A novel Alpe d'Huez finale awaits on the penultimate stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, as the peloton tackles the climb by way of the Col de Sarenne at the end of a 168-kilometre leg that takes them from Aosta via the Col de Porte. And it's Richie Porte (BMC) who stands atop the overall standings after yesterday's first mountain stage, claimed by Jakob Fuglsang.
General classification after stage 6:
1 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 20:52:34
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:39
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:15
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:20
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:24
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 0:01:47
7 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 0:02:14
8 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:02:30
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:49
10 Rafael Valls (Spa) Lotto Soudal 0:03:16
The neutralised start from Aosta is at 10am local time, with the peloton set to reach kilometre zero five minutes later. The early start is at the behest of French television, in order to avoid a clash with the women's final at Roland Garros this afternoon. Before Ostapenko-Halep, we may well be set for a Porte-Froome duel on the Sarenne and Alpe d'Huez.
The peloton has just been flagged away from the start in Aosta and is pedalling through the short neutralised zone. There are no fewer than six categorised climbs on the agenda today, starting with the category 4 Côte de Berland after 27 kilometres. The category 2 Col du Cucheron (7.7km at 6.1%) and the category 1 Col de Porte (7.5km at 6.7%) follow in quick succession.
After trundling through the valley, the category 2 Côte de Garçin (3.5km at 6.4%) arrives after 135km and signals the beginning of the denoument. It's the preamble to the hors categorie Col de Sarenne (15.3km at 6.9%). The riders crest the summit of the Sarenne with 15 kilometres remaining, but they don't descend for long, instead riding along the ridge and tackling a final, 3.7km kick towards the finish at Alpe d'Huez. This truncated approach to the Alpe is given a category 2 rating for the occasion.
168km remaining from 168km
The flag has dropped and the penultimate stage of the Dauphine is underway.
Rumours of Tiago Machado's imminent abandon proved to be wide of the mark. Contrary to initial reports, the Katusha-Alpecin did not break his collarbone in his crash during yesterday's stage and he starts today from Aosta. There are two non-starters, however: Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac), both of whom, incidentally, were in action at the Giro d'Italia.
158km remaining from 168km
Despite an early flurry of attacks, no breakaway has managed to establish itself in the brisk opening ten kilometres of racing.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) placed 6th on yesterday's stage, 50 seconds down on Jakob Fuglsang, Fabio Aru, Porte and Froome, but alongside Alejandro Valverde and Romain Bardet. The Irishman declared himself satisfied with his showing after the stage. "It really hurt – it was the hardest I’ve gone on a climb for a long, long time, but the legs were really good, I had a great cadence," he said. "It’s strange, it’s the same as this time last year – I couldn’t really push, I could only really spin it. It was a crazy high cadence but I couldn’t push a big gear." Patrick Fletcher has the full story here.
152km remaining from 168km
The peloton is still together though the speed remains high in these opening kilometres. Temperatures, incidentally, are a very pleasant 22 degrees Celsius.
Under normal circumstances, beating Richie Porte and Chris Froome on the first mountain stage of the Dauphine would have highlighted Jakob Fuglsang's status as Astana's outright leader for the Tour de France, but Fabio Aru's impressive cameo on Mont du Chat - and his eventual 4th place - suggested that the Sardinian, too, could be a factor in July. “Coming into this Dauphiné, me and Fabio were both selected as leaders, with me as the main leader, because he’s coming back from injury and hasn’t raced much this year. With both of us so close it’s difficult to choose one over the other," Fuglsang said.
Aru, of course, was due to ride the Giro d’Italia but pulled out after a training crash in April. The Dauphiné is his first race since abandoning Tirreno-Adriatico in March, and his display on Friday was, in the circumstances, bordering on a surprise. “I’m really happy. It’s been a long time since I’ve had sensations like that. On a climb like that you couldn’t stay in the wheels and hide,” Aru told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The level here is really high and I tried.” On the leadership question, meanwhile, Aru played a straight bat. “We’re on the same level and having two of us is only in our favour. We’ve just shown that.”
