Before the 2017 Criterium du Dauphine, Fabio Aru hadn't raced since recording a DNF at Tirreno-Adriatico due to illness. A knee injury forced the Astana rider out of the Giro d'Italia and forced him into changing his season objective to the Tour de France. Having safely negotiated the firs three stages of the WorldTour stage race, the stage 4 time trial was always going to be a test of his current form and condition.
Despite not having raced a time trial since stage 18 of last year's Tour when he was third on the day, Aru put in a solid ride to finish 1:18 minutes down on Richie Porte (BMC) and move into the top-20 on GC. With a mountainous finale, Aru will be aiming to continue his upward movement on the GC before making his second appearance at the Tour with Astana.
"After more than three months without racing and with the last individual time trial did at last year Tour, I can say I think I did a good performance," said Aru of his 27th place ride. "I had good sensations for the entire TT and I will continue to race this Dauphiné thinking and focusing day by day, let's see what will come up!"
Astana's other GC man, Jakob Fuglsang, was one second slower than Aru in 28th place and the Dane now also trails his teammate by one position in 20th place.
"It was a difficult TT, tough in the climb and very fast in the descent. Obviously I did my best and I have to say I have had good sensations from my legs," said Fuglsang. "Of course, looking at the classification, I hoped not to lose all those seconds but I'm confident we will be able to perform pretty well in the days to come."
Astana's bid for a high overall position has been strengthened with its two GC men putting in solid performances and informing team staff they are on track for next month's Tour de France.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) during the TT (TDW Sports)
Mixed Dauphine TT for Orica-Scott
The Dauphine stage 4 time trial was a mixed day for Orica-Scott as Daryl Impey put in a strong ride as he continues his return from injury while its GC rider Esteban Chaves lost over two minutes to stage winner Richie Porte (BMC). Simon Yates, co-leading the team, fared better against the clock as he lost just over a minute to the BMC man and is the team's best hope for the overall ahead of the mountainous conclusion.
"Today we saw confirmation from the team that they are all on the level that we expect at the moment," sports director Lorenzo Lapage said. "The guys that have come back from injury did a good time trial, like with Esteban, he was one minute further down than he would probably be compared to when he is at his best and that's normal, we expected that when he hasn't raced for so long.
"Yates will now be in a good position on the GC and with him being a bit further back, other teams may give him some freedom in the mountains and we can profit from that. He showed once again that he is one of the guys coming up and for sure he can do well during the next days."
Chaves sits 39th on the general classification while Yates is better placed at 14th overall.
Impey's 13th place was a confidence boost for the South African who explained his pacing was key to posting a good time.
"I actually didn't come into today really expecting much. It was more to see how I feel coming back from a broken collarbone in Liège-Bastogne-Liège," Impey said. "It was a great course. There was quite a bit of everything for an all rounder. It had a technical aspect and a few little climbs. There was also big power sections on the back straight.
"I didn't know what to expect. I just rode the best I could go. I started to feel good out there. I paced it well. I think overall it was a good ride."
Sunweb take white jersey via Sam Oomen
"It was a very good day for us today with very strong performances by Chad and Sam finishing 5th and 12th respectively. Both riders had a very good ride and followed our preparation procedures before the race perfectly. During the TT they also both obviously were on a very good day so we can be happy and proud with the result. Sam also takes the white jersey as a result so we can not ask for more," coach Morten Bennekou said.
Oomen now sits ninth overall and holds a 12-second advantage over Pierre Latour (AG2R) in the battle for the white jersey. While the time trial saw a reshuffle of the GC, Oomen is expected to climb the standings when the race hits the mountains. A terrain suited to his characteristics.
15th at Rut del Sol, 14th at Paris-Nice, 19th in Vuelta al Pais Vasco and ninth at Tour of California, Oomen will be aiming to continue his run of top-20 GC results in WorldTour stage races thus far in 2017.
Costa leads UAE Team Emirates at Tour de Suisse
Former world champion Rui Costa starts the Tour de Suisse this weekend as the only multiple winners of the race and is aiming to add to his three previous wins. Having raced the Criterium du Dauphine in 2015, winning a stage and finishing third, Costa returned to the Swiss stage race last year finishing a disappointing seventh overall.
Despite having just raced the Giro d'Italia, Costa is confident of adding to his five stage wins at the race and challenge for the overall title, returning to his 2012-14 winning form.
"This is a race that I really like and returning to it feels like coming home," said Costa. "It is familiar and I've got great memories of it. " said Costa "Despite having won this race several times it is quite demanding so it will be necessary to have clear tactics on how to tackle each stage. I just completed a very demanding race as Giro d'Italia is, I need to retain my good form, preserve my energy and be smart to do well in the race. I am hoping to be in the top five of the overall General Classification by the end!".
Costa's UAE Team Emirates squad will warm up for the Tour de Suisse at the GP du canton d'Argovie with sports director Simone Pedrazzini explaining team tactics for the HC event.
"Before the Tour de Suisse, on June 8th we will first participate in the Gp Canton d'Argovie-Gippingen circuit race, we will try to be protagonists with younger riders and to give them the chance to get a good result," Pedrazzini said.
With riders capable of challenging for stage wins across the nine days of racing, Pedrazzini outlined his ambitions for the race headlined by Costa's GC bid.
"The same line-up will take part in the Tour de Suisse. It is a strong team selection, one of the key goals is to help Rui Costa to achieve the top 5 in general classification, taking into account that it won't be an easy target because he'll compete with opponents of a high quality. We expect our two younger riders Conti and Petilli, after having just been at the Giro d'Italia, to show their skill in the GC. We also have the fast trio – Consonni, Kump and Modolo – that will try to get great results in the sprint stages, while Mohoric will be looking to join a breakaway and finally, returning to racing after a crash at Vuelta al País Vasco is Atapuma."
Recon Ride: Tour de Suisse - Podcast