Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) ended up on the wrong side of a split on stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Monday, giving up 31 important seconds to overall contenders like Chris Froome (Team Ineos).
Despite the eight categorised climbs on the day’s menu, nobody was expecting a shake-up of the overall contenders so early in the race.
Porte was in good company, however, with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) – all former podium finishers in the Dauphine – working to limit the losses in a frantic finale.
On Sunday, Porte admitted to Cyclingnews that the opening stage of the race was a shock to the system and although a difficult stage, he was unable to figure where the rest of the GC contenders’ form was. On stage 2 of the race from Mauriac to Craponne-sur-Arzon, however, the form of the GC riders at the race was much less ambiguous.
As the race came back together in the final 35 kilometres after attacks throughout the day caused speeds of nearly 43kph, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Michael Woods (EF Education First) played their cards on the eighth and final categorised climb of the day with another attack, and in turn, split the already reduced GC group.
“I think when the stronger guys went there on that last climb, it was hectic and hard,” Porte told Cyclingnews from his team car after the stage. “You know, a hard start, Team Ineos took control all day and I think it was a real GC shakeup but I don’t think it’s over just yet.”
The split that followed Pinot’s and Woods’ attack saw a group of nine riders, including former race winners Froome and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), get a gap of just over 30 seconds on Porte’s group, which could have been much worse save for some strong collaboration from Porte, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and others.
“There was four of us that swapped off [the front of our chasing group], I mean we had to. There were times when it looked like it was going to come back because they were mucking around up in front there, but at the end of the day, there was just too much of gap. It’s not all over just yet.
“I think [we saw where the GC contenders are] today, then again when you have guys like Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) on a climb like that back as well, I think there are guys that are absolutely flying like [Michael] Woods, he’s probably the one that put it down there with what I thought maybe too far to go. From my point of view, we were in a good position there on the climb but I just didn’t have it.”
Porte has had a quieter than usual season build-up as he mounts another GC challenge at the Tour de France, opting for the Tour of California and a training camp in Utah in May. The Australian has finished second on general classification twice at the Dauphine, and the race is far from over, with one sprint-friendly stage before the critical 26.1 kilometre time trial on Wednesday, and then three hard stages in the mountains beginning on Friday.