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Criterium du Dauphine 2017: Stage 8


Ever since the 2011 Tour de France, when Alberto Contador threatened to blow the race apart on the short final mountain stage to Alpe d'Huez, ASO has shown an increasing fondness for designing miniature epics for its stage races. Just this past March, after all, Contador - who else - provided a dramatic denouement to Paris-Nice with an aggressive showing on the short and tough final stage. There could be more of the same today, with four mountain passes crammed into just 115 kilometres of racing. 

The climbing begins almost immediately on the final stage of Criterium du Dauphine, even if technically, the uphill opening 15 kilometres are a preamble rather than a climb proper. The category 1 Col des Saisies (15.1km at 6.4%) is the first summit after 30 kilometres, followed by the category 2 Col des Aravis (6.6km at 6.9%), It only gets harder in the finale. The category1 Col de la Colombière (11.3km at 6.1%) is the prelude to the hors categorie haul to the finish at Plateau de Solaison (11.3km at 9.2%).

The general classification is as follows ahead of the final stage, with Richie Porte in a commanding position atop the standings:

Most riders are warming up on the rollers in Albertville ahead of the neutralised start at 11.25am local time. The riders will reach kilometre zero for the start proper at 11.35.

The peloton is making its way through the neutralised zone and towards the start proper. Here's a reminder of how things played out yesterday, as Peter Kennaugh soloed to victory at Alpe d'Huez, but his Sky teammate Chris Froome conceded ground to Porte in the finale.

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Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Jérémy Maison (FDJ) are among the riders attempting to forge clear early on, but it looks as though the race will still be intact by the time it hits the bottom of the Col des Saisies.

Just over a minute down, Chris Froome is the man closest to Porte on general classification, but the Sky rider seemed resigned as to the outcome of this race when he spoke after stage 7 yesterday. “Failing any massive drama out on the road tomorrow I think Richie has got this one wrapped up. I think he’s worked incredibly hard and he’s in fantastic condition. He deserves it. I’m happy for him,” Froome said. Dan Benson has the story in full here.

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The leaders are: David Lopez (Sky), Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale), Petr Vakoc (Quick-Step), Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo), Richard Carapaz (Movistar), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott), Roman Kreuziger (Orica-Scott), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Antwan Tolhoek (LottoNL-Jumbo), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin), Warren Barguil (Sunweb), Lennard Hofstede (Sunweb), Grega Bole (Bahrain-Merida), Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac), Dylvan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Ben O'Connor (Dimension Data), Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE-Emirates), Ben Swift (UAE-Emirates), Christoph Pfingsten (Bora-Hansgrohe).

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Valverde's move is quickly brought to heel by BMC. Meanwhile, Dani Navarro punctures and the front group is reduced to 23 riders.

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Out in front, meanwhile, the Saisies is providing a reshuffle of the early break. Gallopin and Barguil accelerated and only Herrada, Chaves, Kreuziger, Lutsenko, Clarke, Voeckler and Laengen have been able to follow.

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85km remaining from 115km

The yellow jersey group has been reduced to around 40 riders and it appears that Richie Porte is already bereft of BMC teammates. It's a short stage but it could yet prove a long afternoon for the Tasmanian.

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The first hour of racing was almost entirely uphill and it incorporated the 15-km haul up the Col des Saisies, but reports that Gallopin covered some 29.2 kilometres in the opening 60 minutes here.

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Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Drapac) has abandoned the Dauphine. There were also two non-starters this morning: Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and former race leader Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal). De Gendt told Het Nieuwsblad that he was suffering from a wrist injury, which he believes he picked up while defending his yellow and blue jersey in Wednesday's time trial.

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The peloton, meanwhile, is now 1:15 behind Gallopin and, happily for Porte, some reinforcements are arriving as a number of his BMC teammates have regained contact.

