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Critérium du Dauphiné 2015: Stage 4

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Stage 4 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, 228 kilometres from Anneyron to Sisteron.

As we pick up the action, the Dauphiné peloton has just left Anneyron for the start of the longest stage of the race. At 228 kilometres in length and with the third category Col de Lescou and fourth category Col de Pré-Guittard and Côte de la Marquise on the route, it is perhaps a day for the baroudeurs, particularly given the dearth of sprinters in the race. The Cofidis team of Nacer Bouhanni will doubtless have to organise the chase and questions linger as to whether they are up to the task.

The general classification picture was redrawn after yesterday's team time trial, where BMC emerged victorious ahead of Astana and Movistar. Rohan Dennis moves into the maillot jaune ahead of his teammate Tejay van Garderen, while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) loiters with intent in fourth place, just four seconds back. The top ten on GC is as follows this morning:

1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 8:00:37
2 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
3 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:04
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
5 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team
6 Rein Taaramae (Est) Astana Pro Team
7 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
8 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:05
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
10 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team

 

Chris Froome's Team Sky and the Katusha squad of Joaquim Rodriguez were among those to struggle in the team time trial, and the lie of the land among the men expected to contest for overall honours here and in July looks like this after stage 3:

1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 8:00:37
2 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:04
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:05
24 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:35
27 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:43
29 Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida 0:00:48
45 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:00:54
51 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:00
53 Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
58 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:05
65 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing 0:01:15

 

 

216km remaining from 228km

Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) slipped clear after just three kilometres of racing and the peloton seems content to let them to it. After 8 kilometres, their lead was one minute and that has since stretched out to 2:30. Keizer is 3:42 down overall and Van der Sande is 7:01 off Dennis’ yellow jersey, so BMC are more than happy to frank their respective bons de sortie for the day.

Keizer's LottoNL-Jumbo squad are making the news this morning.  The Dutch team has announced its departure from the Movement for Credible Cycling with immediate effect, citing concerns at the body's additional, voluntary cortisol testing following George Bennett's enforced withdrawal on the eve of the Giro d'Italia, not to mention Theo Bos' on the eve of the 2013 Vuelta. Mike Tyson liked to say that "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." In cycling, it seems, everybody likes the MPCC rules until they apply to them. LottoNL-Jumbo are the third team to leave the MPCC this year after Lampre-Merida and Bardiani-CSF.

208km remaining from 228km

Keizer and Van der Sande are happily amassing a significant advantage over the peloton. After 20 kilometres, their lead is touching seven minutes.

After a solid team time trial at Montagny on Tuesday afternoon, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) met with the press at his team hotel last night  to discuss his preparations for the defence of his Tour de France crown. The Sicilian revealed, too, that the squad had this week met with researchers from the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne as part of the conditions attached to their WorldTour licence, and you can read the full story here.

202km remaining from 228km

After 26 kilometres of racing, the gap between the two escapees and the peloton appears to have stabilised at around the seven-minute mark. The average speed is a steady 35kph.

Romain Bardet and Ag2r-La Mondiale conceded a minute in Tuesday's team time trial, but the Frenchman looked to strike an optimistic note when he spoke to reporters afterwards, drawing inspiration from the dramatic final day of racing that propelled Andrew Talansky to overall victory last year. We're a bit comprised and the gap is more than a minute, which is a lot for a race of just one week. We don't know but last year we had a crazy last stage when Talansky won the race. We'll see how the next few days go," he said. Read the full story here.

198km remaining from 228km

The BMC squad of Rohan Dennis and Tejay van Garderen are sitting on the front of the peloton for now, though understandably with precious little urgency. They are content to hold the break's lead at around 7:25.

192km remaining from 228km

The situation remains unchanged. Van der Sande and Keizer know they're in this for the long haul and they've settled into a decent rhythm. BMC have no interest in pegging them back just now, and as yet there has been scarcely a stir from the sprinters' teams.

Away from the Dauphiné, Fabian Cancellara's participation in the Tour de Suisse is questionable after the Trek Factory Racing rider was forced to withdraw from Thursday's GP Gippingen due to a bacterial throat infection.

175km remaining from 228km

Keizer and Van der Sande pass through Fauconnières continue their adventure off the front of the peloton with their lead of 7:25 still intact. The terrain is still largely flat in this opening section of the stage though the road starts to climb by the time they hit the feed zone near Mornans after 105 kilometres. The category 3 Col de Lescou (3.9km at 4.7%) is followed immediately by the very short hike over the top of the Col de Pré-Guittard, and could provide a springboard for counter-attackers - provided, of course, that the break's lead is pared back a little before then.

