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Critérium du Dauphiné: Thomas De Gendt solos to stage 1 win
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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:
1 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 4:16:54
2 Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:48
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:03
4 Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:07
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
6 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:01:09
7 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
9 Ben Swift (GBr) UAE Team Emirates
10 Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team
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.
171km remaining from 171km
The peloton hits kilometre zero and stage 2 of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné is underway. There is one non-starter to report, as Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) has abandoned the race. The Belgian explained that he was struggling with a high fever on yesterday's stage. His teammate Thomas De Gendt is, of course, present and correct in the yellow jersey of race leader.
167km remaining from 171km
The pace is brisk in the early kilometres but no break has formed just yet as the peloton tackles the day's first climb, the category 3 Côte de Croix Blanche (4.6km at 4.1%).
167km remaining from 171km
The pace is brisk in the opening kilometres. Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Mickaël Delage (FDJ), Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac) and Romain Combaud (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) have established a small lead over the peloton on the day's first climb, the category 3 Côte de Croix Blanche (4.6km at 4.1%).
164km remaining from 171km
The peloton seems content to allow Bouwman, Delage, Brown and Combaud some freedom. Their lead has stretched out towards three minutes and is still growing.
161km remaining from 171km
Romain Combaud led the break over the top of the Croix Blanche, taking the maximum two king of the mountains points on offer. The escapees now have a lead of 3:40 over the peloton.
155km remaining from 171km
The break's lead has come down slightly to just over three minutes. Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac) was the best-placed of the quartet on GC as the day began, 59 seconds down on De Gendt, and he is currently the virtual race leader.
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.
145km remaining from 171km
Thomas De Gendt's Lotto Soudal team has taken up the reins at the head of the peloton, and the gap between the break and the bunch remains stable at around 3:30.
142km remaining from 171km
And then there were three. Mickael Delage (FDJ) has sat up from the break and is waiting to be caught by the peloton. Letour.fr suggests he has received orders to drop back due to his role in Arnaud Demare's sprint lead-out - which begs the question as to why Delage was the FDJ man to infiltrate the break in the first place. No matter, unlike David Boucher at the 2015 Eneco Tour, Delage appears to have no qualms about his redeployment here.
136km remaining from 171km
The three remaining escapees bowl through Chazells-sur-Lyon with a lead of 3:20 over the peloton, which is still being controlled by Lotto Soudal.
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.
126km remaining from 171km
Lotto-Soudal's stint of pace-making at the head of the bunch has shaved the break's lead back to 3:05.
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.
120km remaining from 171km
Approaching Montrond-les-Bains, the escapees remain three minutes clear of the peloton. They are some 20 kilometres from the base of the day's second climb, the category 2 Col de Verrières-en-Forez.
111km remaining from 171km
The break's lead has remained steady at three minutes for the bulk of the stage, and as the afternoon progresses, Lotto Soudal will have no shortage of willing volunteers to help reel them in. The sprinters are well aware that today offers one of the few opportunities to shine on this Dauphine.
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.
100km remaining from 171km
The pace in the peloton dropped appreciably as they negotiated the feed zone at Grezieux-le-Fromental, and the escapees begin the category 2 ascent of the Col de Verrières-en-Forez (9km at 4.8%) with a lead of 3:35.
95km remaining from 171km
Brown, Bouwman and Combaud nudge their advantage out towards 3:45 as they tackle the lower slopes of the climb. The category 3 Col de Baracuchet and the category 4 Col des Supeyres follow before the flatter and undoubtedly faster run-in towards the finish, where the sprinters' teams will surely be to the fore.
90km remaining from 171km
Astana have joined Lotto Soudal in the pace-making effort at the head of the peloton, and their injection of urgency has helped to reduce the break's lead, which now stands just north of three minutes once again.
84km remaining from 171km
Bouwman led the escapees over the Col de Verrières-en-Forez, but their advantage has been pinned back considerably over the past ten kilometres. Thanks to Astana, and to Luis Leon Sanchez in particular, the gap now stands at 1:45.
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.
79km remaining from 171km
Out in front, meanwhile, Koen Bouwam has opted to try his luck alone. The LottoNL-Jumbo man attacks Brown and Combaud ahead of the Col de Baracuchet.
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.
75km remaining from 171km
The pace remains high at the front of the peloton, with the dropped groups still scrambling to regain contact. After a low-key start, this stage has ignited shortly after the midway point.
72km remaining from 171km
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacks from the peloton and the Kazakhstani rider, who was under-23 world champion in 2012, is trying to bridge across alone to the three leaders.
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.
71km remaining from 171km
Lutsenko has succeeded in forging across alone to join Bouwman, Brown and Combaud out in front. This quartet has a lead of 1:05 over the peloton, where Lotto Soudal are again setting the tempo.
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.
69km remaining from 171km
Bouwman leads the break over the Col des Supeyres to take the lone mountains point on offer. Lotto Soudal lead the peloton, 1:45 down the road.
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.
62km remaining from 171km
Lotto Soudal continue to hold the reins in the main peloton, though it's notable that Chris Froome and his Sky guard are well-placed towards the front. The defending champion will be looking to avoid any unnecessary alarms and surprises this afternoon.
