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Criterium du Dauphine 2017: Stage 7


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:

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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. 

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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."

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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

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

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

Another abandon to report as Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) calls a halt to his Criterium du Dauphine.

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Cannondale-Drapac duo Andrew Talansky and Nathan Brown have attacked from the front of the peloton and have opened a small gap.

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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

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.

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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

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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.

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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

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

1km remaining from 168km

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.



General classification:

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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