Wout van Aert sprinted to victory on stage five of the Critérium du Dauphiné, speeding past the breakaway in the final 100 metres of the race.
The Jumbo-Visma rider was clearly the fastest rider in the bunch, but that almost wasn't enough, as the break survived until the closing moments of the stage.
In the end, they were caught in the final metres, and Van Aert clung on to take victory, staying in front of a charging Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe). Behind him, Ethan Hayer (Ineos Grenadiers) took his third podium placing of this week's race.
The win, and the bonus seconds, means the Belgian extends his lead in the general classification. It was heartbreak for day's escape, who were so close to a famous victory in Chaintré, after staying away for 128km.
A day that was set up for the puncheurs ended up being exactly that, although there were heart-in-mouth moments for them and their teams in the final kilometres of the stage.
Rather than celebrating early, as he did on stage three to miss out on the win, Van Aert made sure he was first before punching the air. With good reason.
How it happened
After Wednesday’s day out time trialling, Thursday’s stage five looked like it might be a day that was suited more towards the sprinters, or potentially the puncheurs instead.
Two riders who performed well on stage four without winning, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), were among the favourites at the beginning of the day, but it might still be a day for a pure fast man like Dylan Groenewegen (Team BikeExchange-Jayco).
The peloton left Thizy-les-Bourgs facing a lumpy day of 162.3km of riding, which included almost 2000 metres of climbing, with four categorised climbs.
It looked like breakaway territory, and therefore it was a long wait for the day’s escape to be established, as lots of different riders fought to get up the road. Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Dries Van Gestel (TotalEnergies) were among the early attackers, but their attempt came to nothing.
French champion Rémi Cavagna (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) and Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies), a pervious stage winner at this year’s Dauphiné, were the next to try something, before Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels-KTM) tried and failed to join them.
With 137km to go, Cavagna and Vuillermoz were caught.
It was not until 128km to go, over 30km into the day’s race, that a proper break got away. The original trio were Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), and Sebastian Schönberger (B&B Hotels-KTM). Bakelants won the first classified climb of the day.
Almost reacting to this, the KOM leader Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) attacked from the peloton, and was joined by Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis). This pair took around 10km to bridge across to the leading group, and finally the day’s race was set.
Rolland won the sprint atop the Côte de Dun to extend his lead in the mountains competition, and the break had 2-40 with 100km still to go. Shortly after, the Frenchman sat up and allowed himself to be swallowed by the peloton, his job for the day done. Therefore Doubey, Bakelants, Thomas, and Schönberger were left alone.
Behind, it was Team BikeExchange-Jayco who were riding hard, attempting to set the pace for Groenewegen. The gap was stubbornly staying high, however, with the break working well together.
On the Col du Bois Clair, the final classified climb of the day, Ineos Grenadiers came to the front to blow BikeExchange out the back of the bunch, with Filippo Ganna leading the charge. Growenewegen was dropped with about 12km to go, which left the sprint for Van Aert and Hayter, as long as they caught the break.
With BikeExchange looking out of the picture, the next task was to catch the four men still out front.
It was looking incredibly close in the final kilometres of the day’s stage, as Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers burned through their riders in order to set their fast men up for the finish. The gap was stubbornly holding, with the world time trial champion Ganna failing to bring down the gap too much.
As a result, both team’s GC riders were forced into the chase, with Jonas Vingegaard and Primož Roglič (both Jumbo-Visma) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers) towards the front of the chase.
Into the barriers, the final 400 metres, and it was still unclear what was going to happen. However, the riders of the peloton carried a lot more speed.
Van Aert launched his sprint earlier and held his speed to the line, not celebrating early this time, and while Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) looked close to pipping him, he ran out of road, and so the Belgian could punch the air with good reason this time. Behind, Hayter was the best of the rest.
The highest finisher of the heroic break was Bakelants, who finished eighth. To prove how quickly the peloton was going, Doubey finished 25th after being in front with less than a kilometre to go.
Van Aert's victory extended his lead in the general classification. Thanks to bonus seconds, he is now 1-03 ahead of Mattia Cattaneo (Movistar) in second, and 1-06 ahead of his teammate Roglič.
CRITÉRIUM DU DAUPHINÉ, STAGE five: Thizy-les-Bourgs to Chaintré, 162.3km
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 3-38-55
2. Jordi Meeus (Bel) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
3. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies
5. Hugo Page (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7. Andrea Bagioli (Ita) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl
8. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
9. Matis Louvel (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
10. Juan Sebastián Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates, all at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 17-04-31
2. Mattia Cattaneo (Ita) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, at 1-03
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-06
4. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-32
5. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-36
6. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious, at 1-49
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-55
8. Juan Ayuso (Esp) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-58
9. Matteo Jorgenson (USA) Movistar, at 2-00
10. Ben O'Connor (Aus) AG2R Citroën, at 2-10
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