There has been no doubt about the identity of the best sprinter over the opening five days of the Critérium du Dauphiné; runner-up behind breakaway riders on the first two stages and winner of the third, Sonny Colbrelli has been in a class of his own.
The Bahrain Victorious sprinter underlined that again at the stage 5 finish in Saint-Vallier, where he produced a blistering burst of speed that so very nearly enabled him to reel in Geraint Thomas after the Ineos Grenadiers rider had jumped clear a kilometre from the line.
If the stage had been a couple of metres longer, Colbrelli would have snatched victory from Thomas, but the Italian had to settle instead for his third second place in five days.
"I have to congratulate Thomas because he attacked at just the right moment," Colbrelli said.
"I didn’t have any teammates left with me apart from Jack Haig, who had done an awful lot of work already. Jack had been pulling from 20km to go and didn’t have anything left.
"I had to start the sprint from 300 metres out, but in the end it was only good enough for second place. I didn’t think that I’d quite got up to him and then the photo finish confirmed that."
Cobrelli admitted that there had been a number of times when he thought he wouldn’t get the opportunity to sprint for the win during what was an almost relentlessly hectic stage.
"It was a very stressful day, because Kasper Asgreen was in the breakaway and he was only nine seconds behind the yellow jersey Lukas Pöstlberger," Colbrelli explained.
“Then we had the crosswinds, but my teammates managed to protect me, and then they were pulling with Bora-Hansgrohe, who did a lot of work to keep it together too for Pöstlberger. I did think at some points that I might pay for that stress in the finale, but I’ve got to congratulate my team on all they did for me today."
With the race now switching to the mountains for the final three days, Colbrelli revealed he has two objectives.
"Now it’s just a case of surviving and also keeping hold of the green jersey," he said.
With 91 points, he is 33 clear of Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Asgreen and Astana-Premier Tech’s Alex Aranburu at the top of the points classification.
"It’s been a positive week," he added. "I’m happy with my condition and I hope I can keep in this shape for the Tour de France. My dream is to win a stage there."
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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