Critérium du Dauphiné: Alaphilippe punches his way to victory
The Frenchman gained seven places in the overall classification after his maiden win in the race.
Julian Alaphilippe was the man of the day on stage 4 of the Critérium du Dauphiné (Chazey-sur-Ain – Lans-en-Vercors, 181 kilometers), taking the laurels on the first of the four back-to-back summit finishes the World Tour race schedules this week. One of the pre-stage favourites, the 25-year-old Quick-Step Floors pocket-rocket climber added another beautiful victory to his 2018 haul, which includes Flèche Wallonne, a Colombia Oro y Paz stage and two more at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
"I am super happy, because this is a high-level race and all the riders are in very good shape. I knew this was the only day I could go for the win and told my teammates since the morning that I wanted to do something. Coming off an altitude training camp I didn't have the best feelings, but I was extremely motivated to get a win in my home race, and having accomplished my goal gives me a lot of confidence with the start of the Tour de France just weeks away", a beaming Julian said after garnering himself a trip to the podium.
The day packed three classified climbs, including the tough Col du Mont Noir (17.5 kilometers, 6.9%), and got off to a rapid start, with the riders covering a staggering 52 kilometers in the first hour. Despite several attempts, it was only after 70 kilometers that a group got clear, and when it did, the eight men at the front opened a five-minute lead on the peloton.
On Mont Noir, the group got split and Odd Christian Eiking (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) made the first move, which was countered by Dario Cataldo (Astana), who dropped the Norwegian and crested in the lead the top of the ascent with three minutes in hand. The heavy rain on the descent slowed down the bunch a bit, but the pack picked up the chase with 20 kilometers to go and by the time they arrived at the bottom of Lars-en-Vecors (4.8 kilometers, 7.7%), the leader's advantage had dropped to under two minutes.
Inside the final kilometer, Cataldo was within sight of the whittled down peloton, which included Julian Alaphilippe and Bob Jungels, just as an acceleration of Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) sparked a response from three men, one of whom was Julian. The quartet sailed past the Italian with 300 meters to go, putting some daylight between them and the chasers, and with the finish line drawing closer and closer, Julian expertly bided his time on the 7.7% average gradient before surging clear from third wheel to claim his 11th pro victory.
"My first goal of the day was to survive on Mont Noir, which was a demanding climb. Then, on the downhill, I remained focus and in a good position together with Bob. Everybody was tired and the tempo was really high on the last climb, which I knew suited me. I didn't have the best feeling in the group, but as the kilometers ticked down, I became more and more confident", said Julian, who made a significant jump in the general classification, after landing Quick-Step Floors' 38th victory of the year.
Fourth now, just two places ahead of teammate Bob Jungels, Julian explained his remaining goals for the next stages (Valmorel, La Rosière, Saint-Gervais): "We will go into the high mountains this weekend and I know very well that this kind of terrain doesn't suit me, as I'm more of a puncheur. However, this doesn't mean I won't fight. I'll try to be up there and help Bob make a good GC."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images