Valentin Ferron won the biggest win of his career at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Friday after the TotalEnergies rider pounced from the six-rider breakaway and soloed all the way to the line at the end of the 196.4-kilometre sixth stage from Rives to Gap.
Despite making it all the way to the final straight alongside a group of riders with more experience and impressive wins to their names, Ferron played it cool, riding a canny race to deny Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), Andrea Bagioli (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl), Geoffrey Bouchard (Ag2r-Citroën), Victor Lafay (Cofidis) or Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) the opportunity to take the win.
Ferron, the 24-year-old with just one other win on his palmarès – a stage at last year’s Tour du Rwanda where he finished ahead of Rolland who was, coincidentally, also runner-up in Gap on Friday – timed his attack to perfection having drifted to towards the rear of the break before launching himself towards the finishing line.
“It’s huge for me, we worked hard every day and it’s a WorldTour race so this is exceptional for me,”Ferron said. “It’s the biggest win of my career. You don’t get many chances like this so you have to take them. I don’t have the best sprint and I knew [Italian sprinter] Bagioli would have the advantage, so when I knew the line was close I just had to go for it – I can’t believe I made it.”
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished 32sec behind Ferron, on the same time as the bulk of the race leaders and general classification contenders, to keep hold of the yellow jersey and his 1min 3sec advantage over over Mattia Cattaneo (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl). Van Aert’s team-mate Primoz Roglic is third at 1min 6sec, but with two mountainous stages to come the Slovenian is expected to challenge the Belgian all-rounder.
The Critérium du Dauphiné continues on Saturday with the 134.8 seventh stage from Saint-Chaffrey to Vaujany and concludes on Sunday.
Stage five: Van Aert breaks breakaway riders’ hearts
Thursday June 9 – Thizy-les-Bourgs to Chaintré, 162.3km
Wout van Aert won his second stage at this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné after the breakaway was caught in the final 200 metres of the 162.3-kilometre fifth stage from Thizy-les-Bourgs to Chaintré with the Jumbo-Visma rider extending his overall lead.
Three days after failing to catch the breakaway, once again the peloton appeared to have misjudged the strength of a four-man break, before Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers took up a fierce chase in the finale.
With the finishing line within sight, Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) went solo off the front of the quartet, but the Frenchman was unable to hold off the charging pack with Van Aert taking the win ahead of Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), while Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) was third.
“It was a nervous final,” Van Aert explained. “In the beginning, it looked like the first controlled stage and we had the breakaway in check but they started to speed up and we kept losing ground so, in the final kilometres I was stressed that we would be just too short to catch them but, in the end, I passed them a few metres before the line and I could just win.
“I have to thank all of my team-mates. I know that everybody says this after a victory but if you watch today all six others were there for me and it makes this victory for me even more special.
“Until the last kilometre, I was focused on catching the break and then I was quickly shifting into trying to do a good sprint. Luckily, I had Christophe [Laporte] with a master pull in the end. I asked the boys to do everything they could and if even our GC [general classification] guys of 60 kilos are pulling in the front then you know you have to finish it off.”
Van Aert extended his overall lead thanks to the 10sec time bonus he earned for the stage win, while Britain’s Hayter moved up to fourth having gained a 4sec bonus for his third place.
Stage four: Ganna lands time trial as Van Aert extends lead
Wednesday June 8 – Montbrison to La Bâtie d’Urfé, 31.9km (time trial)
Filippo Ganna held on to narrowly beat Wout van Aert in the stage four time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Wednesday, while the vanquished Belgian extended his lead on general classification.
Having set a benchmark time of 35min 32sec for the 31.9-kilometre time trial from Montbrison to La Bâtie d’Urfé, the Italian sat in the hotseat as he watched the general classification contenders tackle the relatively flat course.
After Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Ethan Hayter went closest at 17sec, the world time trial champion’s focus switched to Van Aert, with the Jumbo-Visma rider going slightly faster at the first time check. The Belgian, however, faded before completing the course 2sec slower than the Italian.
Van Aert extended his overall lead and will take a 53sec advantage over Mattia Cattaneo (Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl) into stage five, with team-mate Primoz Roglic a further 3sec down on general classification.
Britain’s Hayter moved up to fifth overall – on the same time as fourth-placed Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) – while Ineos Grenadiers team-mate and compatriot Tao Geoghegan Hart climbed to seventh at 1min 45sec.
Stage three: Gaudu benefits from Van Aert’s ‘rookie mistake’
Tuesday June 7 – Saint-Paulien to Chastreix-Sancy, 169km
David Gaudu timed his late attack to perfection as the Groupama-FDJ rider beat Wout van Aert at the line to win stage three at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Tuesday.
On what was the first uphill finish in the eight-day race that many are using as a final warm-up ahead of next month’s Tour de France, a strong group of riders came to the fore on the Montée de Chastreix-Sancy before Van Aert surged towards the line and almost certain victory. The Jumbo-Visma rider was denied, however, after a determined Gaudu beat a celebrating Van Aert to land a fifth WorldTour race of his career.
