Primož Roglič laid down yet another marker of the form he’ll hope to take into next week’s Tour de France after attacking in the final 1km to take the stage two victory and overall lead at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Ineos had set the place up the final climb, decimating the field, and eventually leaving only 10 team leaders to fight it out for stage honours.
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Ineos’ Egan Bernal had tried to test Roglič up the Col de Porte, but to no avail, as the Slovenian simply rode away from his rivals to cross the line first, but picks out the Colombian as the opponent he keeps his eye on.
“Definitely Egan,” Roglič answered in response to which rival he’s wary of. “He’s a former Tour de France winner, one of the strongest riders. Actually, everyone at the start today, they are all well-prepared guys and you have to be the best at the end if you want to win.”
Eleventh over the line was Roglič’s team-mate Sepp Kuss, 40 seconds down, who kept the pace high right until his leader attacked, to take the team’s second stage win in as many days.
“I was happy that it was raining, the last few days and the first race [back of the] season I was dying in the heat so when I saw the rain I thought it could be a good day,” Kuss said, minutes before the hailstorm arrived. “I just kind of settled into the rhythm of the climb and then when I saw there was some attacking I just kept going at a bit higher tempo.
“I knew Primož could finish it off in the last kilometre so he told me to go all out until then, and then yeah he finished it off.”
Kuss says the high pace up the final climb made it easier to close Bernal’s attacks, and when asked about any potential mind games he was playing when he shook his head as he caught back up to the Colombian, he didn’t want to further fan any flames of the rivalry developing between the two teams.
“I think we were already going at a decent speed so it’s a bit easier to close it when it’s already at the limit I guess.
“You’ve always got to have a poker face. We’re all suffering out there.”
But some more than others?
“I dont know,” came the political reply.
The Dutch team managed to take the stage win despite a number of hiccups before the Col de Porte, which suggests they could have been the only team with domestiques left when other teams had lost theirs.
“I think Tom [Dumoulin] had to do a bike change right at the bottom of the last climb and Robert [Gesink] had to go back with him so that already took out two of us but I think the stage was pretty straightforward,” Kuss evaluated.
Roglič takes a 12 second lead over Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot into the third stage, with three days of climbing still to come.