The opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné was meant to be one for the sprinters, but Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky) made sure that they would have to wait a little longer after he took a solo victory. Kennaugh attacked with just under two kilometres remaining and had just two seconds on the chasing bunch when he crossed the line.
"It was an awesome feeling," Kennaugh told the Teamsky.com website after the race. "Having a few little digs on the climb was nice to do. I spend a lot of time working for other guys so it was just nice to have that opportunity. It wasn't really planned or anything - it was just how the race panned out. As long as I didn't take any of the threats to GC with me it was all good.
"It just worked out perfectly. I always knew that once we got that gap and the bunch wasn't coming back super-fast that we had a chance. Then I just planned to attack within the last 3km, fully committed to that and pulled it off luckily."
The victory is Kennaugh’s second in the British national champion’s jersey, after taking a stage and the overall win at the 2014 Tour of Austria a month into his reign. With just two weeks until the national championships in Lincolnshire, Kennaugh knows that his days as the champion are numbered and is happy to go out with a bang.
"I think this could potentially be my last race in the jersey. Just to win races in consecutive years as well is nice, and then also the fact that I get to wear the yellow jersey at the Dauphine," he said. "I didn't realise to be honest until I almost got onto the podium. It's awesome to be able to wear the jersey at such a prestigious race. It's incredible."
Kennaugh has had an up-and-down season so far, after being forced to the sidelines during the spring due to the recurrence of a sacroiliac joint injury. He was able to return at the Ardennes but failed to finish both Amstel Gold and Flèche-Wallonne, and the Tour de Romandie a week later. The Manxman finally got things back on track at the Tour of California.
Following the American race he went straight to a training camp before spending the week leading up to the Dauphiné at home in the Isle of Man. The time out was hard says Kennaugh, but the victory makes it worth it.
"It's nice to be rewarded for something after those darker, harder days when nothing really feels like it's going right. You sometimes question what you're doing it for, then when you get days like this it makes up for it. I'm over the moon," explained Kennaugh.
"I had an injury and three weeks totally off the bike back in March. I've literally spent the last seven weeks on the road so it's just nice to have it all finally pay off. It was a big commitment, not seeing any family or spending any time at home… Those kind of days on your own in the rain are the days where your commitment and sacrifices really count I suppose."
Kennaugh goes into the second stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné with a six-second lead over Sacha Modolo (Lampre-Merida) in the overall classification.