Daniel Martinez (EF Pro Cycling) turned the Critérium du Dauphiné upside down with a spectacular move up the Côte de Domancy on the way to Megève, at the end of the final day of the UCI WorldTour stage race dominated by the American climber Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma). The young Colombian rider - who was a trainee at the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle (Switzerland) as a Junior in 2014 - took the overall win with an advantage of 29'' over Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and 41'' on another Frenchman, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis). His consistent performances all along the week and the small differences ahead of the last stage allowed Martinez to shake up the race on the last stage.
“We knew the race would be crazy today,” he said at the finish. “My team worked for me in the first part and I was able to save strength for the finale and go for the win. I was at the limit but I was determined to make it to the finish. It’s one of the biggest races in the world and to be able to win this, coming from Colombia, makes me very happy.”
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) enjoyed the first stage to show he was still flying after his Italian triumphs in the Strade Bianche and Milano-Sanremo. The Belgian star dominated the sprint in a small bunch – of around 50 riders – in Saint-Christo-en-Jarez. The first victory for the men in black and yellow wouldn't be the only one of the week! Van Aert enjoyed a perfect lead-out to claim the win from Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos). The Colombian winner of the 2019 Tour de France looked strong on that first challenge but he eventually retired ahead of Stage 4, due to back pain according to his team.
Roglič: so far, so good...
In this rehearsal race for the Tour de France, the first altitude finish brought a first showdown between the contenders for the overall finish. Ineos tried to take matters into their own hands on the long slopes leading to Col de Porte, and didn't take time out to enjoy the spectacular views on the Vercors Massif. And they didn't enjoy seeing Primož Roglič power to victory with an impressive acceleration inside the last kilometre. Bernal just couldn't react. Guillaume Martin tried to bridge the gap, accelerating with 500m to go. Thibaut Pinot followed his move and finished 2nd behind Roglič.
The stragglers were greeted on the finish line by a massive hail thunderstorm.
Stage 3 offered more ground for battle, with the Col de la Madeleine followed by the climb to Saint-Martin-de-Belleville. But the challenges were "too far from the finish" to shake up the race, according to Groupama-FDJ's sports director Thierry Bricaud, who saw Jumbo-Visma control the day.
Most of the leaders seemed happy to follow the pace set by Wout van Aert. Meanwhile, Davide Formolo (UAE Team Emirates) completed a major solo ride at the front of the race, claiming victory after he dropped all his breakaway companions at the bottom of La Madeleine, with more than 60km to go. He then held on to a 30'' lead atop the final climb to Saint-Martin-de-Belleville, with Roglič finishing second ahead of Pinot. Bernal appeared to struggle again in the last kilometre and lost another handful of seconds.
Pinot survives the crashes
The winner of the 2019 Tour de France eventually left the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of the final weekend of battle in the Alps. The star-studded pack lost one of its main champions and all eyes became focused on a duel between Roglič and Pinot.
But Stage 4 reminded everyone nothing is written beforehand in cycling. On the downhill of the Col de Plan Bois, Thibaut Pinot hit the deck with Bora-Hansgrohe's Emanuel Buchmann (3rd overall) and Steven Kruijswijk, one of Roglič's main helpers in the mountains. The French climber was able to quickly get back on his bike but this crash meant the end of the race for Buchmann and Kruijswijk, whose teams expressed their worries only two weeks ahead of the Tour.
Roglič also went down in the valley leading to Montée de Bisanne (HC). It was Jumbo-Visma's most complicated day and Mikel Landa's Bahrain-McLaren tried to make the most of the circumstances. But Tom Dumoulin made sure his leader Roglič finished with all his rivals in Megève. At the front, Bora-Hansgrohe's Lennard Kämna went solo on the final climb to take his first victory as a professional rider, ahead of David de la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step).
On the line, Thibaut Pinot led the GC group ahead of Primož Roglič, who didn't start on the final day, in order to tend his injuries.
Both of them are expected to be in Nice in a couple of weeks for the start of the Tour de France (August 29 - September 20). The intensity will be even higher.