Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech) may have been happy to finish on the podium of the Critérium du Dauphiné but the Kazakh champion didn’t let the final stage go by without attempting to do more than just hold position.
The 28-year-old climbed up the GC ranks to second when he won the time trial on stage 4, then stepped into the yellow jersey on stage 6 before Richie Porte took it from him with his stage 7 attack.
That gave Porte a 17-second lead on Lutsenko, which the Ineos Grenadiers rider diligently defended on the final day.
"To finish second overall and win a stage is a really good result for me so I can be happy," said Lutsenko in a team statement. "As I said yesterday, there are a lot of big champions here at the race so to be on the podium with two of them - Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas - is something special."
The final stage delivered a tough end to eight days of racing, with almost 4,000 metres of elevation gain, and by the time the race crested the Col de Joux Plane, less than 20 kilometres from the finish, it was down to a small group of GC rivals. On the descent, Lutsenko and teammate Ion Izagirre started applying the pressure, with the pair among a group of four that gapped Porte and, while he ultimately bridged, the Australian was then left isolated after teammate Geraint Thomas came off during the chase.
Then came the attacks from Izagirre and Lutsenko on the final unclassified climb before the line in Les Gets, though Porte continued to rise to the challenge and chase down the moves, holding off the threat on his own until Thomas returned to drive the pace. Ultimately, Lutsenko had to be content to hold onto his second place as he came in among the Porte group which finished 2:10 behind stage winner Mark Padun (Bahrain-Victorious).
"Today was a really hard stage and it was a big fight until the end so I am really happy that I could stay up there and finish it off today," Lutsenko said. "Now I will rest and recover and then it’s all in for the Tour de France."
Izagirre slotted into the top-10 as well, finishing in seventh overall, while also claiming second place in the time trial on stage 4.
"We showed we were some of the strongest in the race so we can be happy finishing with a stage win, and first and second on the time trial, and then second overall with Alexey," said team director Dmitriy Fofonov.
"It was not an easy race, especially these last days. We fought as hard as we could until the end and the team did their maximum."
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