Saturday’s Stage Seven of the 2021 Critérium du Dauphiné finished on top of the hors catégorie climb to the ski area of La Plagne. The climb encouraged the expected general classification battle among the race favorites. It also produced a surprise stage winner.
With ten kilometers to go, Movistar were using Carlos Verona and Alejandro Valverde to set the tempo. When Valverde finished his turn, Richie Porte of the Ineos Grenadiers launched the first serious move from the group of favorites. Enric Mas and Sepp Kuss immediately responded. Moments later, Mark Padun of Bahrain – Victorious came across to form a quartet.
Despite being the underdog of the group, Padun quickly went on the offensive. The Ukrainian attacked from the leading group, bringing only Kuss with him. Neither Mas nor Porte immediately committed to chasing, so the pair quickly built a solid advantage.
Padun attacked again inside of the final five kilometers, and in doing so he gapped his American companion. From that point on, it never really seemed like anyone was coming back to him. The 24-year-old held on to take his first ever WorldTour win by a margin of 34 seconds.
Richie Porte was strongest out of the GC contenders. The Aussie finished second and moved into the overall lead. Miguel Ángel López came home in third, with Padun’s teammate Jack Haig on his wheel. After a late surge, Ben O’Connor of AG2R rounded out the top five on the day.
There is no question that Mark Padun deserved the victory. In fact, he came extremely close to setting a climbing record, falling short only to Miguel Induráin’s performance in 1995.
⏱️ Mark Padun climbed today La Plagne (17,0 km@7,4%) in 45 min 14 sec, at ~6,3 w/kg, signing one of the highest climbing performances ever recorded in this race. Only Miguel Indurain in '95 climbed La Plagne faster than Padun did today. 🇺🇦🚀 #Dauphine https://t.co/NbDlXwRvix pic.twitter.com/h9mOQ9iLot
— Mihai Simion (@faustocoppi60) June 5, 2021
Dauphiné General Classification After Stage Seven
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) June 5, 2021
After seven days of racing at the Dauphiné, the top ten on GC is still pretty tight. Richie Porte gained time on all his rivals today. The 36-year-old’s ride seems to have put him in the prime position to take home the overall title tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Stage Eight is a tough one with lots of climbing. However, if Porte is as strong as he was today, he will be very difficult to beat.
Movistar will likely be a team to watch tomorrow. They have three strong climbers in Verona, Valverde and Mas that they can use to try to vault Miguel Ángel López further up the standings.
The final stage of a week-long stage race like the Critérium du Dauphiné often is filled with action. Based on the parcours, tomorrow should be no different. We are likely to see a number of riders going up the road in order to move up on GC and to fight for the stage win.
Ineos and Porte have a strong enough team that they should be able to defend their lead. However, they will certainly have to be careful about who they allow to make the day’s breakaway.
Sepp Kuss, Enric Mas and Nairo Quintana are all strong riders in the sweet spot of being far enough down that they are not immediate GC threats, but close enough that the race could swing in their favor if Ineos gets things wrong.
Tomorrow should be a very exciting conclusion to the 2021 Dauphiné.
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