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Criterium du Dauphine 2016: Stage 4

Welcome to our live coverage of stage 4 of the Dauphiné. The 176-kilometre leg to Belley features just two category 4 climbs and ought to be the last opportunity for the sprinters at this race ahead of the weekend's grand finale. The roads are heavy in this corner of the world, however, and there will be no shortage of willing attackers hoping that their numbers come up this afternoon. The peloton is just about to roll out from Tain-l'Hermitage and should reach kilometre zero in about ten minutes' time.

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) remains atop the overall standings, 6 seconds clear of his former teammate Richie Porte (BMC). The general classification currently looks as follows:

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 13:13:10
2 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:06
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:13
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:21
5 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:24
6 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:27
7 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:31
8 Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:37
9 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:43
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:48

 

Fabio Aru (Astana) claimed the stage honours yesterday with a fine attack on the descent of the final climb, the Côte de Sécheras. The Sardinian had seemed short of his best to this point on the Dauphine, but showcased his rising pre-Tour de France form with that dramatic cameo. It was, incidentally, Aru's first professional win outside of a Grand Tour. His six previous victories all came at the Giro d'Italia (three stage wins between 2014 and 2015) and the Vuelta a Espana (two stage wins in 2014 and overall victory in 2015). 

 

There is one non-starter to report, as Damien Howson (Orica-GreenEdge) has withdrawn from the Dauphine. Considering his exploits in support of Esteban Chaves at the recent Giro d'Italia, the Australian must have running on empty here. Rupert Guinness caught up with Howson at the end of the Giro to discuss his race and Chaves' future as a Grand Tour contender.

 

176km remaining from 176km

The flag drops and stage 4 of the Dauphiné is underway in earnest. Almost immediately, Maxime Bouet (Etixx-Quick Step), Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) and Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) clip off the front.

 

Bouet, 82nd overall at 11:02, is the best-placed man in this move, so they ought to have no problems in getting a day pass from Tinkoff. 

 

171km remaining from 176km

As expected, there has been no reaction from the peloton. Bouet and his companions have a lead of 1:40 over the bunch, and they can surely expect to spend quite some time off the front this afternoon. Katusha, Cofidis et al will be happy to let their lead yawn out to five minutes or more before beginning the task of pegging them back in the final 80 kilometres or so.

 

That said, we do have a couple of abrupt changes in direction in the second half of today's stage and at the start in Tain, some of the general classification contenders voiced concern about the possibility of crosswinds splitting the peloton in the finale. And, as Aru showed by thwarting the sprinters yesterday afternoon, things are rarely quite as they seem at the Dauphiné.

 

169km remaining from 176km

For now, mind, the answer to a question seemingly dear to the heart of people on Tweeters and YouTubes, 'Où est Maxime Bouet?' is... chugging away off the front with a lead of 3 minutes (and growing) over the peloton.

 

For now, the peloton is ambling along at scarcely 30kph, while Bouet, Veuchelen and Nauleau work to stretch out their early advantage. 

 

You can watch highlights of Fabio Aru's victory on stage 3 here, while you can hear to people talk about it and an exclusive interview with Alberto Contador by listening to the Cyclingnews podcast here.

 

160km remaining from 176km

After 16 kilometres, our three leaders have an advantage of 3:30 over the peloton as they approach the town of Châteauneuf-de-Galaure.

 

Fabio Aru has spent an entire career downplaying expectations and he's not about to change tack ahead of his Tour de France debut, insisting that he is going to La Grande Boucle with his "feet on the ground." La Gazzetta dello Sport was a little less restrained this morning. "Aru is already in Tour form," trumpeted la rosea. "He drops everybody at the Dauphiné."

 

150km remaining from 176km

26 kilometres into today's stage, meanwhile, Bouet, Nauleau and Veuchelen have a lead of 5:15 over the peloton.

