There wasn’t much in it, but Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe) managed to keep one second of his overall lead after the Critérium du Dauphiné's stage 4 time trial, holding the yellow jersey for another day with a performance that left even the Austrian rider surprised.
Pöstlberger took the GC lead on stage 2, attacking from the break and holding off the rapidly closing peloton to stretch out a 12 second advantage on the overall.
A win by his nearest rival Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Victorious) on stage 3 shaved that gap down to a slim two seconds. Still, heading into the 16.4 kilometre time trial with barely a metre of flat, the second-placed sprinter was far from his main concern given nearly forty riders sat within 24 seconds, among them plenty of able time trialists and overall contenders keen to use the stage to start carving out an advantage.
Keeping the jersey looked like such a big task that the 29 year old, who won the opening stage of Giro d’Italia in 2017, said that stage 4 delivered “kind of a mission impossible.”
Though he wasn't prepared to give way without a fight so after a good night’s sleep, and with a tough course that made it hard for those who usually excel in the race against the clock to get into a rhythm, the impossible all of a sudden became possible.
"This was the TT of my life. Looks like yellow really gives you wings,” said Pöstlberger after stage 4. “When I saw the course this morning, I was happy because it had technical parts and uphill sections to push but no real flat part that favored the TT specialists.
“I took a lot of risk in the downhills to save power for the uphill parts. I also still could push a big gear in the last crosswind part, I think that was key. But in the end, I am really surprised to still keep the jersey. We’ll have to watch out tomorrow about the bonus seconds, but there is a chance to defend yellow one more day."
Pöstlberger finished ninth on the stage from Firminy to Roche-la-Molière, 23 seconds behind surprise winner Alexey Lutsenko (Astana-Premier Tech). Lutsenko happened to be among that big group of riders that had been sitting 24 seconds back on the overall, which meant Pöstlberger managed to hold onto the GC lead by just one second.
“He was giving it his all, or even more. He also took risks and got the reward,” said Bora-Hansgrohe sports director, Enrico Poitschke, of Pöstlberger’s performance.
Next the race faces a hilly stage 5, leading into three more days in the mountains where the General Classification is ultimately expected to be decided, with those who are battling for a top position including fellow Bora-Hansgrohe riders Wilco Kelderman and Patrick Konrad.
After finishing fourth in the time trial Kelderman is now up there as one of the best placed GC hopefuls in fifth, just 13 seconds back from Pöstlberger, while ninth-placed Konrad is also only 32 seconds back from his yellow-jersey clad teammate.
“We are super happy to keep the jersey” said Poitschke. ”Also tomorrow we will do our best to defend it once again, but our priority are Wilco and Patrick and if needed we will sacrifice the jersey."
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