The classic dress rehearsal for Tour de France hopefuls delivered some breathless moments of excitement. Unexpected breakaway victories as the sprinter teams miscalculated the catch. Descents so fast and technical they made your eyes water just watching. But nothing compares to the 115km of sheer chaos attacking on the final stage that saw Jakob Fuglsang overturn Richie Porte’s lead to claim his first WorldTour title, and a first Dauphine for Denmark.
Rider of the Race
Richie Porte (BMC) was attacked, isolated and dropped almost as soon as the peloton departed Albertville on the last stage. I have every respect for the way he would not give up, riding alone over four climbs in a bid to save the yellow jersey on his back. He nearly made it. Catching and passing his rivals on the road except for one man – my rider of the race Jakob Fuglsang.
I’ve watched the Dane come close to a big win so many times: a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, second on Stage 6 of the Giro last year, twice second on stages at the Tour including a towering Viking raid over the wet pavé in 2014. But I’ve never seen him put back-to-back performances together like he has at this race. After a poor time trial that left him 20th on GC and +1:46 adrift of Porte, he pounced on the Mont du Chat. Climbing and descending with the best to take his first ever WT stage victory – from a four-up climbers sprint no less – and propel himself to 3rd overall behind Porte and Chris Froome.
Honestly, I was ecstatic and didn’t look for anything more, but Birdsong wasn’t finished. He backed it up on stage 7 where he was the only GC candidate to match Richie on the Alpe d’Huez finish. Going into the final stage he was 1:15mins off the lead and only 13secs from Froome in second. As the stage unfolded I watched spellbound as he grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck and made it his own. This was a new Fuglsang and I LOVED it. His solo time trial against Porte on the Solaison climb was spent pacing and praying that his legs would just keep going. That roar of triumph over the line signalled another stage win – but it was followed swiftly by anxious clock watching as my overwrought brain cells eventually caught up with the fact that the whole race could be his. Thirty seconds passed, Richie was still climbing. Sixty seconds and the Tasmanian was giving it everything. I held my breath … the clock ticked over to 1:15 and Jakob had pulled off the win by the 10-second stage win bonification. I’ve always loved that word and right then it was best entry in the whole cycling lexicon.
Why don’t we hear how the stage played out from the man himself
Clues for the Tour de France podium?
With three weeks to go until the Grand Boucle kicks off in Dusseldorf, there are some GC hopefuls with a little tuning still to do. Baby Blackbird (Alberto Contador) was on a deliberate go-slow with a ban on attacking. He finished 11th, the first time he’s missed a top 10 finish at a stage race for ages:
I preferred to take my own tempo and decided to save my legs. The most important thing is that I’ve finished this race really fresh. In the last few years, I’ve finished tired, empty. I think that I can now recover well in the next three days and then start my preparation again.
Tweets that made me smile
Mamma mia… Yes, I know it’s another Jakob, but indulge me #DimplesForDays
Stage win and green make for a happy FDJ
Polka dot dreamin’
1 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) 29:05:54
2 Richie Porte (BMC) +0:10
3 Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) +1:32
4 Christopher Froome (Sky) +1:33
5 Fabio Aru (Astana) +1:37
All the jerseys
Points Jersey: Arnaud Demare (FDJ)
King of the Mountains Jersey: Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo)
Best Young Rider Jersey: Emmanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Team Classification Leader: Ag2r-La Mondiale
Stage 1: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) Final KM here
Stage 2: Arnaud Demare (FDJ) Final KM here
Stage 3: Koen Bouwmann (LottoNL-Jumbo) Final KM here
Stage 4: Richie Porte (BMC) Final KM here
Stage 5: Phil Bauhaus (Sunweb) Final KM here
Stage 6: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) Final KM here
Stage 7: Peter Kennaugh (Sky) Final KM here
Stage 8: Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) Final KM here
Links: Official race website
Header: Final podium © PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images