166km remaining from 228km

As expected, Cofidis have tentatively begun to contribute to a chase effort. Luis Mate is doing some turns on the front of the bunch along with BMC's Dylan Teuns. The break's lead drops ever so slightly to 7:15.

Chris Froome sits 35 seconds off Dennis and van Garderen following a low-key showing from Sky in yesterday's team time trial, which saw Peter Kennaugh surrender his overall lead. "Obviously we were hoping for better day but we had a few issues out on the road. We went a little bit hard in the first part and blew a few guys there, and then we had one or two mechanicals in the mix," Froome said afterwards. Thursday's demanding stage to Pra-Loup - a dry run for stage 17 of this year's Tour de France - will provide the first real opportunity for Froome to recoup his losses and test himself against van Garderen, Vincenzo Nibali et al.

Yesterday's team time trial was also something of a dress rehearsal for July, of course, though ASO's Thierry Gouvenou has warned that the 28-kilometre test from Vannes to Plumelec on stage 9 of the Tour will be even more demanding. “The big difference is the finish on the Côte de Cadoudal (1.7km at 6.2%). There wasn’t an obstacle like that at the Dauphine, where the course was more rolling, especially in the first ten kilometres,” Gouvenou told L’Équipe. “The false flats leading into the climbs at the Tour are also tougher than what we had yesterday. Beyond that, the distance is almost identical and we tried to draw up a similar parcours for both team time trials, with similar changes in direction.”

145km remaining from 228km

Cofidis' contribution to the chase effort has begun to make some inroads into Keizer and Van der Sande's lead, which has been cut to 6:10. The terrain is about to become a little more exacting from here on in, and the two escapees' earlier efforts could begin to take their toll.

124km remaining from 228km

The pleasant conditions at the start have given way to steady drizzle as the break reaches the feed at Mornans. The road climbs gently from here before reaching the category 3 Col de Lescou.

114km remaining from 228km

Van der Sande and Keizer reach the midway point of the stage, still defending a lead of 6:10 over the peloton. If there are counter-attacks on the Lescou/Pré-Guittard combination, then that advantage will start to tumble rapidly, otherwise we can expect a more gradual injection of pace in the bunch inside the final 100 kilometres.

 

Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal) has abandoned the Dauphiné. The Belgian pulled out of the race at the feed zone.

Up front, meanwhile, his Lotto-Soudal teammate Tosh Van der Sande is still clutching a six-minute lead over the bunch in the company of Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo). The pair are on the lower slopes of the day's first categorised climb, the Col de Lescou. The 3.9km climb has an average gradient of 4.7%.

99km remaining from 228km

Van der Sande and Keizer have completed the first three hours of racing in an average speed of 40.1 kilometres. As the peloton climbs the Col de Lescou in heavy rain, it trails the two leaders by 6:30.

95km remaining from 228km

Keizer and Van der Sande are over the top of the day's second climb, the Col de Pré-Guittard, with their lead of 6:30 still intact over the peloton.

90km remaining from 228km

The peloton cuts the break's lead to 5:45 as heavy sheets of rain continue to fall over the Drôme.

82km remaining from 228km

There were no significant frissons in the peloton on its passage over the Pré-Guittard and the gap remains stable at 5:45. The terrain remains heavy from here on, however, and while Cofidis will hope to peg back the two leaders, their hopes of a bunch finish could be scuppered by the category 4 Côte de la Marquise, which comes 12.5 kilometres from the finish.

 

75km remaining from 228km

There's a brief lull in pace at the head of the peloton and the two escapees see their lead stretch back out to 6:10.

70km remaining from 228km

Mercifully, the word from the finish line in Sisteron is that the sun has poked through the clouds and roads are dry, but the break and peloton are being drenched by rain as they enter the final 70 kilometres of racing. 6:10 the gap.

68km remaining from 228km

The dearth of sprinters left in the race and the consequent lack of teams eager to work on the front of the bunch is playing into Keizer and Van der Sande's hands. The duo have rallied once again and now hold a lead of 6:40.

64km remaining from 228km

MTN-Qhubeka have put their shoulder to the wheel at the head of the peloton alongside Cofidis and BMC, perhaps with Edvald Boasson Hagen in mind. 

“It’s a pretty good course with some small bumps that can help me. I’ve been looking forward to this stage, hopefully we can make it today. If it’s all going well, hopefully it comes down to a sprint and then it’s all for me,” Boasson Hagen told ITV ahead of the stage.