 

Bryan Nauleau is one of eight riders competing for the final five berths in Direct Energie's Tour de France line-up. Manager Jean-René Bernaudeau announced on Monday that Thomas Voeckler, Sylvain Chavanel, Romain Sicard and Bryan Coquard have already been picked for La Grande Boucle, and he hinted that a sizeable portion of the final selection will be devoted to preparing the sprint finishes for Coquard. 

 

While Richie Porte leads the BMC challenge here at the Dauphiné, his stable-mate Tejay van Garderen is preparing for the Tour de Suisse, and you can read his thoughts on next week's race and his Tour de France build-up here. Van Garderen was second overall at the Dauphiné a year ago, but opted to race in Switzerland this time around. "It was kind of my call to do Tour de Suisse, just to branch out from my normal routine a little bit," he said. "I like the course, it has a time trial and a prologue, whereas the Dauphine only has one uphill prologue, so it was good to get another couple tests in the TT bike. There are some solid summit finishes in Tour de Suisse, while the Dauphine doesn't seem to have as many mountains."

 

147km remaining from 176km

Bryan Nauleau led the trio of escapees over the day's first categorised climb, the Côte d'Hauterives. Their advantage over the peloton has stabilised at 5:15 for the time being.

 

The Cofidis team of Nacer Bouhanni have joined Tinkoff in controlling affairs at the head of the peloton, but it's been a relatively sedate day of racing into a headwind thus far. The three escapees have covered a little more than 30 kilometres in the first hour of racing, according to letour.fr.

 

What's in the box? Fabio Aru (Astana) receives an additional prize for his victory on Wednesday ahead of the start of stage 4 in Tain-l'Hermitage.

 

136km remaining from 176km

After 40 kilometres of racing, our three-man break has a lead of precisely five minutes over the peloton, which is still being led by Tinkoff and Cofidis. 

 

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) signs on at the start in Tain-l'Hermitage.

 

120km remaining from 176km

There has been a slight injection of pace in the peloton, and the break's lead has dropped to 4:15 after 56 kilometres of racing.

 

Away from the Dauphiné, our own Patrick Fletcher has spoken to Geraint Thomas about his ambitions for next week's Tour de Suisse. “I’ll be going full gas, emptying the tank, and getting the most out of myself,” says Thomas. You can read the full story here.

 

107km remaining from 176km

The peloton continues to whittle away at the three-man break's advantage. After two hours of racing, the deficit stands at 3:50.

 

The average speed after two hours of racing, incidentally, was 31.6kph. The block headwind means that the race is currently lagging well behind the slowest predicted schedule - which means all the more action when live television coverage starts later in the afternoon.

 

95km remaining from 176km

As Bouet, Veuchelen and Nauleau approach the category 4 climb of Côte de la Chapelle-de-la-Tour, they hold a lead of 3:55 over the peloton.

 

Drama has been thin on the ground thus far this afternoon, but then the same was true yesterday before the sting in the tail at the end of stage 3. Fabio Aru's solo win grabbed the headlines, but Alberto Contador saved his yellow jersey - and his overall aspirations, perhaps - with a rapid bike change after suffering a mechanical problem on the final descent. Contador jumped aboard teammate Roman Kreuziger's bike to finish safely in the main peloton, as he recounts here.

 

84km remaining from 176km

The heavens have opened above the Dauphiné peloton, which is riding through a heavy rain shower, some four minutes behind the three leaders.

 

80km remaining from 176km

The sprinters' teams will be happy to keep the break's advantage hovering around the four-minute mark for the time being. Cofidis, Katusha and Bora-Argon 18 ought to be to the fore in the finale in support of Nacer Bouhanni, Alexander Kristoff and Sam Bennett, respectively. 

John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) is among the contenders for stage honours today, not least because the finishing straight rises slightly. “I feel okay. This week is really important to build up my shape ahead of the Tour de France," Degenkolb said at the start. "We’re also working on the team work for the sprints. Yesterday was good until the last corner but then I got boxed in and I couldn’t do anything. I just have to keep trying and keep fighting for position. The others are still on a different level. This finale is good, it’s uphill but my shape isn’t 100 per cent perfect so we’ll see what happens."

