Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat) claimed the biggest success of his young career with a canny victory on stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné at Rumilly. The third-year professional infiltrated the break of the day ahead of the Col du Grand Colombier and then jumped away from his companions in the finale to come home 26 seconds clear.
Perhaps best-known to English-speaking fans for the impromptu Vichot fan club that sprang up at the 2010 Tour Down Under, the punchy 23-year-old has shown steady progress over the past three seasons. Winner of a stage of Paris-Corrèze in 2010 and Les Boucles du Sud Ardèche and the Tour du Doubs in 2011, Vichot credited FDJ-BigMat's elevation to WorldTour status for his Dauphiné triumph.
"I've moved up a level," a delighted Vichot said afterwards. "I had already had three wins before this, but they were all at domestic level. This was my first win in the WorldTour. At the start of the year, I asked to do as many big races as I could, and I think that's paid off."
Vichot was part of a 10-man break that formed shortly after the Côte de Corlier after 61km of racing, though he admitted that he was concerned he would be dropped on the redoubtable slopes of the Col du Grand Colombier, which the Dauphiné was tackling for the first time in 24 years. "I was a little bit worried by the Grand Colombier because there were some good climbers in that break."
While Vichot safely stuck with Rémi Di Gregorio (Cofidis), Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank) et al all the way to the summit of the mighty climb, a further threat emerged on the descent, when Cadel Evans (BMC) sparked a dangerous counter-attack that slashed the break's healthy lead.
Such was the ferocity of Sky's chase that the gap to the leaders – which had reached six minutes ahead of the Grand Colombier – was reduced to barely a minute over the final climb, the Col de Richemond. "Our advantage was tight in the finale, and as we got closer to the finish, there was less and less collaboration in the break," Vichot noted.
With seven kilometres to go, Navarro took a flyer down the right hand side of the road, and it was at this point that Vichot sensed his opportunity. "Fortune favours the brave," he smiled, as he recalled closing down Navarro's acceleration and then clipping off the front himself for good measure.
"I was the only puncheur left in the group, so I knew I ought to be the quickest," Vichot said. "I took my responsibilities and thought of how my teammate Anthony Roux had won a stage at the 2009 Vuelta in a similar way."
Vichot now turns his attentions to July, where he expects to line up for his second Tour de France. With the race set to traverse his home region of Franche Comté at the end of the opening week, the Frenchman is not short on motivation.
"I'm going to go there with ambition – not for the overall but for a stage win," he said. "There are some uphill finishes and the Tour goes through my neck of the woods, so I hope to be up there." The Australian fan club has been forewarned.
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Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.