Aside from Stage 3, today was the only day in this year's Critérium du Dauphiné that offered a chance for the sprinters, but teams appeared more interested in playing the breakaway game than chasing down early escapees and setting up a sprint. With the hard racing that has happened every day so far, nobody can really blame them. And so, after a fierce first hour where dozens of riders tried to get into the breakaway du jour, a lucky and hearty sixteen finally did. With 15 teams represented and no general classification threats up the road, it was clear the day would once again belong to the escapees.
The profile was rolling, but not overly climby with only three fourth category climbs dotted along the route. However, two of these climbs came in the last 25 kilometers, which promised to either make sprinters work for their prize or provide a launchpad for attacks out of the breakaway. As the escapees hit the penultimate climb some 20 kilometers from the finish, Lotto-Beliosol's Pim Ligthart was the first to hit out and got space. Not long afterwards, Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma - Quickstep) and Lieuwe Westra (Astana) would join him. With Bakelants' teammate Zdeneck Stybar breaking up the chase behind, the trio quickly established a substantial gap before hitting the final climb.
Here, Westra and Bakelants distanced Ligthart and as they hit the flamme rouge a few kilometers later it was Bakelants who was on the front, practically at a trackstand and keeping an watchful eye out for the inevitable jump by Westra. The Dutch rider jumped early at 300 meters from the line, making sure to hit the final corner in the perfect position, but he had no match for Bakelant's speed as the duo hit the final 200 meters. Bakelants dove to the right to go between Westra and the barricades, a risky move that Westra almost shut down, but the Astana rider relented to let the faster Bakelants come by for his first win in 2014. The win will strengthen Bakelants' odds for getting on the Omega Pharma - Quickstep team at the Tour de France in three weeks time after a disappointing spring. The general classification remains unchanged.
Further down the road, Chris Froome took a tumble in the technical final 25 kilometers, but the peloton eased up to let him rejoin without much effort and he will go into the weekend with what seem to be only minor bumps and scrapes. But with the general classification so tight, it will be interesting to see how he recovers in time for tomorrow's stage. The weekend has two back to back summit finishes, but tomorrow is the decidedly harder of the two and he will need all his energy to keep or maintain his lead.
- Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma - Quickstep)
- Lieuwe Westra (Astana), s.t.
- Zdeneck Stybar (Omega Pharma - Quickstep), at 24"
- Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol), s.t.
- Jens Keukeleire (Orica GreenEDGE), s.t.
- Christopher Froome (Sky Pro Cycling)
- Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), at 12"
- Wilco Kelderman (Belkin), at 12"
- Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), at 33"
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), at 35"