four-time Tour de France winner hangs in the balance.
Nairo Quintana and Richie Porte playing catch up
Maybe they are waiting to peak closer to the Tour, but the evidence displayed at the Dauphiné suggests GC hopefuls Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) are off the pace.
Finishing ninth and 11th respectively, over a minute down on Fuglsang, these are not the results of riders who will be challenging at the top of the overall classification come July.
After Quintana’s trio of podium places earlier this decade, he has not matched this form in recent years finishing 10th and 12th in the last two editions of the Tour.
Porte is a rider racing against the clock, the 34-year-old crashed out of the previous two Tours, and is unlikely to have that many Grand Tours left in him where he can fight it out amongst the best.
Alaphilippe as exciting as ever
After Julian Alaphilippe’s (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) dominant spring campaign, that saw the Frenchman pick up wins at Milan-San Remo, La Flèche Wallonne and Strade Bianche, maybe we didn’t expect him to replicate the form of last summer that saw him pick up two stage wins at the Tour as well as the king of the mountains classification.
Alaphilippe said as much himself, arriving at the Dauphiné with zero GC ambitions and saying that he would of course like to win a stage but there was no pressure if he didn’t.
He of course did win stage, Alaphilippe is Alaphilippe after all, but he also took the polka dot jersey, sweeping up king of the mountains points at every opportunity and getting in breaks and animating the race.
All this points to another Tour de France where the Frenchman is once again one of the main protagonists.