142km remaining from 168km
Still no successful breakaway attempt, but an early abandon to report. Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida) has wheeled to a halt on the roadside and left the race.
140km remaining from 168km
The peloton is led over the top of the day's first climb, the Côte de Berland, by Peter Kennaugh (Team Sky).
Kennaugh continues with his effort over the top of the Berland, and he is joined by four more riders off the front of the race. Kennaugh, Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale), Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Jesus Herrada (Movistar) and Lennard Hofsteded (Sunweb) have a small lead over the peloton.
135km remaining from 168km
There is a spate of counter-attacking behind, and it would be a surprise if this leading group didn't swell in size. Meanwhile, the peloton is being whittled down, with a number of riders jettisoned off the back, including Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).
The front group has grown to 17 riders and their advantage over the peloton is rising accordingly. The leaders are: Peter Kennaugh (Sky), Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal), Ignatas Konovalovas (FDJ), Maurits Lammertink (Katusha-Alpecin), Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb), Antonio Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Scott Thwaites (Dimension Data), Ben Swift (UAE-Emirates), Diego Ulissi (UAE-Emirates), Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Delio Fernandez Cruz (Delko Marseille Provence), Mauro Finetto (Delko Marseille Provence).
125km remaining from 168km
The pace has relented significantly in the peloton on the Col de Cucheron, and the 17 leaders are extending their advantage, which now stands at three minutes.
There have been two more abandons at the rear of the race. Julien Morice (Direct Energie) and Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis) have both climbed into the broomwagon.
120km remaining from 168km
Over the top of the Col de Cucheron, the 17 leaders had an advantage of 3:33 over the main peloton. The escapees are negotiating the short descent that leads to the day's third climb, the category 1 Col de Porte.
112km remaining from 168km
King of the mountains Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo) led the break over the Cucheron, and the Dutchman will hope to repeat the feat on the Col de Porte. He and his compansions have stretched their lead out towards 4 minutes as they approach the summit of the climb.
11km remaining from 168km
The 17 leaders crest the summit of the Col de Porte with 4:10 in hand on the peloton. There are over 70 kilometres to the next climb, and the escapees should continue to find common cause at least until then.
103km remaining from 168km
Richie Porte was hardly helped in the four-up sprint for victory yesterday by the unsteady line taken by Chris Froome, though the Australian made light of the incident after the stage. "I just asked him if he was looking at his stem," Porte said. "I don't think he intentionally tried to cut me up. That's just racing but in the heat of the moment I asked him what's going on. I think that's the end of the story. There's nothing in it. It's just a racing incident. It's not everyday that us four would come to the finish so I don't think any of us knew what was going on." Dan Benson has the full story here.
97km remaining from 168km
Koen Bouwman led the break over the Col de Porte to pick up another 10 points towards his king of the mountains jersey. The Dutch youngster, winner on stage 3, has been hugely impressive this week. The 17 leaders have stretched their advantage out slightly to 4:25.
90km remaining from 168km
Chris Froome's low-key outing in Wednesday's time trial will have been cause for alarm for the Sky man, but he was rather happier after his third place finish on Friday's opening mountain stage. "All in all I'm pretty happy with how it went. It could have gone a lot worse. At least I was up front and the legs were pretty good. I'm happy to be up there with Richie at the moment, who is definitely in amazing form," Froome said. Dan Benson has the full story here.
84km remaining from 168km
At the midpoint of the stage, the break's lead has risen to 5:10 over the peloton, where BMC set the tempo in support of yellow jersey Richie Porte.
80km remaining from 168km
The Giro-Dauphine combination has taken an understandable toll on a number of riders this week. Natnael Berhane (Dimension Data) and Chad Haga (Sunweb), who each rode the corsa rosa, have both abandoned the Dauphine.
At the start this morning, Dan Martin revealed that he had suffered an insect sting on Thursday but he reported few ill effects on the Mont du Chat on Friday. "I was stung my a hornet the day before yesterday and there was a fair bit of venom floating around but on the Mont du Chat I felt amazing. Happily it cleared up. I feel good and hopefully it continues today. I’m stress free here," said Martin, who has some - foggy - prior knowledge of the Col de Sarenne, having ridden up it with his father at the age of 13. "I barely remember it but I do know there’s not much shade on there and in this sun it’s going to be really hot on there. That could count for something."