 

72km remaining from 176km

The pace picked up slightly in the third hour of racing, but the gap between the break and the peloton remains locked in and around the four-minute mark. Their current buffer is 4:11.

 

Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the bunch sprint yesterday but had to settle for second place, two seconds down on the surprise escapee Fabio Aru. The Norwegian will hope to go one better this afternoon, where he will likely renew acquaintances with Nacer Bouhanni in the final kilometre. “This is the last sprint stage and I hope to be good. The finale has corners and looks technical. The road looks quite wide though, even though it’s uphill,” Kristoff said at the start. “We have to keep the bunch together. If everything goes right then I can sprint for the win. Bouhanni beat me the first day, so we’ll have to see.”

 

Representatives from Katusha, Lotto-Soudal and Cofidis lead the peloton as the pace begins to ratchet upwards.

 

62km remaining from 176km

The sprinters' teams are in control on the front, and they're happy to keep tabs on the break's lead as they return to blue skies and dry roads. The gap stands at 3:29.

 

Chris Froome (Sky) lies third overall, 13 seconds down on Contador, and he is hoping to get through today's leg unscathed ahead of the troika of mountain stages to come. “This seems to be one for the sprinters so for us it’s just about staying upright, and out of trouble. Michal [Kwiatkowski] is hopefully recovering and today he can just stay in the wheels,” Froome said this morning. “There’s talk of a bit of cross-winds later in the race. I’ll just stay with Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard and stay near them, that’s for sure.”

 

Kenneth Vanbilsen sets the pace at the head of the peloton in support of his Cofidis leader Nacer Bouhanni. Alberto Contador is surrounded by a phalanx of Tinkoff riders a little further back.

 

The three escapees continue to collaborate well at the head of the race. Maxime Bouet is not lacking in motivation today, of course - he was born in our finish town of Belley.

 

Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski lost over 9 minutes yesterday and complained afterwards of a chest and throat problem. "My throat is still strained but I hope that it’s nothing serious," he said at the start today. "So far I feel okay this morning but we’ll see how I go on the bike. I’m pretty happy to be getting back my voice now."

 

54km remaining from 176km

The combined efforts of the sprinters' teams at the head of the peloton have sliced the break's lead to 2:45.

 

The sprinters will get to sample the final 7 kilometres twice this afternoon. The race reaches Belley for the first time with 32 kilometres remaining and then doubles back for the finish. The race will hit the finishing circuit with 39 kilometres remaining.

 

48km remaining from 176km

There is a gradual infusion of intensity in the main peloton, as Lotto-Soudal, Cofidis and Katusha continue to contribute to the chase. The break's lead stands at 2:36.

 

45km remaining from 176km

Frederik Veuchelen (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) and Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie) continue to swap turns on the front, but there seems a certain inevitability about their fate. 

 

Chris Froome (Sky) and Fabio Aru (Astana) are placed towards the front of the peloton, where Lotto-Soudal, Katusha, Bora-Argon 18 and Cofidis continue to set the tempo.

 

42km remaining from 176km

Richie Porte has also positioned himself near the front, ensconced amid a praetorian guard of BMC riders - a tactic seemingly hardwired into the team since the Cadel Evans era.

 

39km remaining from 176km

The three escapees enter the finishing circuit with a lead of 1:58 over the peloton. They will sample the final 7 kilometres of the stage here before crossing the finish line for the first time in Belley with 32 kilometres remaining.

 

There are a lot of red jerseys massed at the head of the peloton, as Cofidis, Katusha and Lotto-Soudal work on behalf of their fast men.

 

36km remaining from 176km

Veuchelen puts in a long, long turn on the front of the three-man break. Another few seconds have been shaved off their lead and the gap stands at 1:49.

