A strange Criterium du Dauphine got even stranger during stage seven as Chris Froome (Team Sky) put in a punishing attack to take out the stage.
It all started off with a very large breakaway of 14 riders, that only got larger before changing sizes about three of four times with riders going in and out of the group. At it’s largest, with just under 50km to go the breakaway featured 26 riders and featured the following riders:
Nathan Haas (Cannondale-Garmin), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R-La Mondiale), Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Soudal), Jonathan Castroviejo, Gorka Izagirre (Both Movistar), Tiago Machado (Katusha), David De La Cruz, Pieter Serry (Both Etix-Quick Step), Bauke Mollema, Riccardo Zoidl (Both Trek), Pawel Poljanski, Chris Anker Sørensen (Both Tinkoff-Saxo), Jarlinso Pantano, Marcel Wyss (both IAM Cycling), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Dani Navarro, Nicolas Edet, Luis Maté (All Cofidis), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Louis Meintjes, Daniel Teklehaimanot (Both MTN), Bartosz Huzarski, José Mendes, Dominic Nerz, Björn Thurau (All Bora).
Meanwhile back in the peloton, it had been decimated on third and longest climb of the day to just under 50 riders as Team Sky took over control. it was textbook General Classification riding from Sky as they burnt through all their team mates before Chris Froome lit it up in the final few kilometres.
Back up front and it was Riccardo Ziodo and Daniel Navarro Garcia mounting an attack. It split the breakaway and at one stage with around 20km to go they had over a 50 second gap to the group behind them. In fact with 20km to go the peloton were over three minutes in a rears as they struggled to cut into the gap.
The pace was then lifted in the breakaway and it was cut to around 10 riders as Sky did the same in the peloton.
With 13km to go is where the real action started. As Navarro Garcia and Ziodo continued on the front of the race, an attack came out of the breakaway launched by Louis Mientjes. He took a couple of riders with him including Pierre Rolland and they worked on cutting down the gap to Garcia and Ziodo.
However before they could get to them, Sky put the hammer down even more with an excellent ride from Wout Poels. It cracked many of the General Classification riders including the yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali. He went backwards and lost a massive amount of time as did his breakaway companions from stage six in Alejandro Valverde and Rui Costa.
With just an 8 rider group heading up the mountain and more riders cracking all the time, combined with the fact they were getting closer to the breakaway, Chris Froome decided enough was enough and attacked everyone. He rode straight past all the breakaway riders with only Tejay Van Garderen in his wheel with 4km to go.
Froome and Van Garderen quickly built up an advantage working together and the closes two following them were Mientjes and Benat Intxausti.
With under 2km to go Froome decided enough was enough and attacked Van Garderen. It was a brutal attack and won him the stage by 17 seconds. It wasn’t enough to take yellow from Van Garderne’s grasp but it was still an awesome attack.
Mientjes then sprinted home for third with all the big guns losing time. Nibali particularly lost almost four minutes whilst SImon Yates who had to battle all day and Romain Bardet cut their losses well.
Another tough stage awaits the riders tomorrow to decide the Dauphine. In what has been a strange race nothing is for certain, however Van Garderen should be able to hang onto yellow.
In the end though on Stage 7, it was all Chris Froome after a perfectly executed ride from Team Sky.
The queen stage of the 2015 Criterium du Dauphine will certainly go a long way to decide who will wear the final yellow jersey on Sunday after eight days of racing. Stage 7 takes the riders on a 155km journey from Montmelian to Saint – Gervais (Mont Blanc). Join The Roar for live coverage from 9:30pm (AEST).
Stage 6 saw a very aggressive and in some ways it was a strange stage. After we saw the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lose big time on Stage 5 they went to attack very early yesterday. Nibali particularly was the race’s key animater and made the break which wasn’t established until close to 100km were completed. In the end it was Rui Costa (Lampre) taking the victory with Nibali moving into yellow.
The first 27km of the hardest stage on paper in this years race are more or less flat before the climbing begins. Five category one climbs with one category three climb thrown in to the mix. The first two climbs of the day and more or less follow one another straight away.
The Col de Tamie is first on the agenda, with the summit reached after 37.5km, it Is 8.5km in length at 6.4%. Following a descent the Col de la Forclaz will be climbed. Very similar to the first climb in that it will be 8.1km in length with an average gradient of 7.8%. The peloton will go over the top of this climb with 95km to go in the stage.
Following that there is a longer sort of descent onto valley roads which while they can’t be called flat will not throw up any major difficulties for the peloton.
The next two climbs are once again in quick succession with the category one climb of the Col de la Croix Fry followed by the category three climb of the Col de Aravis.
The Croix Fry is the longest climb of the day at 11.3km with an average gradient of 7%, while all the category three climb will do is send the riders back uphill before they really get a chance to relax descending. It weighs in at 4.3km with an average gradient of 5.8%. Upon finishing that climb the riders will still have 52km to go.
Following that it will be two sections of downhill, separated by an uphill false flat.
With 13km to go the riders will begin the category one ascent of the Cote des amerands At 2.7km it is short, however with an average gradient of 11.2%, it is where those needing a lot of time on the overall classification or without team mates could launch their attack.
After a very short descent the riders will start the final category one climb to the finish line. It will be 7km at 7.7%, however after the difficult nature of the day it will feel a lot longer and a lot harder to the riders. The last km in particular will be challenging with an average gradient of 10.1%.
Vincenzo Nibali will be very keen to hold on to his yellow jersey and has a fair advantage of 29 seconds to Rui Costa. However the only riders I can see challenging based on form so far are Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Chris Froome (Sky) and Simon Yates (Orica). Yates is the best placed out of them at 35 seconds but is inexperienced. Froome and Van Garderen are both more than a minute behind.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will also work hard but looked gone at the end of yesterday’s stage while Daniel Martin (Cannondale – Garmin) will try and mount a challenge.
PREDICTION: After the rigours of yesterday, it’s hard to predict what might happen. I’ll say Froome and Van Garderen will put time into Nibali but wont take yellow. I’m also going to tip left field and say Yates could well win the stage if he get’s his tactics right. A breakaway however could also be the order of the day with so much climbing.
With a fascinating stage awaiting up, be sure to join The Roar for all the action from 9:30pm (AEST) and don’t forget to leave a comment below!