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Critérium du Dauphiné: Verona holds off Roglic chase to take stage 7 victory in Vaujany

Carlos Verona (Movistar) held off a fierce chase from new overall race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) to take the stage 7 victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné in Vaujany. 

Verona was the last man standing and the strongest from the day's original breakaway, and had enough power left in his legs on the final climb to take a solo win by 13 seconds ahead of Roglič and 25 seconds ahead of his Jumbo-Visma teammate Jonas Vingegaard.

Verona was emotional to win his first race, saying, “It’s an incredible and very special day after all my years as a professional rider. This is right up there with the best moments and now it’s great to have a win on my palmares,” he said.

“This win is for my team. We haven’t had the best moment but we will come back, stronger than ever. It’s also for my family, my wife and my kids, we’re also a team. I race here and they support me, too.

“It doesn’t happen very often when you work hard for others in the team but sometimes you get a chance. This was my day and I won. I’m so grateful to the team.”

Verona talked about his race and being in the day's breakaway in detail, saying, “It was about having the confidence to be up there and go for it on a tough day and riding smart.

“There was a headwind on the Galibier but we got away. Afterwards I knew I just had to go for it because Kenny Elissonde was strong. We were chasing each other all day and it was fast on the descent.

“On the last climb I knew I had to go from the bottom because the bunch was near us too. Near the finish I didn’t have anything left and just went for it, not looking back and ready to accept being caught. I knew that they were there and so had to suffer to my very limits. It all worked out.”

Roglič capitalised on the remarkable show of strength from his Jumbo-Visma team on the final ascent into Vaujany and move into the overall race lead, taking over from his teammate and overnight leader Wout van Aert.

He now leads the race by 44 seconds over teammate Vingegaard and 1:24 ahead of Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën Team) as the race heads into the stage 8 finale 138.8km from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Plateau de Salaison.

Roglič was happy to be in the leader’s yellow jersey but not overly confident about going on to win the race on Sunday. “I'm more yellow but I’m used to it,” he said, referring to his usual yellow and black Jumbo-Visma colours.

“Carlos Verona was quite strong and deserved to win the stage. We were not really going for the stage win. We came here to search a bit for the good feelings. I felt good today and that’s why I could go at the end.

“I’m super happy. I came here from a training camp and I didn’t do much intensity. This race has helped me to come back. With the way it’s going, I'm improving and getting my legs back.”

Roglič was cautious about his ambitions, hinting he would be happy even if Vingegaard went on to win during Sunday’s final mountain stage.

“I’ll go all out. It’s still training for me, I don’t care if I win or lose. If we win as a team it’s even better. So we have to be optimistic. With all the guys with what we showed, we’ll go for it,” he said.

“I always say that the stronger we are, the stronger is the team. We have to help each other and do our best. We know that tomorrow is the Queen stage, the final one and we have to be there and do our best.”

How it unfolded

With 3,828m of climbing in just 134.8km of racing, including the mighty Col du Galibier and the Col de la Croix de Fer, the stage 7 of the Critérium du Dauphiné was described as one of the hardest days of racing of the year.

Most riders warmed-up on rollers, while Chris Froome (Isreal-Premier Tech) opted to pull out of the race due to feeling unwell and sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) also opted to head home to avoid the suffering.

Soon after rolling out of Saint-Chaffrey the attacks came thick and fast as riders and teams fought to go in the break along the fast road to the Col du Lautaret and onto the Galibier.

Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) was the most aggressive yet again but was chased down a number of times as teams tried to place riders in the move. The Frenchman eventually got away as the Galibier started properly but was soon joined by Matteo Fabbro (Bora-Hansgrohe) and then others.

Rolland was the first to ther summit and on the long, fast descent to Valloire and then down to Col du Télégraphe to Saint Martin de Maurienne. However he was soon joined by Andrey Amador (Ineos Grenadiers), Luis Leon Sanchez (Bahrain Victorious), Gregor Muhlberger, Carlos Verona (Movistar), Bruno Armirail (Groupama-FDJ), Omer Goldstein (Israel Premier Tech), Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Andres Ardila (UAE Team Emirates), Kenny Elissonde, Toms Skujins, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Victor Lafay (Cofidis), Simon Guglielmi (Arkea-Samsic), Laurens Huys (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), Mark Donovan, Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) as the fight for the stage victory.

The GC riders watched each other and rode steady, Jumbo-Visma keeping the attack within reach because Sanchez was within three minutes of the race lead.

When the 29km road up the Col de la Croix de Fer began after 75km, Britain’s Donovan was the first to move and he opened a 45-second gap. However, Trek-Segafredo had Stuyvens to sacrifice himself for Elissonde and Skujins and he used his raw power to pull Donovan back by half way up the climb.

The break gradually fell apart as the best riders emerged up front and they rode into thin air. Donovan was caught and Elissonde, Verona, Rolland and Gregor Muhlberger (Movistar) emerged up front.

Elissonde wanted to gain time on the peloton and kept attacking, eventually losing his cool with the Movistar riders as they worked together.

Behind Jumbo-Visma led the peloton for much of the Col de la Croix de Fer but suddenly Uno-X took over, revealing Jumbo-Visma’s lack of dominance.

Soon after Van Aert slipped back and then cracked with 2km to climb to the summit. Jumbo-Visma switched to Plan B: Roglič and Vingegaard.

Rolland again took maximum points over the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer and the battle for the stage victory exploded on the descent.

The long valley road down to Lac de Grand Maison includes several short climbs and over the summit Verona and Elissonde got away together. Elissonde never seemed happy but the two opened a 25-second gap as Jack Haig worked for team leader Damiano Caruso over the top of the Col de la Croix de Fer. An attack on the descent seemed imminent but then never happened. Instead the GC group stayed together, waiting for the climb to the finish in Vaujany.

Verona and Elissonde dived down the descent and surged up the different ramps, distancing their rivals. But could they hold off the GC peloton?

They started the 5.7km climb with a lead of 1:40, as AG2R lead the line for Ben O’Connor and then Groupama-FDJ took over for David Gaudu. The Frenchman was looking for the stage win, while the Australian wanted to move up overall.

Verona knew the chase was on and attacked alone, distancing Elissonde metre after metre. He managed to keep a lead of 1:00 until the final three kilometres. Vingegaard chased down some surges and then put down his own surge to split the GC group. Geoghegan Hart, Caruso and others were dropped as a key selection was made.

Roglič was there but bided his time, letting Vingegaard reel in Elissonde and almost Verona. With a kilometre to go, Verona made it over the climb and began the dive down to the finish. But Roglic also surged, closing the gap to 15 seconds at the summit. It would be a chase all the way to the line.

Verona was tired but dug deep and never looked back but managed to stay away. Roglič finished just 13 seconds back and 12 ahead of Vingegaard. Everyone else was further back, giving Roglič an overall lead of 44 seconds on his teammate, 1:24 on O’Connor and 1:30 on Geoghegan Hart.

With just Sunday’s 138.8km mountainous stage from Saint-Alban-Leysse toi Plateau de Salaison, Roglič’s biggest threat is perhaps his own form and his own teammate.

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.

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