Another Queen Stage-Gran Finale at the Critérium du Dauphiné. If you caught the race, you probably saw the same 20 guys that you’ve seen over the past two stages racing while everyone else was basically in survival mode.
From kilometer 0, it was straight into a 5-km climb at berserker speed. I fought my way to the front when we hit a valley and was following moves as we approached the start of the first HC climb. This is always a tricky moment. Frequently, it’s a good time to jump, but there’s a risk that if the move doesn’t go, you’ll be cooked for the climb and never recover.
Seeing more and more guys jump and Sky beginning to block the road, I saw this as my last chance and went for it. It took me the first few km of the climb to make contact with the front and once there, I was just hanging on to the top trying to recover from the hard effort I put down to make contact.
Our gap briefly went out to 3 minutes and then started to come down as we hit the next climb, another HC beast. The break began to explode as the strongest climbers heard the peloton was increasing speed and falling to pieces.
I realized I wasn’t up for following the best guys in the break, so I switched focus and pace in the hopes of staying with Damiano Caruso once the GC group caught me. It was only about 20 riders when they found me with three km to go. I fought hard to stay with them over the summit, so that I could get Damiano bottles and food in the short flat section following the few km descent.
It never ceases to amaze me how aggressive the positioning and fighting is in such a select group. After making sure Damiano had everything he needed, I bit down and tried to hang on over the following climb, but was crushed from the high altitude and my earlier efforts and didn’t quite make it.
For a minute, I thought we might catch them on the downhill if they slowed down at all, but the race was on at the front, and that was it for me. I switched into survival mode up the final climb where Joey and Paddy joined me along with a steady group to ride to the top. A handful of guys came chugging by still pouring it all out and fighting for the top 50. I’m continually amazed how guys can get away with shenanigans like that. If I spent my resources that way, I wouldn’t still be in the game.
Tomorrow, we have even more climbing, which will come after a night sleeping at altitude in cold, no heat ski apartments that have been shut down for the season.
📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele