Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) claimed his second victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné after a tense finale to stage 5 in Chaintré, where the day’s early break was only swept up in the finishing straight.
The race leader was favourite to take the spoils and much of the heavy lifting looked to have been done when the combined efforts of Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers shed the peloton of some notable fast men, including Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco).
The break put up fierce resistance on the rippling run to the finish, however, and Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Sebastian Schönberger (B&B Hotels-KTM) and Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) still had 8 seconds in hand when they passed beneath the flamme rouge.
Indeed, the escapees had started to sprint for the stage win when Van Aert opened his thundering effort from the chasing bunch. The Belgian champion had enough to overhaul the remnants of the break, though he was pushed all the way to the line by the fast-closing Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Unlike at Chastreix-Sancy on stage 3, there would be no late upset as Van Aert maintained his speed past the finish line to secure his second victory of the week and buttress his lead in the overall standings in the process.
Meeus took second place ahead of Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers), while Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies) took fourth place in front of Hugo Page (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux).
“It was a nervous final. In the beginning it looked like it was finally going to be the first controlled stage,” said Van Aert. “I thought we had the breakaway in check but then they started to speed up and we started to lose ground. In the final kilometres, I was stressed that it was too short to catch them, but in the end, I think I passed them a few metres before the line and I could win.”
In the overall standings, Van Aert now has a lead of 1:03 over Mattia Cattaneo (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), while his team leader Primož Roglič lies a further three seconds back in third. Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) drops to fifth behind Hayter, but both the Dane and Roglič played an unexpected part in helping Van Aert to victory as the break proved harder to pin back than initially anticipated.
“I have to thank all my teammates. I know everybody says it, but in the end if you watch today, all six others were there for me and that makes today’s victory more special,” Van Aert said. “Luckily, we had Christophe [Laporte] with a master pull in the end, and before that, I had asked the boys to do everything they could. And if even our GC guys of 60kg are pulling in the front, then you have to finish it off.”
How it unfolded
With the Alps rearing into view at the weekend, stage 5 of the Dauphiné represented a chance for the fast men, although the rolling terrain also lent itself to enterprising attackers. There was, inevitably, no shortage of would-be escapees in the opening phase, with some 46.2km covered in the first hour.
The break of the day took shape after the opening ascent of the Col des Escorbans, with Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) and Sebastian Schönberger (B&B Hotels-KTM) forging clear.
They were joined shortly afterwards by Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) and king of the mountains Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM), who sensed an opportunity to augment his lead at the top of that classification.
Rolland duly picked up maximum points on the category 2 Côte de Dun, where the break led by three minutes, before dropping back to the main peloton. The four surviving members of the early move pressed on, and their combined efforts kept them just shy of two minutes clear of the bunch as they approached the final 50km.
By then, BikeExchange-Jayco had joined Jumbo-Visma in taking a controlling interest at the head of the race and the efforts of Luke Durbridge and Tsgabu Grmay helped to bring the break’s advantage down to little more than a minute, but Bakelants, Thomas, Schönberger and Doubey were not fading.
Indeed, with 30km to go, the quartet stretched their advantage back out beyond two minutes and they continued to collaborate smoothly over the category 4 ascents of the Col du Bois Clair and Côte de Vergisson in the finale.
Filippo Ganna took over on the first climb on behalf of Ineos and Hayter, and his prodigious display of pace-making served both the deflate the break’s lead and – eventually – puncture the challenge of Groenewegen, who would be deposited out the back of the bunch on the Vergisson.
At that point, with 12km remaining, the stage looked set to be a straight duel between Van Aert and Hayter in the sprint, but the break refused to relent on the rolling roads that led towards the finish, while Ineos and Jumbo-Visma found no allies of circumstance in the pursuing bunch.
It made for a tense finale, with even Roglič and Vingegaard briefly called upon to help Tiesj Benoot on the front to ensure Van Aert would get his shot at victory.
It was a close-run thing. When Thomas opened his sprint with 400m to go, an upset win was still on the cards, but after two successive second place finishes, Van Aert would not be denied here.
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