55km remaining from 228km

That injection of urgency from MTN-Qhubeka has helped to pare the leading duo's advantage back down to five minutes flat. The race is back on dry roads again after the earlier rainfall.

Joey Rosskopf puts in a long turn on the front for BMC at the head of the peloton. Rohan Dennis' teammates have struck up a decent working arrangement with Cofidis and MTN-Qhubeka.

45km remaining from 228km

Delegations from Sky and Astana are maintaining a watching brief near the front of the bunch with Froome and Nibali both well-placed. The real sort-out well come in the high Alps over the next four days, but the principal contenders will be mindful of the potential pitfalls in today's finale.

43km remaining from 228km

There's a long, long downhill stretch from here more or less to the final climb, the Côte de la Marquise, but despite MTN's reinforcements, the two escapees have stretched out their lead over the past ten kilometres. The gap now stands at 5:21.

 

Nacer Bouhanni wears the green jersey of points leader and the Frenchman is in fact wearing a skinsuit today, showing that he means business. Whether he will get the bunch sprint he so desires, however, remains to be seen. This is an impressive show of defiance from Van der Sande and Keizer, though the sting in the tail of this stage might prove their undoing.

39km remaining from 228km

Keizer and Van der Sande are continuing to collaborate smoothly. They hold a lead of 5:20 inside the final 40 kilometres, and there will need to be a significant infusion of urgency in the main peloton if they are to be reeled in.

BMC's Joey Rosskopf keeps working on the front of the peloton. As it stands, his teammate Rohan Dennis would cede the maillot jaune to Keizer, who began the day 3:42 down on general classification.

31km remaining from 228km

Approaching the final 30 kilometres, Keizer and Van der Sande still hold a lead in excess of five minutes over the peloton. MTN-Qhubeka and Cofidis' combined efforts have done relatively little to claw back the two escapees.

28km remaining from 228km

King of the mountains Daniel Teklehaimanot puts in a long turn on the front in support of his MTN-Qhubeka teammate Boasson Hagen. There is a touch more intensity about the chase effort now, and the gap has been sliced to 4:40.

26km remaining from 228km

A phalanx of Etixx-QuickStep riders make their way towards the front with Julian Alaphilippe in the wheels, but for now they are happy to leave the chasing to Cofidis and MTN. The gap stands at 4:26.

24km remaining from 228km

The bunch is strung out in a long line under the impetus of Cofidis' chasing, which has sliced the break's lead back to 4:06. A number of GC riders are navigating their way to the head of the peloton on this fast, fast run-in to the short but stiff Côte de la Marquise (1.3km at 6.7%).

23km remaining from 228km

Martin Velits hits the front of the bunch, marking the first time that Etixx-QuickStep have committed to the chase. The seconds continue to dissolve from the break's buffer, which is suddenly down to 3:38.

21km remaining from 228km

Keizer and Van der Sande's efforts are beginning to show as they tackle a brief false flat. Van der Sande sticks his tongue out as he battles to stay on Keizer's wheek. They are less than eight kilometres from the final categorised climb of the day, where their longstanding alliance could well come to an abrupt halt.

18km remaining from 228km

The injection of pace in the peloton has brought about a dramatic renegotiation of the break's lead. The gap is now down to just 2:10.

15km remaining from 228km

Tosh Van Der Sande puffs out his cheeks in grim resignation when the television camera draws near. Their lead stands at just 1:150 as they enter the final 15 kilometres.

14km remaining from 228km

There is a scramble for positions at the head of the peloton as the GC contenders and their teammates fling themselves forwards ahead of the Côte de la Marquise. The deficit continues to tumble and it now stands at just 1:27.

13km remaining from 228km

Van Der Sande and Keizer swing off to the front and on to the narrow road up the Côte de la Marquise. There's a sudden transition from a wide, flat and smooth road to a narrow and uneven one, hence the battle for positions at the head of the bunch.

Keizer attacks twice and drops Van Der Sande at the second attempt, but his lead is now just 54 seconds over the peloton, which is led by Cannondale-Garmin into the base of the climb.

Cyril Gautier (Europcar) attacks on the climb and opens a small gap over the peloton, where a Tinkoff-Saxo rider was felled by a crash, though seemingly without serious consequence.

12km remaining from 228km

Gautier picks off Van Der Sande and sets off in pursuit of Keizer.

12km remaining from 228km

Keizer leads over the Côte de la Marquise with 20 seconds in hand over the main peloton.

Gautier is swallowed by a small chase group as he crests the summit, but they will surely all be swept up by the bunch on the descent that follows.

Peter Kennaugh (Sky) leads the peloton, where it seems all of the GC contenders have made it over the climb together.