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.
56km remaining from 171km
The sprinters' teams will be more than happy to allow the break to hold its current advantage of 1:40 for the time being, and Lotto Soudal are left to work alone at the head of the bunch. Nathan Brown, who began the day 1:09 down on De Gendt, is still the virtual race leader.
50km remaining from 171km
Into the last 50 kilometres for the escapees. They continue to collaborate smoothly, but their lead has dropped slightly to 1:30.
46km remaining from 171km
Lotto Soudal peel another 10 seconds off the break's lead, which now stands at 1:20.
43km remaining from 171km
Chris Froome sits ensconced amid his Sky guard, a dozen or so places from the head of the peloton. With the break just 1:15 up the road, the sprinters' teams are content to allow Lotto Soudal alone to continue their efforts on the front.
40km remaining from 171km
Bouwman, Lutsenko, Combaud and Brown enter the final 40 kilometres with a little over a minute in hand on the peloton, where the chase has yet to ignite in earnest.
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.
33km remaining from 171km
Dimension Data and Bahrain-Merida begin to put their shoulders to the wheel at the head of the peloton, and the break's lead drops to 48 seconds.
31km remaining from 171km
The bunch comes through the finish line in Arlanc for the first time, some 40 seconds down on the four escapees. Meanwhile, there has been a crash at the rear of the bunch, with Michael Valgren (Astana) among those caught up.
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.
29km remaining from 171km
Lutsenko is committed to his lone effort, and he has extended his buffer over the peloton back out to one minute.
Combaud has also desisted from his attempt to get back on terms with Lutsenko, and he is swept up by the bunch.
27km remaining from 171km
Lutsenko is riding strongly to maintain his lead of one minute over the peloton, but the sprinters' teams have yet to commit to the chase in earnest.
Dimension Data are prominent at the head of the peloton in support of Edvald Boasson Hagen as they tackle the uncategorised climb towards Novacelles.
24km remaining from 171km
Lutsensko continues to put up stout resistance in front and retains a lead of 50 seconds over the peloton.
22km remaining from 171km
Dimension Data continue to set the pace at the head of the bunch as they tackle the plateau that followed the uncategorised climb in the finale. 42 seconds the deficit to Lutsenko.
20km remaining from 171km
Yukiya Arashiro is also prominent near the head of the bunch. The road climbs slightly in the final 300 metres, and it is precisely the kind of finish where his Bahrain-Merida teammate Sonny Colbrelli would expect to shine.
19km remaining from 171km
Thomas De Gendt remains well-placed in his yellow jersey. The Belgian needs only to finish in the main peloton to retain his overall lead, but he is determined not to get caught out by any late splits.
18km remaining from 171km
Lutsensko is still riding strongly but his lead is beginning to dwindle. The gap now stands at 30 seconds.
17km remaining from 171km
Lutsenko is now descending towards the finish, but there is a long, flat and very straight run-in towards the line, and he will be hard pressed to stay clear.
Lutsenko's lead is slashed under the weight of Dimension Data's pressing behind. 20 seconds the gap.
10km remaining from 171km
Lutsensko carries an advantage of just over 20 seconds into the final 10 kilometres as the peloton strings out into a long line behind.
8km remaining from 171km
Quick-Step Floors join the chase at the head of the bunch on behalf of Max Richeze, and Lutsenko's advantage drops to 10 seconds.
7km remaining from 171km
Lutsenko sticks gamely to his task at the head of the race, but his lead is just 8 seconds and his adventure is surely drawing to a close.
6km remaining from 171km
Direct Energie join the chase for Bryan Coquard, and still a defiant Lutsenko holds a lead of 8 seconds over the bunch.
5km remaining from 171km
The road is flat and wide from here on in, and that won't help Lutsenko hold his gap of 8 seconds for much longer.
4km remaining from 171km
The bunch are within touching distance of Lutsenko as they hit the 4km-long straight that brings them towards the finish. There is just the slightest curve in the road with 300 metres to go.
3km remaining from 171km
Lutsenko is pegged back by the break. All of the fast men in the Dauphine are still present and correct in the peloton. This ought to be a sprint royal.
2km remaining from 171km
FDJ move up on behalf of Arnaud Demare, while Cofidis marshal Nacer Bouhanni towards the front.
1km remaining from 171km
FDJ, Bahrain-Merida and Cofidis are all vying for supremacy at the front.
1km remaining from 171km
FDJ lead the peloton in to the final kilometre before Direct Energie take over.
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.
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
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."
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 04:13:53
2 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
4 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
5 Phil Bauhaus (Ger) Team Sunweb
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
7 Ben Swift (GBr) UAE Team Emirates
8 Pascal Ackermann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
9 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
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:
1 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal 08:30:47
2 Axel Domont (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 00:00:48
3 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 00:01:03
4 Pierre Roger Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 00:01:07
5 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:01:09
6 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 00:01:09
7 Ben Swift (GBr) UAE Team Emirates 00:01:09
8 Alberto Bettiol (Ita) Cannondale-Drapac 00:01:09
9 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Soudal 00:01:09
10 Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 00:01:09
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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