Martin sails through Dauphiné stage 2
Former Slovak Champion Martin Velits abandons race through illness.
Stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné took the riders from Saint-Chamond, the second largest town in the Loire department, to Arlanc, which made its debut in the race. The course had 171 kilometers in length and four categorized climbs, but was a sprinter-friendly one, as the last ascent came with more than 70 kilometers before the finish.
Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac), Mickaël Delage (FDJ) and Romain Combaud (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) broke clear, but it wasn't long until only three of them were left at the front, as Delage decided to sat up and wait for the peloton. The maximum gap hit four minutes, before several teams moved to the front of the peloton to organize a chase.
With 70 kilometers remaining, Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacked and bridged to the front trio, and later accelerated for the second time and went solo, once the peloton brought down the gap to under a minute. The Kazakh was reabsorbed on the long straight roads to Arlanc, where Arnaud Demare sprinted to victory beating Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), while Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) retained his yellow jersey.
Quick-Step Floors was once again prominent at the front, controlling the race in its closing stages thanks to the work laid down by Belgian powerhouse Tim Declercq. Dan Martin, the team's leader for the general classification, safely concluded the day which saw teammates Petr Vakoč crash in the final 30 kilometers and Martin Velits retire due to illness.
"It was pretty hectic out there once the chase was on, but I had the guys around me, who did a great job protecting me and making sure I was always in the upper part of the peloton in case something happened. I feel good and I hope I will carry this form into the mountains, at the end of the week", Dan Martin said after Monday's stage.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele