Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck-Quick Step has won stage 6 of Critérium du Dauphiné. The 27 year old took his ninth win of the season after lasting the day in the break, crossing the line ahead of Gregor Mühlberger of BORA-Hansgrohe and Alessandro De Marchi of CCC Team.
The first of the Dauphiné’s mountain stages got underway without BORA-Hansgrohe’s Shane Archbold, who will not be required to aide in any further sprints this week. The Kiwi had performed brilliantly for teammate Sam Bennett in setting up a win and a second place finish for the Irishman.
Saint-Vulbas to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne was the battleground for the riders, with 229km to contend with; and a total of eight climbs to navigate including the Col de Beaune that peaked just under 8km from the finish. The break of the day established early with Julian Alaphilippe, Alessandro De Marchi and Gregor Mühlberger establishing themselves at the front. In spite of an initial chase from Team Sunweb who didn’t want to relinquish the king of the mountains lead of Casper Pedersen, there was nothing anyone could do about the firepower of the trio who were just too good. The three leaders opened up a lead that went all the way up to excess of 12 minutes.
Back in the peloton Mitchelton-SCOTT had a prime position at the head of the race looking after Adam Yates while the leading trio arrived at the finish line for the first time with the knowledge that the stage was most certainly theirs for the taking. Alaphilippe looked visibly strongest, while behind him plenty of team came forward to challenge Mitchelton-SCOTT at the front of the pack including Team Ineos, Astana, Bahrain-Merida and Trek-Segafredo.
It was interesting that there were no major attacks from the trio, with none of them looking to go for a long range solo break. Meanwhile EF Education First, working for Tejay van Garderen, decided to force the pace before the climb proper began and their acceleration proved to put the hurt on a number of riders towards the back of the peloton. Also coming forward were Jumbo-Visma but with 15km to go for the breakaway trio it was Team Ineos who were the most constant at the front.
The 8.1km Col de Beaune averaged 5.6% with the early section giving way to a slightly easier segment before much of the latter half of the climb ramped back up again. Alaphilippe, Mühlberger and De Marchi rode the climb largely together until with 12km to go the Frenchman went on the attack, stretching De Marchi in particular. The move didn’t succeed, with both his companions able to keep pace but the gauntlet was being laid down. The race behind them was on as well with Team Ineos eventually making the race at the front of the peloton and putting Mitchelton-SCOTT et al under pressure.
The leaders made their way up the climb almost without skirmish until the latter stages of the climb saw a volley of attacks first from De Marchi and then from Mühlberger, with the latter’s acceleration enough to drop the CCC rider. Back down the road Guillaume Martin of Wanty-Gobert went on the offensive and was given the blessing of the pack to go up the road.
Mühlberger appeared committed to at least breaking De Marchi but the Italian was back with them and even attacking after looking like he was on the ropes. The Italian’s final attack sparked his undoing as his companions made one last dig just before the summit of the climb and dropped the Italian once and for all this time. The leaders crested the summit of the climb with a lead of just over 7 minutes and weren’t about to wait for De Marchi on the fast but technical descent that at one point saw Alaphilippe having to navigate a grass bank in order to stay upright.
The Austrian led the way all the way to the bottom of the climb with Alaphilippe looking content to just sit in his wheel for the time being; while Michal Kwiatkowski set the pace at the front of the peloton, leading the way over the summit of the climb with no serious attacks from the GC contenders. Alaphilippe briefly came to the front with a shade under 3km to go with a lead of 15 seconds to Alessandro De Marchi.
As the final kilometre neared the leading duo had enough space to play a bit of cat-and-mouse, with Mühlberger leading the way under the banner. It was a reasonably quick run in to the finish from the pair, with Alaphilippe coasting on the Austrian’s wheel. De Marchi had the pair in sights but with 162m to go Mühlberger hit for home. It seemed like it was going to be a formality for Alaphilippe but Mühlberger dug deep to force the issue all the way to the line, with Alaphilippe just taking the win by a wheel rim.
Alessandro De Marchi crossed the line in third place with Wout Poels and Gorka Izagirre leading the peloton home 6.10mins in arrears. Dion Smith, having ridden successfully in defence of teammate Adam Yates crossed the line alongside Andre Greipel of Arkéa-Samsic.