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The presence of Lopez and Kwiatkowski in the group should have been a hint... Chris Froome accelerates again near the top of the Aravis. Valverde, Contador and Dan Martin follow. The yellow jersey group has splintered into shards...

Gallopin leads over the top of the Col des Aravis, but the action is behind, where Froome's acceleration has reduced the yellow jersey group to around 15 riders.

Kwiatkowski sat up over the top to help Froome on the descent but to no end, it seems. Froome has been pegged back by Porte et al on the descent of the Aravis, though the yellow jersey group has been significantly reduced in number as a result of his attack.

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As the  Col de la Colombière begins, Alejandro Valverde goes on the attack once again, joined by Simon Clarke and Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale).

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Valverde and Aru have forged their way clear on the Col de la Colombière. They have a lead of 15 seconds over Clarke and Vuillermoz and 25 over the 18-strong yellow jersey group, where Froome, Fuglsang, Dan Martin, Romain Bardet and Alberto Contador are all alongside Richie Porte.

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Dan Martin, Romain Bardet and Jakob Fuglsang accelerate  from the yellow jersey group and bridge across to the chasers. Vuillermoz does a turn and then swings over...

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Despite Aru's presence in front, Fuglsang is working very well with Martin and Bardet. This trio is closing in on Valverde and Aru. Porte, meanwhile, is isolated in the yellow jersey group, and will have to pick and choose which attacks he follows. 

And at that Alberto Contador attacks from the yellow jersey group... There is no response from Porte, who seems to have eyes only for Chris Froome.

Froome, for his part, is locked onto Porte's rear wheel and is betraying some signs of struggling. They have allowed Contador and his group to slip away...

36km remaining from 115km

Richie Porte climbs from the saddle and accelerates with Froome on his wheel. They have about 100 metres to make up on the Contador group, which also contains Buchmann and Simon Yates.

Porte is stil pedalling smoothly as he attempts to bridge up to the Contador group. Contador is bobbing from side to side in familiar fashion, with Buchmann and Yates on his wheel.

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As things stand, Fuglsang is closing in on Porte's overall lead...

Froome has spent the climb latched onto Porte's wheel, but less than a kilometre from the summit, he accelerates viciously past his former teammate and opens a small gap. Was this an attempt at rope-a-dope from Froome? 

Martin, Bardet and Fuglsang cross the summit 30 seconds down. Then Contador crests the summit at 55 seconds.  

Froome is next across the top, with a lead of around 15 seconds over Porte as they begin the descent.

Froome has caught Contador, Kreuziger and Buchmann on the descent of the Colombiere, which only adds to the pressure on Richie Porte...

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All of a sudden, Froome is edging towards the overall lead. His virtual deficit on Froome is down to 30 seconds, and he is closing in on the other dangerman, Jakob Fuglsang.

Froome forces the issue on the descent of the Colombiere and opens a small gap over Contador et al.

Froome, Contador, Buchmann, Yates, Rafael Valls (Lotto Soudal) and Louis Meintjes (UAE-Emirates) are almost upon Martin, Bardet and Fuglsang, a little over 50 seconds down on Aru and Valverde. Porte has Tiesj Benoot and Warren Barguil for company, but is some 1:32 down.

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The Sunweb rider with Porte is Sam Oomen, incidentally, not Warren Barguil as previously reported.

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Michal Kwiatkowski puts in a long, long turn on the front of the Froome-Contador group on the flat roads that lead to the base of the hors categorie Plateau de Solaison (11.3km at 9.2%).

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Froome appeared to be struggling on the Colombiere before his attack near the summit. He may not appreciate the comparison, but were there shades of Lance Armstrong on the Col du Glandon in 2001 about his ride on the Colombiere? Plateau de Solaison will tell more.

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Porte is out of the saddle as he begins the climb. The Australian is still pedalling quite well and is not betraying signs of panic, but he will have to produce something special to save his yellow jersey here. This stage has also exposed the relative dearth of climbing support on offer at BMC, though it should be noted, too, that Damiano Caruso and Rohan Dennis are engaged at the Tour de Suisse.