74km remaining from 168km
As the wait for live television coverage of today's stage continues, why not listen to the latest installment of the Cyclingnews podcast, which discusses yesterday's stage at the Dauphine, looks ahead to this weekend in the mountains and features interviews with Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Esteban Chaves. You can listen to the podcast here.
67km remaining from 168km
After passing Vizille, home of the late Thierry Claveyrolat, king of the mountains at the 1990 Tour de France, the break's lead has yawned out a little further, and now stands at 6 minutes.
Richie Porte was de facto race leader after his time trial win in midweek and he graduated into the yellow jersey on Friday afternoon. With a lead of 39 seconds, he can afford to ride defensively this afternoon, with the onus on Froome - and others - to attack. "I guess today it’s about defending. We’re in a good place but the race isn’t over. We’ll see what happens," Porte said at the start. "We’ll see what happens. It’s close on GC and we need to be careful. It’s another tricky stage. Yes we have the jersey but we have to defend. We’ll see what happens in the finale but everything is going quite well."
60km remaining from 168km
With 60 kilometres to go, there has been a slight injection of pace in the main peloton, and the break's lead has dropped to 5:40.
We're still a little under 30 kilometres from the base of the day's next climb, the category 2 Côte de Garçin (3.5km at 6.4%).
53km remaining from 168km
Chris Froome (Sky) was asked for his thoughts on today's stage at the start in Aosta and managed to say precious little, and even less of interest. But here it is, nonetheless, for the record. “I just went for it yesterday on the descent. Today is going to be a tough day after yesterday and with tomorrow in mind it’s going to be a tough day,” said Froome, who - and I'm reading between the lines here - seems to be suggesting it's going to be a tough day.
Reading between the lines of the Froome-to-BMC rumours earlier in the week, it seems the three-time Tour winner has been pushing for some movement in contract talks with Team Sky, and an extension of his deal appears to be forthcoming, as Dan Benson reports.
43km remaining from 168km
The break's lead remains at 5:35 as they draw closer to the climbing denouement to today's stage.
Another abandon to report as Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) calls a halt to his Criterium du Dauphine.
35km remaining from 168km
This afternoon's finale over the Sarenne to Alpe d'Huez offers a further examination for Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) as he bids to regain full fitness ahead of the Tour de France. Both he and Simon Yates lost ground on Mont du Chat yesterday, though Chaves was the first man to react to Alejandro Valverde's attack, and he declared himself pleased with how he fared. "On the ascent the guys were just faster than me but this was the first real climb I’ve done since Lombardia last year,” Chaves told Patrick Fletcher, who has the full story here.
34km remaining from 168km
After trundling through the long valley from the Col de Porte, there has been a definite increase in urgency in the main peloton, and the break's lead has been pinned back by a minute to 4:30 ahead of the Côte de Garçin.
Cannondale-Drapac duo Andrew Talansky and Nathan Brown have attacked from the front of the peloton and have opened a small gap.
30km remaining from 168km
Brown has dropped back and Talansky is now alone, 3:00 down on the leaders and one minute ahead of the peloton, which is on the Côte de Garçin.
29km remaining from 168km
Bouwman leads over the top of the Côte de Garçin to ensure that he will carry the king of the mountains jersey into tomorrow's final stage. The break is now approaching the base of the Col de Sarenne. The hors categorie ascent is 15.3 kilometres in length at an average gradient of 6.9%.
Konovalovas sits up from the break on the lower slopes of the Sarenne. We can expect the unity of the escapees to fragment as the gradient begins to bite. Antonio Nibali and Scott Thwaites are also showing signs of struggling. Simon Clarke, meanwhile, looks primed to sit up and wait to pace his teammate Andrew Talansky.
27km remaining from 168km
At the front of the race, Delio Fernandez accelerates on the Col de Sarenne and Jelle Vanendert follows. Pete Kennaugh attempts to get on terms.
