Criterium du Dauphine 2017: Fuglsang flies to Dauphine glory

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.

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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.

Despite missing out on the win, there are a lot of positive aspects Richie Porte can take from his eight days at the Dauphine. He won the time trial handily and climbed as well as I’ve seen him. He may be less confident in his team, they were outmatched on the last stage and he paid for it. I still have my doubts he can get through three weeks, but this year may be his best chance.
Chris Froome is still descending like an alpine skier, but he didn’t spin up the climbs to such devastating effect as we’ve become used to, and his TT performance was poor by his standards. The Sky supremo is heading into the Tour de France without a win for the first time since 2012 and there are doubts as to where he is form-wise. If Birdsong can hold his form while Fabio Aru attacks and rides as immodestly as ever, Astana should be quietly confident of occupying top places. Speaking of co-leaders, Alejandro Valverde may have dropped to 9th on the last day but he was in sparkling form, which sets up all sorts of questions for Movistar and Nairo Quintana.

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’

Not only did LottoNL-Jumbo’s Koen Bouwman take his first professional victory on stage three, he was also tenacious in his pursuit of the polka dots, making it into the break of the day time after time until he made them his own on stage 5. He carried on mopping up the points as the race moved into the high mountains and held a 20-point advantage going into the last stage. But to carry the shirt home you have to finish race, and the young Dutchman suffered on the last day. Teeth gritted he would not surrender. Full gas on the last climb saw him fall over the line exhausted but with enough energy to make the podium #Chapeau

Final results

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 winners:

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

3 thoughts on “Criterium du Dauphine 2017: Fuglsang flies to Dauphine glory

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