When he took the yellow jersey on the second stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, Lukas Pöstlberger knew that his hold on it was sure to be temporary. The Bora-Hansgrohe rider's lead came thanks to a typically powerful display of solo riding that astonished the peloton behind who were racing flat out to reel him in.
However, after negotiating stage 3's bunch sprint where Sonny Colbrelli edged to within two seconds of him, then holding off all-comers in the stage 4 time trial, his effort leaving him poleaxed just beyond the finish line and a single second clear of Alexey Lutsenko, the 29-year-old Austrian extended his stint in yellow to a fourth day when he finished in the pack right on Geraint Thomas' heels in Saint-Vallier.
As it had done in the time trial, it required a huge effort on the Bora-Hansgrohe rider's part. He was harried by attacks from the start, the most threatening of them by Deceuninck-QuickStep's Kasper Asgreen, who was nine seconds back going into the stage and spent a good deal of it in the breakaway, picking up three bonus seconds for his effort. Pöstlberger, though, hung on and will now wear yellow on stage 6 as the Dauphiné reaches home ground in the shape of the Chartreuse massif.
"I was ready for attacks from the start. I followed some moves and eventually we decided, 'OK, we're gonna pull.' I had a really strong team today, they did an amazing job when they brought the breakaway back, and we could focus on the final with Konnie [Patrick Konrad] and Wilco [Kelderman], as well as myself," Pöstlberger said at the finish, the Bora press officer clutching the Austrian's fourth Crédit Lyonnais lionceau next to him as he spoke.
"With Kasper in the break, there was always a danger of him making it to the finish line and winning the stage, but that wasn't our reason for chasing. We were trying to set up Konnie for the stage win. But we messed it up in the final, which was really tricky. On the upside, I've got to keep the jersey for one more day, which is really nice," he explained.
Pöstlberger admitted he had been worried that Tour of Flanders champion Asgreen might go the distance and pull off the stage win and yellow jersey double that Lotto Soudal's Brent Van Moer managed on stage one and the Austrian emulated the next day. "We knew he was a danger, as were the Trek guys when they bridged over, and then we chased it down a bit too hard," he said.
Asked if he'd thought that Asgreen's breakaway companions would refuse to collaborate with the Dane because his presence would almost certainly bring a response from the bunch, he said, "I know all of the guys from racing in Belgium and if they race they race hard, so I wasn't expecting them to be unwilling to work with Kasper."
With two second-category and two third-category climbs in the final third of stage 6, the Austrian rouleur knows his chances of wearing yellow beyond tomorrow are almost nil. He also knows that he will be expected to focus his efforts on supporting Kelderman and Konrad's GC ambitions. "Tomorrow's a GC day, and if I have to work, I'm gonna work and do what I can for Konnie and Wilco," he said. "But it's been a pleasure and a joy riding in yellow and carrying it on my shoulders for four days. I've really enjoyed it."
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