Kennaugh bridges across to Vanendert and Fernandez, and this trio has opened a decent gap over the rest of the escape. 3:22 down the road, BMC are setting the tempo for the maillot jaune Porte.
25km remaining from 168km
Kennaugh, Fernandez and Vanendert look to have established a decisive gap over their erstwhile companions. 20 seconds is now the margin. Talansky chase at 2:40, while the BMC-led peloton is at 3:30.
24km remaining from 168km
Talansky is still out there in no man's land between the break and the peloton. He has around 50 seconds in hand on Porte et al, but he no longer seems to be making inroads into the leaders' advantage.
23km remaining from 168km
Talansky, winner of the 2014 Dauphine, began the day 3:35 down in 14th overall after conceding some 2:29 yesterday.
22km remaining from 168km
Ben Swift (UAE-Emirates) has made an enormous effort to bridge across to Kennaugh, Fernandez and Vanendert at the front of the race. Vuillermoz and Herrada are also attempting to get back on terms.
21km remaining from 168km
Herrada has bridged across to join Swift, Kennaugh, Fernandez and Vanendert at the front, 4:12 ahead of the peloton.
20km remaining from 168km
Talansky has been joined by his teammate Simon Clarke on the Sarenne. The American is 2:30 down on the five leaders, and so 1:30 clear of the bunch.
20km remaining from 168km
Into the final 20 kilometres - and the steep final 6 kilometres of the Sarenne. Herrada, Kennaugh, Fernandez, Swift and Vanendert have 35 seconds in hand on the remnants of the break, 2:50 on Talansky and Clarke, and 4:10 on a reduced peloton of around 45 riders.
19km remaining from 168km
The chasing group is losing ground and riders. Bouwman and Finetto are among those who have dropped back to the main peloton.
18km remaining from 168km
The leading group swells to six riders as Diego Ulissi claws his way across to join his UAE-Team Emirates comrade Ben Swift. They have 4:00 on Porte, Froome and the peloton.
17km remaining from 168km
The pace is brisk but not quite hyperactive in the main peloton, hence Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) is able to accelerate off the front and set off in pursuit of the leaders, who are still some 3:50 up the road.
17km remaining from 168km
Ulissi is dangling off the back of the leading group, but if the Italian can stay in contact over the top of the Sarenne, he will surely relish the punchy finale on the shortened ascent of Alpe d'Huez.
16km remaining from 168km
Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) has attacked from the very reduced peloton and bridged across to earlier escapee Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert). This French tandem is 2:44 down on the leaders and has 30 seconds in hand on the peloton.
15km remaining from 168km
Out in front, Pete Kennaugh accelerates and Ben Swift comes with him. The British duo have opened a lead over Fernadez et al with 1500 metres of climbing to go.
14km remaining from 168km
Swift and Kennaugh approach the summit with a small gap over Ulissi, Vanendert, Fernandez and Herrada. Talansky trails at 1:30. Bardet is now alone at 2:45, while the peloton, including Porte, Froome and Contador is at 3:15.
14km remaining from 168km
Kennaugh leads Swift over the top of the Col de Sarenne. The two former teammates will collaborate smoothly on the ridge towards Alpe d'Huez.
Bardet now has his teammate Alexis Vuillermoz - part of the early break - for company near the top of the Sarenne. Bardet is 2:05 down on Kennaugh and Swift, and is a minute clear of Porte et al...
Alejandro Valverde attacks from the yellow jersey group in the final kilometre of the Sarenne. Porte follows immediately, and then Froome, Fuglsang and the rest of the group pegs him back. Dan Martin, Contador and Michal Kwiatkowski are all in this group of around 15 riders.
Esteban Chaves is still in the yellow jersey group, but his teammate Simon Yates appears to have been dislodged. They are not far from the top of the Sarenne, however, and the Briton might be able to limit his losses.
10km remaining from 168km
Kennaugh and Swift have 20 seconds on Ulissi, Fernandez, Vanendert and Herrada. Bardet has caught and passed Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), and is closing in on Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac), around 1:40 back. The yellow jersey group is at 3:15.
8km remaining from 168km
The road rises and dips along the ridge that leads to the final kick towards Alpe d'Huez. Porte is in a yellow jersey group that contains around 15 riders.
