Filippo Ganna produced a near-flawless time trial to win stage four of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Wednesday.
The Ineos Grenadiers rider, who has won the last two World Championship time trial titles, posted an early time of 35-32 over the 31.9km course which would proved impossible to beat.
Two riders came close, first Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), who finished 17 seconds down on the Italian, before the last rider to start, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), came agonisingly close to another victory, two seconds down.
It would be a second day in a row that Van Aert finished second, but he bolstered his lead in the yellow jersey, in front of Mattia Cattaneo (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) by 53 seconds, and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) by a further three.
There are 13 riders within 1-30 of Roglič, who is clearly the GC favourite after today, ahead of four crucial hilly stages in France.
More to follow...
How it happened
The first rider to roll down the start ramp in Montbrison to attempt the largely flat time trial course was Matt Walls (Bora-Hansgrohe), bandaged up after a crash earlier this week, but he was not the first to finish.
That honour went to the man who started a minute behind him, Dries Van Gestel (Total Energies), who posted a time of 38 minutes 56 seconds in the early afternoon.
He was soon moved out of the lead by Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), who finished in 37-42. However, again the lead changed hands soon after, as Luke Durbridge (Team BikeExchange-Jayco) went faster, in 36-25, which was a benchmark for the TT specialists.
While the Australian was out on the course, one of the favourites for the day was already dismantling his lead.
It was a route made for Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers), the world champion surely licking his lips at the prospect of just 96 metres of climbing in just 31.9km.
Ganna stopped the clock at 35-32, taking a massive 53 seconds out of Durbridge’s time, and this would certainly be the time to beat on Wednesday. His average speed over half an hour was 53.865km/h, which is mind-boggling.
The next proper challenger to Ganna was his teammate Ethan Hayter, the British time trial champion not looking too far behind at the first time check. He finished in 35-49, 17 seconds down on Ganna, but an impressive ride from someone who is not a huge, powerful rouleur.
It was then time for the GC riders, with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) the first to set off. He finished in fourth place, 1-11 down on Ganna, an impressive time. He was followed in by Tao Geoghegan Hart, a further 19 seconds down.
Meanwhile, there was frustration for Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) who had a mechanical issue with his bike within four minutes of leaving the start ramp. He appeared to be delayed by a mechanic delaying bringing a replacement bike, which could cost him his chance of going for the overall classification. He eventually finished 2-21 down on Ganna.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) was slower than Ganna at the first checkpoint, but faster than all his GC rivals for now. He finished in 36-14, fourth place so far on the day. While this was 42 seconds down on Ganna, it was 30 seconds faster than his teammate Vingegaard and all the other GC riders.
At the final checkpoint, Van Aert was 11 seconds behind Ganna, and it was looking like it would be yet another podium for the Belgian. He passed Victor Lafay (Cofidis) who started a whole four minutes ahead of him.
However, he finished just over two seconds behind Ganna, leaving him in second for a consecutive day. He finished just behind David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) once again, but this time it did not cost him a stage win.
Ganna won his fourth time trial win of the year, and looks in good form for the first stage of the Tour de France in under a month's time.
CRITÉRIUM DU DAUPHINÉ, STAGE Four: Montbrison to La Bâtie d’Urfé (31.9km)
1. Filippo Ganna (Ita) Ineos Grenadiers, in 35-32
2. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, at 2s
3. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 17s
4. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 39s
5. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 42s
6. Luke Durbridge (Aus) Team BikeExchange-Jayco, at 53s
7. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-12
8. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-25
9. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-31
10. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-34
General classification after stage four
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 13-26-06
2. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 53s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 56s
4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-26
5. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-39
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-45
8. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-48
9. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at 1-50
10. Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën, at 2-00
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