What a Finish!
The 2017 running of the Critérium du Dauphiné has to easily be the best stage race I have seen this year and quite possibly the best finish since the 1989 Tour de France when Greg LeMond shocked the world and defeated Lauren Fignon by 8 seconds with a record-setting performance on the final day.
I watched this years Dauphiné and was pleased as punch to see Australian Richie Porte work hard to get the lead, extend the lead and then work to defend it on the final day of racing. When he faltered early and fell behind the leaders, it appeared that three-time Dauphiné (and three-time Tour de France) winner, Chris Froome looked stronger and would sneak past for the title.
With Froome looking safe ahead, Porte “the Tasmanian Devil” started grinding and clawing back the seconds on the final mountain top finish (Plateau de Solaison). The announcers were going back-and-forth about the time split because Froome, who trailed in the race by roughly a minute, was roughly a minute ahead on this final stage.
Then Ireland’s Dan Martin (then 4th place) made a move and Jakob Fuglsang (then 2nd place) followed. Froome could not respond but Porte continued to grab back valuable seconds. Porte caught the Froome group and then set his sight on Fuglsang (who by then had dropped Dan Martin.)
Fuglsang won the stage and was given a 10 second bonus as the stage winner. The countdown then started to see if Porte could finish inside of his lead over Fuglsang. Crossing the line and the end of the stage, it became obvious that the 10 second bonus would be the difference maker.
Yes, Jakob Fuglsang became the first rider from Denmark to win the Critérium du Dauphiné – doing it by 10 seconds. It was a heartbreaking loss for Porte and maybe even a sign of things to come for Froome (who won this race each time just before winning a Tour de France.)
I am a big fan of tours that end on a real stage rather than a ceremonial ride (like the Tour de France does.) It is great to see the final day actually matter and certainly adds some serious drama to the finish.
by Chris Doelle
PS. The Tour de France is coming July 1st and will run for three weeks. During that time, I will again be doing what I call the Tour de 1/10th (riding 1/10th of the 2,194 miles or more during the same time and comparing my times to the actual race.) It is corny, but it is fun and it gives me something to compete against in my daily rides.