Critérium du Dauphiné (st. 6)
Alejandro finishes 50" behind Froome, Porte, Aru and stage winner Fuglsang at La Motte-Servolex, following his early attack from the foot of the demanding last climb in Dauphiné day six. Spaniard now 4th overall, 1'20" behind Porte
Despite lacking that decisive bit of energy to follow some of the biggest climbers in the sport into the final slopes of the climb, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) showed courage and good legs at the Mont du Chat (HC), key point of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné's first contact with the big mountains.
The Spaniard took 5th on Friday's stage six, 50" behind a four-man leading group including Froome (SKY) and Porte (BMC), the two strongest riders in pursuit of the initial break; and Astana duo Fuglsang / Aru, whose insistent accelerations forced the Briton and the Aussie to chase them down. As Froome caught Aru into the first part of the downhill, the four went for a decisive sprint which was narrowly won by Fuglsang.
It was Valverde, though, who chased back to the main peloton after some misfortune in the approach to the climb and went on an early attack, right from the bottom of the Mont du Chat, alongside team-mate Rubén Fernández. Bala's move left Porte -virtual leader of the race, as Thomas De Gendt (LTS) was soon dropped- without any domestiques and reduced the group to the GC contenders. Alejandro reacted several times to his rivals' attacks before a strong move from Porte, 2km from the top of the climb, took the better of him, the Spaniard taking on a solo pursuit with Bardet (ALM) and Contador (TFS) on his wheel.
Despite Valverde's nice descent, the Movistar Team leader could only limit losses and slips back to fourth overall, 1'20" behind Porte and five seconds away from Fuglsang's third spot. The Spaniard will, though, have a good payback chance at a grueling stage seven on Saturday: the 168km route from Aoste includes a tough start, with the ascents of Berland (Cat-4), Cucheron (Cat-2) and Porte (Cat-1), before the finale brings Garcin (Cat-2) and the rough, steep Col de Sarenne (HC; 15.3km at 6.9% avg.). After its summit, several ups and downs will lead the riders into the final part of the prestigious Alpe d'Huez (Cat-2) ascent, where the day will come to its end.
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net