Richie Porte moved into the race lead at the Critérium du Dauphiné after proving himself the strongest of the GC riders on stage seven, finishing second behind stage winner Mark Padun (Bahrain-Victorious) atop La Plagne.
The Ineos rider finished 34 seconds behind Padun, the Ukrainian having followed Porte's attack up the road on the final climb, then going clear with Jumbo-Visma's Sepp Kuss, before dropping the American to claim the stage.
Porte remained ahead of the GC group up the climb alongside Movistar's Enric Mas, the Spaniard's team-mate Miguel Ángel López soon making it over too before the Tasmanian dropped them, finishing in second place and nine seconds clear to move into the yellow jersey.
Geraint Thomas finished ninth, just behind David Gaudu and Enric Mas, 25 seconds after Porte, who now leads Astana's Alexey Lutsenko by 17 seconds in the overall, with Thomas third, a further 12 seconds back.
How it happened
An early start to the first of two mountain days to close out the Dauphiné, BikeExchange’s Andrey Zeits the only non-starter.
Attacks started in earnest from the off, but for an hour no-one was allowed away until a quarter finally escaped off the front. Pierre Rolland was accompanied by B&B Hotels team-mate Franck Bonnamour as well as Bahrain’s Marco Haller, Alexis Renard (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Martin Salmon (Team DSM), Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r Citroën) then crashing back in the peloton.
Lotto-Soudal’s Matthew Holmes then also tried to get in the move alongside Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) and Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM), others also trying not to miss the day’s action off the front.
Salmon soon dropped from the leading foursome on the Col du Pré, seemingly not possessing his namesake's ability for swimming upstream, EF’s Michael Valgren and Lawson Craddock sticking with the Holmes chase group, Movistar hitting the front of the peloton who were three minutes behind.
Holmes dropped as his group caught the leaders near the summit, Craddock leading them over the top and the road heading up again to the Cormet de Roselend, 50km left in the stage now.
Craddock led over the next summit as well, Ineos and Movistar driving the peloton as Chris Froome was unhitched once more.
Valgren and Haller pushed on from the break on the descent, Arcas, Tusveld and Bjerg making it back on, the gap still at three minutes with 25km remaining. Valgren then left the others behind just before the summit finish climb to La Plagne, 17km long with an average gradient of 7.5 per cent.
The gap finally started to come down now, near a minute and a half at the start of the climb with 15km left until the line.
Rolland and then Elissonde made it back to the front as Valgren faltered, Ineos really starting to up the pace of the GC group, Alexey Lutsenko lurking behind them and Movistar as the leaders came to within half a minute.
Guillaume Martin then dropped as the break were finally caught with 11km to go, the GC group down to around 20 riders.
Alejandro Valverde was the next to be distanced as Ineos’ Richie Porte attacked halfway up the climb, Lutsenko either unwilling or unable to respond, Enric Mas, Mark Padun and Sepp Kuss following.
Kuss and Padun then pressed on, 20 seconds ahead, Porte and Mas left in between, The Australian in the virtual yellow jersey at this moment.
Padun then pushed again, leaving Kuss, as attacks came from the even smaller GC group, Miguel Ángel López having a go before David Gaudu also put in a dig.
The Ukranian Padun had a minute with 3km to go, however, Porte and Mas still persevering as López went once more, Gaudu also trying again.
López made it up to Mas and Porte, Gaudu also making it across, Kuss coming back into view.
As Padun sailed away for the stage win, inside the final 500m Porte attacked López and Mas, powering away up the final few uphill metres.
Padun’s smile couldn’t be wider as he came around the final corner, raising his hands as he crossed the line, putting the Victorious into Bahrain-Victorious.
Results - Critérium du Dauphiné 2021, stage seven: Saint-Martin-le-Vinoux to La Plagne (171.1km)
1. Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain-Victorious, in 4-35-07
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, at 34 seconds
3. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar, at 43s
4. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious, at same time
5. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën, at 47s
6. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 52s
7. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 56s
8. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at same time
9. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 59s
10. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 1-00
General classification after stage seven
1. Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers, in 25-28-06
2. Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech, at 17 seconds
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 29s
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 33s
5. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain-Victorious, at 34s
6. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar, at 38s
7. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Astana-Premier Tech, at same time
8. Ben O'Connor (Aus) Ag2r Citroën, at 1-00
9. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-12
10. Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra) Ag2r Citroën, at 1-17
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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