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CRITÉRIUM DU DAUPHINÉ - GALLERY

Though much has changed this season, the Criterium du Dauphine has retained it's position as the race to watch to gauge rider's form ahead of the Tour de France. A grueling 5-day affair summitting largely HC mountain finishes, this year's edition has pulled the world's best riders in droves to test their legs ahead of the Tour. Here, we give you a look inside the race.

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After recon in and around Clermont-Ferrand, Stage 1 was a lumpy affair. Rising or falling for most of the parcours, but critically, with the staggering of the largest climb early in the day and with a further 6 categorized climbs, incentives to tear away in a break were limited for the field. With a run in to the Col du Gachet, tempo quickened, and Froome and Sagan were jettisoned. Leading the charge early on, it was the yellow of Team Jumbo Visma commanding the pack, bringing van Aert his third win in as many starts.

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Finishing Stage 1 with the main bunch, but behind the blistering attack of Wout van Aert, Landa crossed the line calmly - keeping the powder dry for efforts to come later in the week. It seemed a calculated performance and seemingly a wise one with such a strong field yet to really test their legs. _

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Stage 2 though was always guaranteed to tear up the standings. A HC climb onto the Col du Porte was the arena for the day's largest battles - despite early skirmishes from mountain classification hopefulls. The real story was Ineos - hitting the front of the peloton with 15km to go on the slopes.

 

 

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Steadily, more names were shelled. Alaphillipe faded, as did Urán, and Adam Yates. Yet, the train of Kwiatowski, Sivakov, Froome, Thomas didn't offer the strength and depth those names would suggest. The young Colombian, Egan Bernal, found himself isolated in the select group of 15 that remained at 3km from the line.

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Roglic sensed an opportunity, and provoking Bernal to attack, it was soon apparent that yellow and black would again be the colours on the top step. Team Bahrain McLaren's Landa sat once more quite happily in the lead group, sailing through each selection.

When Roglic charged - Landa kept the gap to just 10 seconds, and crossing the line, it was Bernal sprinting to overlap Landa's wheel for the same time. Not found wanting and having not shown too many cards on the ascent, Landa sits neatly inside the top 10 on GC.

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Whilst the front group finished in the drizzle of a humid and overcast day, later finishers weren't so lucky. An unexpected downpour and hailstorm struck riders finishing even 5 minutes later than the leaders. It was a cruel punishment for cracked domestiques - one that shows the true suffering of cycling; winning hurts, losing hurts, finishing hurts.

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Stage 3 was rather less dramatic to begin with. An 80km procession to the base of the Col de la Madeleine saw nothing out of the ordinary. A small group got away right out of the blocks, but only held a minute or so advantage. It was on the slopes that things kicked off.

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Italian National Champ Davide Formolo amped up the effort and distanced the rest of the breakaway - leading to a cat and mouse game over two extraordinarily tough climbs. Whilst the elite group of riders stayed together in the main, it was unable to organise a response to Formolo's panache and sustained solo effort. He took a win, whilst Roglic once more put seconds on the line into the rest of the main group including Landa - But just a handful.

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Stage 4 however was to blow the field wide open. The day started with news that Egan Bernal of Ineos would not start due to back issues. On the road, breakaways once again dominated the headlines, and with little in the ways of a showdown on the climbs, it was more crashes that selected and whittled down the field.

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Roglic had fallen along with Krujswijk. Landa put in a strong performance, pulling the bunch and setting a blistering pace to bring the gap to Kamna of Bora back. Without co-operation however, it wasn't enough, and the Bora rider stayed free for a win.

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Stage 5 and the conclusion of this year's Dauphiné was then turned on it's head. Roglic, the rider looking in best form of the entire peloton announced that his crash had taken him out of the race. Weary of the mountain finishes, the peloton once again took to the road.

Whilst the GC contenders stayed tightly knit in the main, ascents of the Col de la Colombiere and the Aravis saw Landa slowly loose contact. In the interim, Sepp Kuss took his chance to attack for stage victory, while a three way battle for the topspot broke out between Danny Martinez of EF racing, Guillaume Martin of Cofidis and Thibaut Pinot of FDJ.

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On the line, it was Martinez's attack that took the overall GC, concluding one of the hardest Dauphinés in history. Thanks go to Russ Ellis and Chris Auld for capturing the race - See more of their work by following them on Instagram, at @cyclingimages & @cauldphoto.