“I can't believe the breakaways have won, to be honest, they've been moving super fast. But it’s bike racing in 2021, and everyone’s very fast,” was Ben O’Connor’s take on the opening two stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Stage 1 and stage 2 ended with one rider from the small breakaway group managing to maintain their effort to the line after going clear in the opening kilometres of the stage. Lotto Soudal’s Brent Van Moer went the distance on day one at Issoire and Bora-Hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger emulated the young Belgian on day two.
AG2R-Citroën climber O’Connor made a solo attempt to bridge across to Pöstlberger in the final 20 kilometres of the second stage, but was swallowed up by the pack that was chasing frantically behind him and the Austrian he was himself chasing.
“I thought the break was easily going to be caught. But I guess the first couple of days it’s been hot and it does take a toll,” said O’Connor.
“You do one effort like I did, and you really do pay for it. You feel good, you do a big effort, it’s a bit warm for the first time for pretty much all of us here, and… So you have to be careful. And maybe that’s the reason why the breakaways have stayed away.”
On both occasions, Sonny Colbrelli has been the rider thwarted, the Italian leading what remained of the bunch across the line to take second place. Wearing the green jersey as points leader, the Bahrain Victorious sprinter offered his “complimenti” to Van Moer and Pöstlberger.
“There was a strong rider in the front yesterday. In the final today Pöstlberger was also super strong because on the last climb he only lost 20 seconds, so congratulations to him for that performance,” said the Italian, who will be the favourite for stage 3, which does favour the sprinters.
Having moved up into the top 10, 24 seconds behind new race leader Pöstlberger, Dauphiné favourite Geraint Thomas also expressed his admiration for the race’s first two stage winners.
“It’s nice to see the breakaway succeed at times so chapeau to them for two really good rides,” he said.
Asked why he thought Van Moer and Pöstlberger’s efforts had succeeded, the Ineos Grenadiers leader said: “I think the guys have just been really strong. Obviously the guy yesterday was unbelievable really. We weren’t hanging around in the peloton and he was riding really well. Today the same thing, I think he really deserved that win because the speed was certainly high on the descent and then obviously on the climb. It was great ride by him.”
Van Moer’s Lotto teammate Matt Holmes, who managed to infiltrate the break and thereby take the pressure off his team as they set about defending the yellow jersey, explained that the team’s tactic had been to save as many riders as possible to support Van Moer on the final climb, in the expectation that the break would be caught.
“I suppose we did that, but the guy that won was too strong. Brent was dropped anyway from the main group I think, so I’m almost glad for the guy that won,” said the Briton.
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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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