Peter Kennaugh abandoned the Critérium du Dauphiné on Saturday and with it abandoned any hope of riding the Tour de France in his first season with Bora-Hansgrohe. The Manx rider will now look to target the Tour of Poland and Vuelta a España.
Kennaugh came into the Dauphiné with renewed hope after a difficult start to life at Bora. He raced the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans race in Australia in January but did not appear again until the Tour de Romandie in late April, with no apparent injury or illness problems.
“I came back from Australia and I just really struggled,” Kennaugh told Cyclingnews in Moutiers on the morning of the final stage of the Dauphiné.
“I felt really low, training wasn’t going well, I felt terrible on the bike, and it just got to the point where each day in training it felt so bad that I just didn’t want to ride my bike. I don’t know what it was, I just needed time. I had about four to five weeks off in total then kind of turned it around and now I’m on the slow comeback trail.”
In the end, Kennaugh wasn’t able to turn it around in time. The Dauphiné is a race where he has traditionally excelled, with stage wins in two of the past three editions, but this time it would be a week where his Tour de France prospects would effectively be decided.
Kennaugh came through the first half of the race unscathed but things took a turn for the worse in the mountains and he abandoned early on the penultimate stage.
“I came into the race feeling really fit, training had gone really well, but it’s been such a hard race and I think it’s just the build-up of stages – I got to the point where I just wasn’t able to recover from day-to-day,” Kennaugh said.
“On a training camp or at home if you feel like this it’s so easy to back off and recover and get back into it the next day. But, especially in a race like this there’s just nowhere to hide. It’s a bit of a shame because I love the Dauphiné and it’s a race I’ve done well in in the past but in the end there was nothing I could do. I was totally empty.
“The first two sprint days were actually super hard and I suffered a bit on the second day, but then I was able to recover a bit in the team time trial, with it only being 40 minutes. Then, I was ok for the first mountain stage and I thought ‘Ah, this is good,’ but I just didn’t recover from that day. You see everyone else and they can do those efforts, recover, and do it again day after day. I just think I need the racing, basically. It’s not rocket science, I’m just missing the racing.”
Waking up on the morning of the Saturday’s stage, an explosive day in the mountains with three major climbs packed into 110 kilometres, Kennaugh knew “straight away” that the writing was on the wall.
“I had a rough night’s sleep and even riding to sign on I felt like had no power in the legs. I just felt empty. As soon as it went slightly uphill, the pain in my legs was too much. I just had nothing, basically.”
Kennaugh had hoped to ride the Tour de France in his first season with Bora-Hansgrohe, having ended an eight-year spell at Team Sky to join the German team. One of the reasons for the move was to have more opportunities. He impressed during the 2013 Tour, won by Chris Froome, but has only been selected once since. Last year he won atop Alpe d’Huez at the Dauphiné but was still overlooked.
Riding the Tour was a primary objective at the start of the year but Kennaugh knows he will have to wait another year.
“It was a question mark before coming here, but I just needed to see how I was here. On the first mountain stage I thought that in another four weeks I could be in really good shape for the Tour, but with not being able to back it up and be consistent day after day, it’s kind of the last place you want to be if you’re not quite there yet. I think it will be the Vuelta. [I will] target that, and hopefully by then I should be in good shape,” he said.
“It is disappointing but there are a lot of other races I can get stuck into. I would have loved to have been there, but it is what it is, it’s sport, there’s nothing you can do. You just have to stay focused, keep motivated, and try and get something else out of the season.”
Though it wasn’t quite enough to make the Tour boat, Kennaugh will look to capitalise on his recent progress and continue to train hard ahead of the British national championships in late June, before setting his sights on the Tour of Poland and then the Vuelta a España. On Monday he flies to Spain for an altitude training camp in the Sierra Nevada.
“I booked it before the race thinking it would be good to do if I was going to the Tour, but I think I’m still going to commit to it,” he said.
“Obviously, the nationals is three weeks away and I'd prefer to get another good training camp in my legs and set me up for the second half of the season.”