Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) showed that his form has barely dipped since the spring with a solid performance on stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné. The 2017 race winner formed part of the key move on the final climb that included Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, and Michael Woods. The Dane even managed to pick up three bonus seconds after taking third on the line after Dylan Teuns had won the stage into Craponne-sur-Arzon.
Fuglsang now sits third on GC ahead of a sprint stage and the crucial stage 4 time trial. Monday’s racing was a punishing affair, however, and far more taxing that many had predicted. The script was written when Julian Alaphilippe and Tom Dumoulin escaped in an early break and the foul weather and relentless climbing ensured that there was never an easing in pace.
When the peloton splintered on the final climb thanks to attacks from Michael Woods and Thibaut Pinot, the Astana leader bridged across with ease alongside Froome. The presence of teammate Alexey Lutsenko meant that Fuglsang also had a key domestique for company.
"I didn’t expect there to be such a big selection but in the end when Froome went over the top he made the most of the explosion because Woods tried to go from far away but he didn’t really make the gap. Once Froome went over the top the gap really opened up and we made that small group that went away," Fuglsang told Cyclingnews and ITV at the finish.
"It’s a pity that we didn’t get to go for a stage victory because I think Lutsenko could have won it but he gave me a few bonus seconds.
"It’s better to be up there than to be behind so it gave some good indications in terms of who is on top and who isn’t but apart from that the last two days and the time trial will change a lot."
Fuglsang’s 2019 campaign has been little short of faultless. He finished sixth in Murcia to start his year and the won Ruta del Sol before claiming second in Strade Bianche. A stage win and third in Tirreno-Adriatico was followed by fourth in the Tour of the Basque Country and then third, second and first in the three Ardennes Classics. It’s little wonder that he is touted as a potential winner for this year’s Dauphiné and as an outsider for the podium at this year’s Tour de France. He admitted to Cyclingnews that his form is still improving but that he is close to his 2017 condition when he astutely made use of an on-road squabble between Froome and Richie Porte to win the Dauphiné.
"After Liege, you wonder where the good shape goes after just a one-week break. Then in training, it’s difficult to know but I’ve done this many times; stopped after the Classics and then done the altitude camp before the Dauphine and then been good. Maybe sometimes too good. I’m happy that I’m in good condition and could be there today," he told Cyclingnews once the television cameras disappeared from view.
"Compared to back then [ed. 2017] I’m maybe as good but that was a different race and I could profit from the tactical race between Porte and Froome. I still had to win it, but I think I’m as good. I can’t say that others aren’t the same and we saw that Woods is strong, Froome has found really good legs, so there are a number of guys. Quintana as well."