 

33km remaining from 176km

The three leaders reach the flamme rouge for the first time. There is a quite a narrow left-hand bend with around 800 metres to go before the road begins to rise.

 

32km remaining from 176km

There's a shallow rise all the way to the finish and the line only reveals itself with 150 metres to go after a trio of sweeping bends. The gradient really shouldn't trouble the pure sprinters, but it will be a tricky finish to judge nonetheless - they'll be glad to have had this sighter before they come back and ride this finale for keeps.

 

The peloton take the bell at the finish line just 1:41 behind the escapees.

 

28km remaining from 176km

Katusha lead a peloton that continues to make inroads into the break's lead, which now stands at 1:34. 

 

Barring a late split, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) seems unlikely to concede his yellow and blue jersey this afternoon. The Spaniard is surrounded by a gaggle of teammates within touching distance of the front of the peloton.

 

26km remaining from 176km

The sprinters' teams continue to find common cause at the head of the peloton. Veuchelen remains a generous contributor at the front of the break, but their lead has been clipped back to 1:26.

 

24km remaining from 176km

Another tuft of seconds are clipped off the break's lead. The gap drops to 1:01.

 

22km remaining from 176km

The winding-up process begins in earnest in the main peloton as Lotto-Soudal and Bora-Argon 18 exchange turns on the front and the gap drops to just 42 seconds.

 

21km remaining from 176km

The unity of the leading group fragments as they receive news of their dwindling advantage on the chalk board. Maxime Bouet accelerates but Veuchelen drags Nauleau back up to him. 40 seconds the gap.

 

20km remaining from 176km

The three escapees enter the final 20 kilometres with a lead of 40 seconds over the peloton.

 

A delegation from BMC has hit the front with some determination. The uphill finishing straight seems a little too shallow for Greg Van Avermaet's tastes, though the Belgian may be minded to have a go nonetheless.

 

17km remaining from 176km

Veuchelen stretches out the trio of escapees on a short descent. The gap stands at 32 seconds and it continues to narrow.

 

15km remaining from 176km

The three leaders enter the final 15 kilometres. Their turns on the front are shorter and more urgent, but their advantage continues to fall.

 

Bora-Argon 18 take over at the head of the peloton in support of Sam Bennett. This is the last chance for the sprinters and it ought to be a fiercely-contested finish.

 

14km remaining from 176km

Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) attacks alone once again, but this time Veuchelen pegs him back. Nauleau relents, his day on the front has come to an end.

 

13km remaining from 176km

Bouet accelerates again, seemingly determined to show off his jersey alone in the closing kilometres. An exasperated Veuchelen sits up and leaves the Belley native to it.

 

A couple of riders are forced to put a foot down as the peloton concertinas into a narrow stretch of road, but there don't appear to be any GC contenders held up.

 

11km remaining from 176km

Maxime Bouet has stretched his lead out to 39 seconds once again, but BMC, Cofidis and now Orica-GreenEdge have massed at the head of the peloton.

 

10km remaining from 176km

Bouet enters the final 10 kilometres with 35 seconds in hand on the peloton.

 

9km remaining from 176km

Marcus Burghardt (BMC) sits on the front of the peloton and stretches things out as they pick up Veuchelen and Nauleau.

 

9km remaining from 176km

Bouet's gap drops to 30 seconds as the speed rises in the peloton.

 

A delegation from Giant-Alpecin moves up on the right-hand side of the peloton in support of John Degenkolb.

 

8km remaining from 176km

Another five seconds have been shaved off Bouet's lead. 25 seconds the gap.

 

6km remaining from 176km

Bouet flounders into a headwind section and his gap drops to 18 seconds.

 

6km remaining from 176km

Kenneth Vanbilsen (Cofidis) is riding with an on board camera this afternoon and the images show that he has moved to the front of Cofidis' lead-out train as they marshal Bouhanni into position.

 

5km remaining from 176km

Bouet grinds on, but his lead is down to just 14 seconds and the peloton is bearing down upon him.