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Aru and Valverde weigh up the percentages and opt to relent. They are caught by the Froome-Contador group, and settle in at the back of the pace line.

Froome continues to set the pace at the head of the race, with Contador, Fuglsang, Martin, Bardet, Valverde and Buchmann lined up on his wheel. Richie Porte is at 1:12.

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9km remaining from 115km

We're three weeks from the Tour, but this feels a bit like a preliminary stage. Richie Porte looked increasingly like a Tour winner as this week progressed - saving his jersey here would be a huge boost to his morale; losing it would allow some old doubts to seep back into his psyche ahead of La Grande Boucle.

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7km remaining from 115km

Valverde, meanwhile, has been dropped from the Froome group and is struggling. He is in the process of being picked off by Porte...

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Martin is struggling to hold Fuglsang's wheel as they stretch their lead to 30 seconds over the Froome group. Fuglsang began the day 1:15 down on Porte.

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Meintjes and Bardet distance Buchmann as they set off in pursuit of Fuglsang.

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Porte has definitively distanced Chris Froome, whose is some way short of where he needs to be come July. Fuglsang is still pedalling well out in front, however...

Into the final 250 metres for Fuglsang, who will, at the very least, claim his second stage win of the week.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) wins stage 8 of Criterium du Dauphine.

Dan Martin takes second at 12 seconds, Meintjes is third at 27. But can Porte limit his losses?

Porte crosses the line exactly 1:15 behind Fuglsang. Jakob Fuglsang wins the Dauphine thanks to the 10-second time bonus for stage victory.

Froome comes in 1:27 behind. The Briton will slip off the podium. Dan Martin will place third for the second successive year.

Valverde and Contador both come home more than 3 minutes down. A remarkable finale to the Dauphine.


Final general classification:

It never rains but it pours. A second (and third) win in three days for Fuglsang, who seems rather taken aback to have won the Dauphine. "I don't know what to say. We tried to keep our GC, that was the plan of the day, but it came down to a big, big, big fight and with me and Fabio we played it really good, and then of course also we had a few things that played in our favour. Froome had to pull after Fabio and he went so hard. In the end, Daniel Martin attacked and I just followed."


Final general classification:

A disappointed Richie Porte discusses his second place finish at the Dauphine. Dan Benson and Patrick Fletcher will have all the reaction from Plateau de Solaison.

Chris Froome offers his take on proceedings for the television crews.

Chris Froome on his struggles in the finale: "At one point I was close to being in the virtual yellow jersey but I think I’d done so much work earlier on to try and set up that situation that when I got to the final climb I didn’t have so much left for that final climb."

"I was here to try and race for the win, and not defend second," Froome continues. "If I was here to defend second place I would have been a lot more conservative and just followed Jakob and Aru. That wasn’t the plan. I wanted to try and race for the win and that’s what we tried to do as a team. It didn’t pay off but I came here looking for a hard week of racing. I only had 19 days of racing before the Dauphine and hopefully that will move me on now."

Richie Porte was bullish in his post-stage comments: "I think I showed in the end that I'm going well and I'm on track for July. It's bitterly disappointing to lose it by such a small margin but credit to Jakob Fuglsang. I think I was up against it from km zero as it seems there were a few guys who preferred to see me lose the race and they lose their podium as well. I don't know what you can really learn from a stage like that. I guess that's racing but bring on July." You may very well think Porte is talking about Chris Froome but he couldn't possibly comment.

Chris Froome offers his own, oblique critique of Porte's tactics, though he adds that his former teammate is the favourite for Tour victory. Dan Benson has the full story here.

A full results, report and pictures of today's dramatic finale to the Dauphine are available here. All the information on stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse is here. We'll have all the news and reaction from both races in due course and we'll be back with more live coverage from the Tour de Suisse tomorrow.

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