EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale was among the action nearly every day at Criterium du Dauphine. #PinkArgyle was in the breaks and alongside the overall contenders.
“We came here wanting to win a stage aware of the fact that the GC race could easily compromise the chances of that happening,” said sport director Charly Wegelius. “Pierre [Rolland] is on a good trajectory. We did good work in the TTT and see some positive signs toward the Tour, although there is still a lot of work to do.”
Rolland rose to the occasion of the rising roads that featured in the second half of the Dauphiné. While he reported having trouble “riding in the red”, he took confidence both from his improving form and the clarity he gained about the work still to be done in the month before the Tour begins.
“All in all, it was a very good week,” said Rolland. “I know what I need to work on before the Tour, and I had a lot of fun with the team and the staff — even on the prologue and the TTT, and the time trial is really not my specialty.”
Speaking of fun…
You want the headbutt version. You get the headbutt version.
(You're welcome.) pic.twitter.com/1t9IWBqEyL
— EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale (@Ride_Argyle) June 9, 2018
Lawson Craddock was top #PinkArgyle in the Dauphine prologue. The Texan time trialled to 15th, 13″ down on stage winner Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY), who pulled on the first yellow jersey of the 70th Criterium du Dauphine.
“I felt strong during today’s prologue, and after being able to recon and watch others race on the course, I got a good feel for when to really push the pace during the 6.6km effort,” said Craddock. “I think 15th is a decent enough ride, but in this sport, you’re almost always left wanting more. I’ll head back to the drawing board and try to work on the few spots where I left time on the road.”
Lawson Craddock flew the #PinkArgyle flag in the first breakaway of the 2018 Criterium du Dauphine. Part of an early move that gained more than six minutes over the peloton in the opening hour of racing, Craddock and his two breakmates returned to the bunch just before the final 10 kilometers. Winding roads, crashes and several late race attacks increased nerves and split the peloton. Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-SCOTT) sprinted to stage victory from the reduced bunch.
“In the end we made it about as far as we possibly could. It helped set the tone for us,” said Craddock. “The next few days should provide exciting racing, and we showed today we are ready to race offensively and animate the race.”
Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the stage two sprint as stage one winner Daryl Impey took the yellow jersey from Kwiatkowski, who crashed heavily in the finale. It was a quiet day for #PinkArgyle ahead of the team time trial.
We were mid-field starters in the Critérium du Dauphiné team time trial and set the early standard for the first and second intermediate checkpoints of the flat, fast 35km effort. We stopped the clock at 38’17, the provisional fourth best time.
By race end, we slotted into 12th place. Team Sky took the stage win and moved Michal Kwiatkowski back into the race leader’s yellow jersey.
“It was one of the best executed TTTs I have seen from this team in quite a while,” said Wegelius. “All the riders gelled well together and they pushed out all the speed they could find on the road. Considering that we have three riders coming back from injury, I think it was a good ride. Useful info was collected towards our Tour plans, where we have to balance all the challenges of the others stages with the demands of the TTT.”
Rolland may have been erring on the side of polite when he called today’s Critérium du Dauphiné stage “a special day”
The peloton averaged a heart-racing 53kph during the first hour of racing, and the escape didn’t successfully force clear until hour two. When an eight-ride group took shape, #PinkArgyle road captain Simon Clarke had made the move.
“It was a super battle for the break today but we were committed as a team. Everyone chipped in to cover the moves evenly so there wasn’t one of us doing an excessive amount of early work,” noted Clarke. “When you have a team working well like this together, quite often you’re successful in making it into the break. That worked out really well and fortunately I got into the right move. Once we were half-way up the HC climb, it was clear our chances of staying away were significantly diminishing. It was a battle from the back foot, but it good to be out there and amongst it.”
A very select front group, containing Rolland, overtook the lone survivor from the breakaway in the final kilometer. Pierre came in for 17th place, in a group 8” down on stage winner Julian Alaphillipe (QSF).
“The last climb felt like a fast sprint from the start over a long distance,” Rolland said. “It was definitely for a puncheur. For the three stages to come, everything is possible. I expect the hardest scenarios.”
It was another short, hilly stage at Dauphiné. Rolland was again top #PinkArgyle, climbing to 11th place with a small group that reached the finish line 26″ behind stage winner Dan Martin (UAE). Eventual winner Geraint Thomas (Sky) moved into yellow following stage five.
“Today’s stage was fast without any dead time,” said Rolland. “The final climb was good for me. I could follow the group of favorites until Geraint Thomas attacked. It was a hard acceleration at one kilometer, and it dropped everyone. I was in the red zone when Geraint attacked, and seven or eight riders overtook me in the last meters.”
Rolland described the 110km Critérium du Dauphiné queen stage best: “Today was heavy all-around. The tempo was fiery on the climbs, the descents, everywhere.”
The Frenchman was our top finisher in 15th, climbing to the finish line in La Rosière with a group that included Marc Soler (Movistar), Tao Geoghegan Hart (Sky) and Damiano Caruso (BMC).
“I felt good but had trouble in the red zone,” said Rolland. “I remind myself that I’m back after five weeks without racing, and the Tour is still one month away. I still have time to work on my violent efforts.”
Craddock flew the #PinkArgyle flag in the early breakaway today.
“It was difficult to get in the break. We raced full gas until the bottom of the first climb and kept a hard pace all the way to the top,” said Craddock. “These shorter stages mean intense racing all around. There’s not much time to catch your breath, which adds another element of difficulty. These stages can be quite nice, but a lot of my feeling about them depends on if I’m on the giving or receiving end.”
Rolland put in a bold effort on the final stage of Critérium du Dauphiné. The Frenchman fought hard to make it into the winning escape and was the second to last rider caught by the overall contenders in the final two kilometers. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) climbed to stage victory on Mont Blanc as Pierre rounded out the stage seven top ten. Geraint Thomas (Sky) managed fifth place on the fourth straight summit finish to secure the overall victory.
“There were a lot of attacks in the beginning, like always. There was some rider movement among the GC riders on the first climb. I watched that. And then I got in the next attack. Sky didn’t want to let that one go. I went back a second time and managed to get ahead. I made the escape slowly,” Rolland said. “The collaboration in the front was perfect. We only lost time when AG2R attacked. I could have played for the victory without that. This morning I said that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I raced on the offensive.”