“You have to watch the replay,” Van Aert said. “I raised the arms a bit too early and I’m actually really ashamed to lose it like that, just a big disappointment to not finish off our work today, and being so close.
“I had it in my hands. I just had it… it’s even something when you see it with someone else you question how it’s possible – but now I understand the feeling.
“This is a rookie mistake. I can’t describe it in any other way”, Van Aert continued. “The team worked hard all day with one goal in mind. We desperately wanted to win a stage again. Therefore it is all the more painful that I let it slip out of my hands in such a way. Something like that has never happened to me before. I could kick myself. I was so close, but I gave it away.
“When I passed the Cofidis rider on my left, I thought I would push my wheel over the line first. On a finish like this, you lose pure speed very quickly. David passed me very quickly and I realised I had made a mistake.”
Explaining the finale, Gaudu said: “When they launched the sprint, I was a little boxed in and a bit far, and I thought it was over. But I felt I had some power, so I gave it all. Wout was still up there but I saw him losing a few places in the climb before. When I realised that I could come back to him, I thought about that. I told myself that he was maybe tired, that I could perhaps get him… I came back with drafting, and I told myself: ‘I’m gonna get him’. And that’s what I did!”
Despite missing out on a second stage win of the week, Van Aert regained the leader’s yellow jersey – he also leads the points classification – and now leads Gaudu by 6sec on general classification, while Victor Lafay (Cofidis) moved up to third at 12sec.
“Tomorrow I will do everything I can to defend my yellow jersey,” added Van Aert. “Hopefully I can also compete for the stage win again. I have some making up to do.”
Stage two: Vuillermoz leads after winning from breakaway
Monday June 6 – Saint-Péray to Brives-Charensac, 169.8km
Alexis Vuillermoz held on to land his biggest win for almost seven years when the TotalEnergies rider won stage two at the Critérium du Dauphiné and take hold of the leader’s yellow jersey on Monday.
Vuillermoz, a stage winner at the Tour de France in 2015, may have been the last rider to join the day’s breakaway, but the 34-year-old had enough left in the tank at the end of the 169.8-kilometre stage from Saint-Péray to Brives-Charensac to overhaul Anders Skaarseth (Uno-X) and Olivier Le Gac (Groupama-FDJ).
For the second stage running Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (BikeExchange-Jayco) struggled on the climbs, though unlike the previous day the peloton was unable to rein the escapees back in ahead of what they had expected would be a bunch gallop finish.
After building a lead of almost five minutes, breakaway riders Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic), Le Gac, Skaarseth, Kevin Vermaerke (DSM) and Vuillermoz worked well together, although Belgian neo-pro Xandres Vervloesem (Lotto-Soudal) lost contact. Despite the efforts of the peloton, the five-man breakaway went all the way to the finishing straight where, with around 300 metres to go, Le Gac surged off the the front before he was overhauled by Vuillermoz and Skaarseth. Overnight leader Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) led the peloton over the line 5sec later, the Belgian losing his leader’s yellow jersey to Vuillermoz in the process.
Stage one: Van Aert pounces to deny Hayter and take early lead
Sunday June 5 – La Voulte-sur-Rhône to Beauchastel, 191.8km
Wout van Aert proved once again why he is one of the favourites to win the green jersey at this year’s Tour de France when the Jumbo-Visma rider pounced at the last to deny Ethan Hayter a fifth win of 2022 in the opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
On what was a tough 191.8-kilometre stage from La Voulte-sur-Rhône to Beauchastel, a number of the pure sprinters were dropped on the final climb, unable to then regain contact before the anticipated sprint finish due largely to the pace being set by south London rider Hayter’s Ineos Grenadiers team-mates.
Having been guided towards the head of the field by Michal Kwiatkowski, Hayter was given a textbook lead-out with two-time world time trial champion Filippo Ganna pulling hard on the front. Unfortunately for Hayter, though, Belgian national champion Van Aert positioned himself perfectly at fourth wheel before opening up his sprint around 150 metres from the line. Van Aert, who is targeting the points jersey at next month’s Tour de France, was able to hold off Hayter, while Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost) took third.
“A lot of teams were interested in dropping a few sprinters,” said Van Aert. “I could hang on and felt good for the sprint. It was really nice. On the climbs I felt quite comfortable, and a hard stage suits me when it’s like this but then in the sprint there were guys like Hayter, and you have to beat them. He’s doing great this season, so it was tough to pass him, but in the end it happened so I’m happy.
Van Aert later said he would try to defend the leader’s yellow jersey, or keep it in the team that includes Primoz Roglic. The latter is also using the Critérium du Dauphiné as a warm-up race to next month’s Tour de France. “Why not? We’re here with a strong team,” Van Aert said.
“I think that the coming stages suit me quite well so I’ll try and defend the lead if that’s possible. Then at the weekend I can hopefully hand it over to Primoz. But there are a lot of tough stages coming up first.”