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Criterium du Dauphine 2017: Stage 2

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Stage 2 of Critérium du Dauphiné takes the peloton on the 171 kilometres that separate Saint-Chamond from Arlanc, and although there are four categorised climbs, including the category 2 Col de Verrières-en-Forez, the sprinters will be expected to battle it out for the win this afternoon, while Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) will hope to defend his yellow jersey. 

The peloton is currently navigating the 6.2-kilometre neutralised zone, and they should hit kilometre zero and the start of the race at around 12.15 local time.

The general classification picture was as follows ahead of today's stage:

Chris Froome (Sky) came through Sunday's opening stage safely in the main peloton and the Briton will hope for more of the same this afternoon. The first major rendezvous of his Dauphine ought to come in Wednesday's stage 4 time trial. These were his thoughts as the Dauphine began.

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Away from the Dauphine, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) has been pencilled into the start list for next week's Tour of Slovenia, though his participation in the Tour de France remains very much in doubt as he recovers from mononucleosis. Daniel Benson has spoken to Dimension Data directeur sportif Roger Hammond about Cavendish's prospects.

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Patrick Fletcher is on hand at the Dauphiné for us this week, and he caught up with Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) to run the rule over his Tour de France build-up and his co-leadership with Esteban Chaves. "I don't think there's any sort of rivalry in the team – we have great relationship. I think that has showed at the Vuelta and other races," said Yates. "So I don't see why we can't show that again here, and then again at the Tour, and on into the future." You can read the story in full here.

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Richie Porte's run of success so far this season has marked him out among the prime challengers to Chris Froome at next month's Tour de France. The Australian is keenly aware that winning the Dauphine has been the foundation for each of his former teammate's Tour wins, and he will be keen to lay down a marker of his own this week. Richie Porte ran the rule over his Tour challenge in an exclusive podcast interview with Cyclingnews, which you can find here.

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One man eager to impress will be Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin). The Norwegian is out of contract at the end of the season and currently in talks with Katusha and others. Daniel Benson has more here.

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Astana's fierce pace-making has split the peloton into three distinct groups. It's unclear as yet whether any of the GC contenders have been caught out, but one man on the wrong side of the split is sprinter Bryan Coquard (Direct Energie), who is languishing in the third group on the road.

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After claiming the king of the mountains points on the Col de Baracuchet, Bouwman is rejoined on the front by Brown and Combaud. Their lead over the front end of the peloton, now led by Lotto Soudal, is down to just 45 seconds.

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Lutsenko's attack suggests the pace has relented at the front of the peloton and, as if on cue, the Coquard group has latched back on. 

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After that flurry of activity over the climbs, the race has settled down once again. The peloton is intact once more, and the leading quartet of Lutsenkso, Combaud, Bouwman and Brown has nudged its advantage out to 1:25.

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Lutsenko, as befits the freshest man in the break, has been very active at the front since he joined the leaders. The Kazakhstani rider leads them down the descent of the Supeyres as their buffer edges out towards the two-minute mark.

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Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) has stayed well hidden in the body of the peloton thus far today. Wednesday's time trial will be the first major test of his credentials, but the Spaniard came away from yesterday's opener saying that it went better than he had expected. The full story is here.

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Richie Porte sits towards the head of the bunch surrounded by BMC teammates. A little further back, Alejandro Valverde is similarly protected by his Movistar squad. 

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Out in front, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacks out of the break and opens a lead over his erstwhile companions. Bouwman and Brown sit up, their day on the front at an end.

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Combaud has also desisted from his attempt to get back on terms with Lutsenko, and he is swept up by the bunch.

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Dimension Data are prominent at the head of the peloton in support of Edvald Boasson Hagen as they tackle the uncategorised climb towards Novacelles.

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Lutsenko's lead is slashed under the weight of Dimension Data's pressing behind. 20 seconds the gap.

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Katusha-Alpecin take up the reins for Kristoff...

Arnaud Demare comes off Kristoff's wheel and opens his sprint from distance...

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) wins stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphine in the bunch sprint.

Demare wins by two lengths ahead of Kristoff and Bouhanni, an emphatic win from the Frenchman.

Demare was on Ben Swift's wheel in the sprint, and Swift was lined up just behind Kristoff. Demare jumped between Kristoff and the right-hand barrier, and quickly established a winning gap. Bouhanni tried desperately to get on terms but could only manage third on the stage.

Result:

Arnaud Demare speaks as he waits to mount the podium: "I had a difficult moment on the climb but the team waited for me and they helped me through it. I knew this finale would suit me very well. But I needed to be in the front group, and it’s thanks to my team that I made it."

Result:

Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) finished safely in the main peloton to retain the overall lead.

De Gendt remains 48 seconds clear of Alex Domont (Ag2r La Mondiale), and 1:03 ahead of Diego Ulissi (UAE Emirates).

General Classification after stage 2:

 

That was Demare's sixth win of the season and his first ever at the Dauphine. He will hope it is an augury for the Tour de France, where he endured difficult outings in 2014 and 2015.

Thanks for following our live coverage on Cyclingnews this afternoon. A full report, results and pictures are available here. Dan Benson and Patrick Fletcher will have all the news and reaction from Arlanc, and we'll be back with more live coverage from stage 3 on Cyclingnews tomorrow.

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