10km remaining from 228km

Tim Wellens, Lawson Craddock, Gautier and Van Der Sande are in a determined chase group just behind Keizer.

9km remaining from 228km

The four chasers hit a final, uncategorised climb, where Tim Wellens attacks alone and begins to close in on Keizer.

8km remaining from 228km

As Keizer is joined by Wellens out in front, Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) jumps clear of the peloton on the same uncategorised climb.

Julien Alaphilippe follows Kelderman at a distance of ten metres, as the front of the peloton fragements.

7km remaining from 228km

Alaphilippe joins with Kelderman at the top of the climb, and leads the pursuit of Wellens and Keizer on the descent. Tiago Machado (Katusha) is also attempting to bridge across to them, while the bunch is strung out in a long, fractured line behind them.

6km remaining from 228km

Nibali leads the peloton back up towards the Kelderman group on the descent, but Alaphilippe kicks again and brings Kelderman with him.

6km remaining from 228km

Wellens attacks and drops Keizer as the road flattens out. The Belgian is alone in front.

5km remaining from 228km

Nibali briefly joined Kelderman and Alaphilippe off the front of the peloton but they have been swept up as MTN-Qhubeka lead the chase.

4km remaining from 228km

Keizer, too, has been caught. Only Wellens remains in front, with a lead of 12 seconds over the bunch.

4km remaining from 228km

Wellens carries his 12-second lead into the final four kilometres as leaden drops of rain begin to fall once again.

3km remaining from 228km

The pursuit behind Wellens isn't a particularly organised one just yet as Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) puts in a testing dig.

2km remaining from 228km

A huge effort from Tony Martin sees Wellens swept up. The German's force is such that he opens a small gap on the bunch with Daniel Oss (BMC) on his wheel.

2km remaining from 228km

Martin, Oss and Bram Tankink lead into the final two kilometres but they relent shortly afterwards. Nacer Bouhanni is among the fast men moving up and a sprint looks in prospect.

1km remaining from 228km

Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) takes a flyer down the left-hand gutter and opens a lead over the peloton. His former team Cofidis give chase in support of Bouhanni.

1km remaining from 228km

Gallopin leads into the final kilometre as MTN-Qhubeka lead the chase.

Gallopin is caught in the finishing straight as Tyler Farrar leads out the sprint.

Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r-La Mondiale) opens the sprint with 200 metres as Bouhanni sits in fourth wheel.

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) wins stage 4 of the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Who needs a lead-out train? Bouhanni bides his time and chooses his moment perfectly to beat Jonas Vangenechten (IAM Cycling) and Luka Mezgec (Giant-Shimano) in the sprint. Boasson Hagen was well-placed but could only manage 4th on the stage.

Rohan Dennis finished four places ahead of his teammate Tejay van Garderen in the main peloton and so he will retain the yellow jersey this evening.

Result:

1 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 5:30:53
2 Jonas Vangenechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
3 Luka Mezgec (Slo) Team Giant-Alpecin
4 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN - Qhubeka
5 Aleksei Tsatevich (Rus) Team Katusha
6 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
7 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
8 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9 Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ.fr
10 Nathan Haas (Aus) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team

General classification:

1 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 13:31:31
2 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
3 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:04
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
5 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana Pro Team
6 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana Pro Team
7 Rein Taaramae (Est) Astana Pro Team
8 Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:05
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
10 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team

Bouhanni claimed that sprint quite comfortably in the end, as he out-stripped Boasson Hagen and Mezgec in the final 150 metres, though Vangenechten made up considerable ground on the Frenchman with his own late charge.

After a difficult start to his season, Bouhanni will go to the Tour de France with his confidence bolstered considerably. There may be a dearth of top-level sprinters at this Dauphine, but with Marcel Kittel still struggling for form, Bouhanni will fancy his chances of opening his account at La Grande Boucle against Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and company.

“It was pretty calm, it was very controlled. We let two guys go up the road then Cofidis and ourselves controlled it all day. There was a fight before the last climb but before that it was almost ‘boring’ you could say,” says Rohan Dennis, who sounded an optimistic note about his prospects on tomorrow’s mountain stage to Pra-Loup.

“Today was almost too long and too flat to take it out of your legs, the average power wasn’t high. Tomorrow there’ll be a lot of fresh legs, it will be a GC day. I won’t give the jersey up without a fight but Tejay is our GC guy here.”

Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of a stage that suddenly caught fire in the final 15 kilometres. We'll be back with more tomorrow but before that you can read a full report here, and as ever you can find all of the news and reaction from the Dauphiné on Cyclingnews.

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