Wout van Aert triumphs after nail-biting final in Critérium du Dauphiné

Wout van Aert triumphs after nail-biting final in Critérium du Dauphiné

Thursday 9 June 2022 at 16:35

Wout van Aert has his second stage win in the Critérium du Dauphiné 2022. The yellow jersey wearer defeated Jordi Meeus in a sprint after a thrilling final with a minimal difference. Van Aert, who is now even more firmly in the lead in the general classification, only managed to pass the early refugees in the last hundred meters.

Some GC riders received a big blow in the individual time trial on day four. For them it is important to make up for the lost time in the remaining mountain stages. But before we dive into the mountains, there was a hill stage that should not be underestimated first. Thizy-les-Bourgs was the starting place, Chaintré the place where the finish was. Four categorized climbs were on the menu along the way, with two climbs in the last thirty kilometers. Once at the top of the Côte de Mont-Brison (1.8 km at 4.8%), thirteen more flat kilometers followed to the finish.

Dashing opening phase
In such a stage, the first attack of the day is often the right one, but today a lot of riders wanted to join the early break. For example, Rémi Cavagna was very active in the opening phase, but the French speed rider was caught twice by the peloton. The large group then rode at a steady trot to the first climb of the day. Jan Bakelants was the first to climb on the flanks of the Col des Ecorbans, a third category climb. The experienced Belgian of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert decided to continue after the top and was assisted by two fellow attackers.

photo: Cor Vos

Bakelants, the Austrian Sebastian Schönberger (B&B Hotels-KTM) who was already very active this week and the Frenchman Fabien Doubey (TotalEnergies) took full advantage of a breather in the peloton and the lead of the three leaders quickly grew towards two minutes. Two more counter-attackers swam between the leading group and the peloton. Mountain king Pierre Rolland was in fact going to counterattack, together with his compatriot Benjamin Thomas. The two French had to dig deep into their reserves, but managed to connect after a while. A leading group of five was born.

Mountain king Rolland has loot in
Not much later, the five front runners started the toughest climb of the day, the Côte de Dun (4.9 km at 6.8%) of the second category. Not surprisingly, mountain king Rolland was the first to get to the top and again secured the necessary mountain points. Mission accomplished, Rolland must have thought, and so the experienced Frenchman dropped back into the pack. Schönberger, Doubey, Thomas and Bakelants drove on as usual and started the last seventy kilometers with a lead of about one and a half minutes. In the meantime, Jumbo-Visma received support from the men of BikeExchange-Jayco in the peloton.

photo: Cor Vos

The Australian formation saw one last opportunity today to sprint for victory with Dylan Groenewegen and therefore took responsibility in the pursuit of the four leaders. The peloton was still startled halfway through the stage by a crash by Enric Mas, but the Movistar classification leader was able to continue his way and take his place again in the peloton. Mas had to pay a visit to the round doctor to disinfect the necessary scrapes and flesh wounds. The front runners, meanwhile, kept turning around and tried to defend their gift tooth and nail.

Groenewegen has to pass, refugees hold their own
In the peloton, not for the first time this week, it was all hands on deck. The four escapees held their ground very well. With twenty kilometers to go, the lead was still one and a half minutes, but the front runners still had to survive the Côte de Mont-Brison (1.8 km at 4.8%). On this final climb, with the top at twelve kilometers from the finish, Jumbo-Visma continued firmly. The Dutch formation thus managed to take a big bite away from the lead and, perhaps more importantly, to release Groenewegen. BikeExchange-Jayco’s sprint trump card couldn’t keep up with the pace anymore.

The hard work of the BikeExchange-Jayco men again proved to be wasted effort, as Groenewegen was unable to return. The front runners had meanwhile started the last five kilometers and they did so with a rather nice advance of half a minute. Kruijswijk and Benoot pulled themselves inside out in the peloton for leader Van Aert, but they didn’t come a single step closer. The four escapees had clearly dosed well and so it became a dime again between the front runners and the sprinters still present.

photo: Cor Vos

Entering the last kilometer the difference was still ten seconds, but just then the front runners started to look at each other. Thomas sensed the danger and started at more than four hundred meters from the finish. The French speed rider from Cofidis started the sprint, but the line turned out to be just a bit too far for Thomas and his fellow refugees. Van Aert came up from the background, after good preparatory work by his teammates, and the Belgian managed to narrowly keep compatriot Jordi Meeus with a particularly long sprint. Ethan Hayter had to settle for third place.