Eleventh place for Keukeleire on the opening stage of Critérium du Dauphiné

Sun 4 Jun 2017

Tour of Belgium winner Jens Keukeleire sprinted to eleventh place today for ORICA-SCOTT on the opening stage of the eight-day tour, Critérium du Dauphiné as breakaway riders successfully stayed away to the finish line.

A group of seven riders animated the day out front, with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) eventually escaping from the breakaway group in the final 15kilometres, successfully hold off the chase and claim the stage one victory.

ORICA-SCOTT worked hard in the final in an attempt to bring the leaders back and the time gap plummeted to just over one-minute. In the end, it proved to be too late and the team had to settle with contesting the sprint for third place, with Keukeleire crossing the line in eleventh spot.

"We chased at the end today because we wanted to give Jens Keukeleire a chance in the final,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage. “We decided not to work in the beginning but then in the end it was too late to try and catch De Gendt.”

“We all know when De Gendt is on a good day, it is not easy to beat him or give him too much room and maybe that was the mistake from the bunch today.”

With a few undulating stages to begin proceedings before the race heads into the mountains, ORICA-SCOTT eased back into racing with the focus today on the sprint with Keukeleire.

“For these first days it is important to ride into the racing,” Lapage continued. “For some of our guys who have just come back to competition after a long break or injury, we have to take it day by day here and see where they are at.”

“During this tour some days, some guys will rest and other days other guys will rest, so we will play it like this and have different leaders and opportunities.”

How it happened:

The 2017 edition of Critérium du Dauphiné began with a undulating 170kilometre opening stage with eight categorised climbs.

The flag dropped and the riders exploded into action with a rapid pace and numerous attacks coming within the first 10kilometres.

Desperate to make it into the day’s breakaway, different groups worked to gain an advantage, eventually doing so after 15kilometres when seven riders established themselves at the head of the race.

The group worked well together and opened up a lead of six minutes, remaining out front for almost the entire stage.

Dimension-Data and Astana were the initial team’s to set the tempo to control the distance between the peloton and the breakaway.

As the race passed the finish line for the first of three times, two riders Axel Domont (AG2R) and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) broke away from their breakaway companions and led the race into the final lap.

ORICA-SCOTT came to the fore and began to chase hard as the time gap hovered under two minutes with just 10kilometres remaining. 

Finally, De Gendt jumped away from Domont on the final lap and went on to hold off the chasers and take the stage victory.

Domont took second place and behind the sprint for third was contested. Keukeleire was the highest finisher for the team in eleventh place.

Critérium du Dauphiné stage 1 results:
1. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) 4:17:04
2. Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondale) +0:44
3. Diego Ulissi (United Arab Emirates) +0:57
11. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-SCOTT) ST

General classification after stage 1:
1. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) 4:16:54
2. Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondale) +0:48
3. Diego Ulissi (United Arab Emirates) +1:03
11. Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-SCOTT)


Photos courtesy of ©