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Critérium du Dauphiné stage 2: Degenkolb beats Dumoulin in little-and-large sprint

Stage 2: Voiron to Lyon, 179km

HTC-Highroad‘s John Degenkolb emerged victorious after a chaotic finish on a rain and wind-affected stage two of the Critérium du Dauphiné. Lyon-born Samuel Dumoulin had to settle for second behind the powerful German sprinter. The 22-year old neo-pro had already impressed here after coming fourth in Sunday’s prologue, and his fifth win of the season was his most notable to date.

The peloton had set off from Voiron in heavy rain and soon allowed the day’s breakaway to form. Jurgen Van de Walle (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank) and Brice Feillu (Leopard-Trek) escaped after 10km and gradually built a lead of nearly five minutes before the bunch set to work, with the Astana team of yellow jersey Alexandre Vinokourov setting the tempo. Cofidis later joined them to support the chase for local boy Dumoulin, with Garmin-Cervélo adding further weight of numbers as they looked to set up a sprint for Tyler Farrar.

With street furniture stringing the peloton out into a long line, buffeting crosswinds split the peloton into two with a little over 20km remaining. Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins were caught in the second peloton, twenty seconds behind the front group, setting up a nerve-wrenching, high speed run-in to the finish. At the head of the race, with Astana and Garmin going full tilt to try and maintain the split, the three breakaway riders were rapidly dispensed of with 14km left. But despite the big effort, an even bigger push from the second peloton led by BMC and Sky, with Evans and Wiggins both taking their turns to drive at the front, ensured the bunch was reintegrated with 8.5km left.

However, the catch did not come without casualties. FDJ‘s Thibaut Pinot, ninth overall, was unable to bridge the gap, and Wiggins’ teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen (sixth) dropped away with a mechanical problem. Yesterday’s winner Jurgen Van Den Broeck also fell away after suffering a flat tyre, but fortunately for him this was inside the final 3km, allowing him to record the same time as the main group.

Degenkolb claimed the biggest win of his young career

Several teams jostled for supremacy at the front of the lead group as they hurtled towards the concluding 1.4km, fourth category climb. Quick Step‘s Marco Bandiera was the first to attack, accelerating away under the flamme rouge on the first of a series of hairpin bends, but he was quickly closed down by Cofidis. French national champion Thomas Voeckler then made his customary dig, with 500 metres to go. But with Dumoulin sticking to his wheel, Voeckler’s move was always doomed to failure. But as the leaders rounded the final left-hand bend with 200 metres to go Degenkolb, who had been sitting patiently in fourth wheel, calmly took the tighter inside line and launched himself for the finish, sweeping past Dumoulin and winning by at least four bike lengths.

It was a stunning display of both calm and power from the youngster on the uphill finish and the diminutive Dumoulin – at a mere 1.59m and 56kg, more than 20kg lighter than Degenkolb – had to give best to his bigger, stronger rival. AG2R‘s Sébastien Hinault was third.

With only the top 14 riders – the last being the yellow jersey himself – being awarded the same time, Vinokourov extended his overall lead to 11 seconds over both Van Den Broeck and Wiggins. Evans, who was caught on the wrong side of the split, dropped to fourth, 13 seconds behind.

Degenkolb was second in the under-23 men’s road race at last year’s World Championships, and this season has already claimed the scalp of Farrar to take a stage of the Tour of Algarve. This, however, was his first World Tour race win:

I’m having a super start to my career with so many wins, but this victory is very special because it’s my first in a World Tour category race. It was the ideal stage for me,  the day before we’d already checked out the finish and ridden up here so we knew what was coming and I knew where I had to be positioned to go for the win.

The German Degenkolb joined HTC as a replacement for his equally powerfully built compatriot André Greipel (now with Omega Pharma), and expressed his pride at being part of a new, cleaner generation of German riders:

Guys like me and [HTC-Highroad team-mate] Tony Martin are a new generation of young riders in Germany and hopefully we’ll help bring cycling to a whole new level in our country.

Vinokourov rued the fact that more teams had not helped to keep the Evans/Wiggins group at bay, but was quick to look forward to tomorrow’s stage:

In the finale, we rode flat out to try and distance our adversaries. When I saw that Evans and Wiggins were off the back, we gave everything we had as a team, but not many teams participated. Astana rode well and we’ve tried a big coup. I keep the yellow jersey, it means it’s a good day for us.

Tomorrow’s time trial is important. It’ll be a serious test for me. I’ll see if my legs can handle the effort. I’ll be the last starter with the yellow jersey. I think I can ride a good time trial, we’ll see tomorrow.

Stage three is a 42.5km individual time trial starting and ending in Grenoble. The rolling course suits a strong rider with good climbing legs and bike-handling skills, as it features two hills with a long and fairly technical descent to the finish. It will also be tricky for the riders to dose their effort. Anyone who goes out too hard on the first climb will surely pay for it on the second. Look for men such as Evans, Vinokourov and Tony Martin to feature strongly. The stage will also be of particular interest as it is the same course which will be used for the penultimate stage of next month’s Tour de France.

Stage 3 profile

Stage 2 result:

1. John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) 4:02:39

2. Samuel Dumoulin (FDJ) same time

3. Sébastien Hinault (AG2R La Mondiale) s/t

4. Paul Martens (Rabobank) s/t

5. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) s/t

General classification:

1. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) 7:45:48

2. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +0:11

3. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:11

4. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:13

5. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:17

6. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) +0:23

7. Janez Brajkovič (RadioShack) +0:26

8. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) +0:27

9. Rob Ruijgh (Vacansoleil-DCM) +0:29

10. Rui Costa (Movistar) +0:34

Points classification:

1. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) 38 pts

2. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) 37

3. John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) 33

4. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 28

5. Nicolas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) 28

Mountains classification:

1. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) 10 pts

2. Leonardo Duque (Cofidid Le Credit En Ligne) 10

3. Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) 9

4. Brice Feillu (Leopard-Trek) 8

5. Cadel Evans (BMC) 8

Links: Critérium du Dauphiné official websiteSteephill.tv

Critérium du Dauphiné recaps

Prologue: Boom blasts his way into the lead

Stage 1: Van Den Broeck underlines credentials with debut win

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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