Stage 4 was your typical Critérium du Dauphiné day---no talking, no looking around. You bite the handlebar and go. I think we did around 50-52 km/hour for the first 90 minutes, so it’s no wonder no one got off the front.
Sixty kilometers in, we crested an uncategorized climb, and I found myself in a split with about 30 riders. A lot of the GC guys were there, but some had missed it. Mitchelton drilled it in the front group and QuickStep chased from behind and eventually brought us back. A few guys finally managed to get some separation in what would be the break of the day.
We zipped through the feed zone all singled out at more than 50 km/hour and the position battle was on for the approaching massive climb. There is no easy way up a 17-km climbing at over 7% in this field and the selection continued as the pace went up.
By the top, it was a fairly small group and I was happy to be there for Damiano. I grabbed a few bottles for him because we were all overheating. That didn’t last long, and the clouds opened up just in time for the highest point of the stage and a very technical downhill.
We took it fairly easy on the descent, and the group swelled in size. This added to the speed and chaos approaching the final climb with each team having a few horses going all-in on the approach. I went back for one last round of bottles and was amazed how far back the commissary’s car made me go off the back of the group to reach the team car.
I waved my hands at the guy comfortably seated inside the car with the standard, “come on man, give us a break, let our cars come up” gesture. He told me to calm down. I guess he must have been sleeping for the first 160-km, which were anything but calm.
As we hit the final climb, my teammates began to swing off, and I found myself chasing the group as it raged up the road. It was my fault for not having better position, but it wouldn’t have made too much of a difference as the pace was clearly too much for me. Damiano was looking awesome and is now fifth on GC.
I was happy to be up there while it lasted but I was realistic about my expectations. I think I’m riding pretty well but clearly so are 150 other guys here. We will see how tomorrow goes. I’ll be there to support Damiano and then make the call whether it’s better to keep fighting to stay close in the overall or let it open up and focus on rolling the dice in the final two days.
📷 Getty Images / Tim De Waele