Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 5: Van Aert takes second stage win

With help from his Jumbo Visma team, Wout van Aert won an ‘edge of the seat’ finale in a photo finish with Jordi Meeus to win his second stage of the event and extend his lead overall, Ethan Hayter third on stage & 4th overall

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Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 5: Van Aert takes second stage win

Photo: ASO/Aurelien Vialatte | Report by Aidan Cameron

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took his second stage win at the Dauphine following a thrilling finale, which saw the days early break caught within metres of the line and Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) nearly overhaul Van Aert in the bunch sprint to the finish. In taking the win, Van Aert also extended his leads in the GC, where he now has over a minute advantage over Mattia Cattaneo (Quick-Step) in 2nd, and the points competition, where he now has a 24-point lead over Ethan Hayter (Ineos), who finished 3rd in the bunch sprint to the line.

The day had been marked out as one for the sprinters, and BikeExchange-Jayco did most of the work controlling the days four-man break, looking to set up a bunch sprint for Dylan Groenewegen. However, the Dutch fastman was yet again distanced on the climbs towards the finish in Chaintré, as Jumbo and Ineos set a fast pace to put the purer sprinters into difficulty. It seemed that the pace would still not be enough to pull back the breakaway, as they maintained a significant lead in the run-in to the finish, but some strong pull’s from Jumbo’s GC contenders Primoz Roglic and Jonas Vingegaard helped to bring them within striking distance, and they were finally caught as Van Aert opened up his sprint to the line.

There was no significant change in the GC, with all the main contenders finishing safely in the main bunch. Thanks to time bonuses, Hayter moved ahead of Vingegaard in 4th and Van Aert extended his GC lead – though he will expect to lose it in the final two mountainous stages at the weekend, his proven climbing ability could set up an interesting dilemma for Jumbo, who have both Roglic and Vingegaard in a good position to win the race overall.

“I’m super happy that I was able to reward the team’s work with the victory”, Van Aert said. “Christophe brought me to the finish in a good position. All the other guys made sure it didn’t come to a sprint. It started to blow, and partly because of that, it wasn’t easy to catch the escapees. Two days ago, I was beating myself up about not winning. Yesterday I could live with finishing second. Fortunately, I finished it off today. Van Aert doesn’t seem satisfied yet after his second win. “Tomorrow’s stage will be a tough one again. There will be a lot of riders interested in being in the breakaway. But we will not give up just like that. From Saturday, we will ride for Primoz and Jonas. The one-minute lead I have now will not be enough to compete for the overall victory”, Van Aert said.

How It Unfolded
The second half of this year’s Dauphine began in Thinzy-les-Bourges, with the 162km Stage 5 looking on paper to be the most likely bunch sprint finish in the whole race. Despite this, there was still a number of climbs the sprinters would have to navigate before challenging for a stage win. Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter, Britain’s Matthew Walls, still suffering from his crash on stage 2, was the sole abandon during the stage, reducing the field to 147 riders.

A flurry of attacks opened the stage with riders looking to get in the early breakaway. Stage 2 winner, Alexis Vuillermoz (TotalEnergies) and French road race champion Remi Cavagna (Quick-Step), were part of one promising move, but no one was a able to escape before the days first climb, the 3rd category Col des Ecorbans. There, Jan Bakelants (Intermarche) would go clear and cross the top of the climb in first, before being joined by Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies) and Sebastian Schonberger (B&B Hotels) on the other side of the ascent. After Bakelants took the intermediate sprint, they would be joined by Schonberger’s team-mate and King of the Mountains leader Pierre Rolland, along with Benjamin Thomas (Cofidis) to form the days breakaway.

Rolland would take the Mountain points available on the days main difficulty, the 2nd category Cote de Dun, as the break’s advantage extended up to three minutes. This increased the French climber’s lead in the competition, however he would then sit up to wait up for the main bunch – given how the stage turned, he may well have regretted doing so. Nonetheless, the energy saved by dropping back from the break could be pivotal as he looks to defend his King of the Mountains jersey with the high mountains approaching.

The pace set in the bunch by BikeExchange Jayco, looking to tee things up for a Groenewegen sprint, reduced the breaks gap down to 1:20 with 65km to go. They were assisted primarily by Jumbo, looking to defend Van Aert’s lead but also set him up for a potential second stage win. The breaks advantage would then rise again to two minutes by 45km to go, and remain there as they entered the first of two 4th category climbs within the final 30km.

Here a strong pace by the previous-days stage winner, Filippo Ganna (Ineos) reduced the breaks gap down to 1:30. It would be down to a minute by the time they hit the final categorised climb of the day, the Cote des Mont-Brison. A hard pace set by Jumbo and Ineos on the climb, with Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk particularly prominent in setting the pace, would see Groenewegen dropped and the gap to the front four come down to almost 30 seconds by the top.

Groenewegen would be another 30 seconds further back at this point but with only a few BikeExchange team-mates to chase, and less than 13km to do, he would be unable to close in on the bunch. As it was with the opening two stages, an opportunity to challenge for the win had been ruined by the climbs, and he looks set to finish this Dauphine without even getting the chance to sprint for victory.

It looked set up to come back together at the front, however the descent and technical run-in would favour the breakaway, and with 5km to go their lead was held at 30 seconds. As Jumbo and Ineos lost riders at the front, it looked very well like they might stay away – ultimately it took strong pulls from Vingegaard and Roglic to help close them down, and as they went under the flamme rouge the gap had dropped to 8 seconds, with hesitation in the break looking like it might be their downfall.

Benjamin Thomas would launch his sprint from a distance as the bunch closed in, and looked for a moment like he might hold on for victory. However, a big effort from Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) would take race-leader Van Aert up to the breakaway, before he powered past them inside the final 150m, almost colliding with Laporte as he opened up his sprint. Meeus would try to come past on the inside and very nearly succeeded, the Yellow jersey having to throw his bike at the line to secure his second stage win, perhaps having learnt from Stage 3 where he made the mistake of celebrating too early. It was an extremely close finale but in the end, Van Aert was able to continue Jumbo’s great run at this Dauphine and finished off what was a fine team victory.

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