 

Bouet looks forlornly over shoulder and sees the peloton. His adventure is almost at an end.

 

4km remaining from 176km

Maxime Bouet is caught by the peloton. Gruppo compatto.

 

Tony Martin and Niki Terpstra hit the front for Etixx-QuickStep. They believe Julian Alaphilippe can shine on today's slightly uphill finishing straight.

 

3km remaining from 176km

Giant-Alpecin take over at the front for John Degenkolb. 

 

3km remaining from 176km

The peloton negotiates a roundabout, where Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) realises that he has moved up too soon and tries to drop back a few places.

 

2km remaining from 176km

Giant-Alpecin's pace has provoked small gaps in the peloton.

 

2km remaining from 176km

A Cofidis rider crashes and brings down an Ag2r-La Mondiale rider, but no GC contenders or sprinters seem to have been held up.

 

1km remaining from 176km

Orica-GreenEdge lead into the final kilometre.

 

Giant-Alpecin take over with 800 metres to go for Degenkolb.

 

A Lotto-Soudal delegation moves up. No one team is controlling this finale...

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) opens his sprint from distance as Bouhanni and Alaphilippe dive for his wheel.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) wins stage 4 of Critérium du Dauphiné.

 

Alaphilippe and Bouhanni were closing in on Boasson Hagen in the final metres, but they ran out of road and had to settle for second and third.

 

Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) played a key supporting role to keep Boasson Hagen in position in that closing kilometre, and the Norwegian then chose the perfect line through the final sweeping bend and timed his effort perfectly.

 

Julian Alaphilippe came from a long, long way back to claim second place ahead of Bouhanni. Jens Debusschere (Lotto Soudal) took fourth ahead of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

 

Result:

1 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data 4:39:26
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
4 Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
6 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
8 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin
9 Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18
10 Luka Pibernik (Slo) Lampre - Merida

 

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) retains the overall lead, but he and Richie Porte (BMC) seem to have lost 9 seconds to Chris Froome (Sky) in that finale. Julian Alaphilippe moves up to fourth overall thanks to the 6-second time bonus he picked up for placing second on the stage.

 

General classification:

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 17:52:45
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:04
3 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:06
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:09
5 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:12
6 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:27
7 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:31
8 Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:35
9 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:43
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:48
 

 

Borut Bozic (Cofidis) and Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r-La Mondiale) were the two riders who crashed in the finale.

 

Chris Froome speaks after the finish: "From the word go here I’ve said that this is an important race for me. The Dauphine is an important race in it’s own right. Yes, it’s the last race for me in the build-up before the Tour, but it’s important in its own right."

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) had a word for Keagan Girdlestone, who was injured in a serious crash at the Coppa della Pace last weekend. "It's nice to get a win for Dimension Data. It gives me an opportunity to send my best wishes to Keagan Girdlestone for his recovery," Boasson Hagen said, according to letour.fr.

 

We can confirm that both Bozic and Gougeard remounted and completed the stage after their crash two kilometres from the finish.

 

Only 21 riders - including Chris Froome and Dan Martin - finished in the same time as Boasson Hagen, while Porte and Contador were among those who came home 9 seconds down, hence the slight shake-up of the general classification this evening.

 

The Dauphiné continues tomorrow with a 140-kilometre leg from La Ravoire to the finish atop the category 2 climb at Vaujany. There are no fewer than seven categorised climbs crammed into the stage, including the category 1 Col du Barrioz. It’s the first in a troika of mountain stages, with another summit finish at Méribel-les-Allues on Saturday and the concluding leg to Superdévoluy on Sunday.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) wins stage 4 of Criterium du Dauphine in Belley.

 

Thanks for joining our live coverage of the Dauphiné this afternoon. We'll be back with more tomorrow, but in the meantime you can catch all the news and reaction from today's stage on Cyclingnews. A full report, results and pictures will follow here in due course.

 

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