7km remaining from 168km
Bardet closes to within touching distance of Talansky. This pair is a little over a minute clear of the yellow jersey group.
Talansky and Bardet exchange a couple of words and begin to work together. They won't peg back Swift and Kennaugh, but they can put ground into all of the other GC contenders.
5km remaining from 168km
Dan Martin launches a tentative acceleration from the yellow jersey group, which ought to see an increase in its sense of urgency.
4km remaining from 168km
Swift and Kennaugh approach the category 2 version of Alpe d'Huez (3.7km at 7.2%) with a lead of 40 seconds on the chasers and 3:09 on the yellow jersey group.
3km remaining from 168km
Kennaugh jumps clear of Swift almost as soon as the road begins to climb, and this looks like the race-winning move from the Manxman.
Bardet drops Talansky as soon as they start the short climb of Alpe d'Huez. The Frenchman is 1:30 down on Kennaugh...
When the yellow jersey group reaches the same point, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) gleefully bounds clear, though it remains to be seen if his attack will stick.
2km remaining from 168km
Kennaugh has the steepest part of the Alpe behind him, and he will fancy his chances of holding on for stage victory from here.
Back in the yellow jersey group, Fabio Aru joins Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in catching and passing Chaves. Porte has no teammates left, and Team Sky set the tempo in support of Froome...
1km remaining from 168km
Ben Swift closes to within 10 seconds of Kennaugh as the road begins to flatten out...
1km remaining from 168km
Into the final kilometre for Peter Kennaugh (Sky), who retains a small lead over Swift.
Back in the group of favourites, meanwhie., Richie Porte has jumped across to Aru with Fuglsang and Contador. Dan Martin bridges across too, but Froome, it seems, cannot follow...
Peter Kennaugh (Sky) wins stage 7 of Criterium du Dauphine.
Ben Swift (UAE-Emirates) takes second, 12 seconds down.
Bardet has caught Fernandez and Herrada, and the Frenchman is gaining on the GC favourites.
But the news of the day might be that Porte, Aru and Contador have distanced Froome...
Herrada, Vanendert and Bardet cross the line 1:15 down on Kennaugh.
Porte accelerates viciously and only his sometime training partner Fuglsang can follow...
Porte leads Fuglsang home, 1:55 down.
Talansky and Contador cross the line at 2:05, just ahead of Dan Martin.
A struggling Froome crosses the line at 2:20. He lost 24 seconds to Porte in the final 1500 metres of this stage.
1 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky 04:43:49
2 Ben Swift (GBr) UAE-Team Emirates 00:00:13
3 Jesus Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:11
4 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal 00:01:13
5 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 00:01:14
6 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 00:01:56
7 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
8 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 00:02:04
9 Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 00:02:13
1 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 25:38:29
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 00:01:02
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 00:01:15
4 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 00:01:41
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:43
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Trek-Segafredo 00:01:55
7 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 00:02:07
8 Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors 00:02:31
9 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:02:53
10 Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac 00:03:43
Peter Kennaugh (Sky) offered his commiserations to Swift at the finish, and then had this to say: "This is incredible. It's always hard to win a mountain stage but I always have good form in June and July. Chapeau to Ben Swift for having stayed with me up there. Initially he was going to help Diego Ulissi but he rode well. We've known each other since we were nine years old and we raced as under-23 riders in Italy, so I knew when he’s on a good day, he can climb well. I wasn't confident I was going to beat him in a sprint, so I had to get rid of him.”
Richie Porte (BMC) augmented his overall lead but insisted the race is far from won: “Attack was the best form of defense in the finale. My team just covered the moves of the best riders beforehand. They did fantastic work. But we can't be complacent. I expect fireworks tomorrow. It'll be a short stage. It's not over until it's over, but my team is incredibly strong so I want to finish it off for them.”
Thanks for joining our live coverage of today's penultimate leg of the Criterium du Dauphine. A full report, results and pictures are available here. We'll be back with more live coverage from tomorrow's final stage, and in the meantime, we'll have all the news and reaction from Alpe d'Huez.
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