Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe in Dauphiné top 5
Both riders produced a great effort in the uphill prologue, signaling their good condition ahead of next week.
The Criterium du Dauphiné got underway on Sunday with a short, steep and challenging prologue, which saw the riders tackle Mont Chéry, a 3.9-km long climb averaging 9.7%. Racing his home event for the third season in a row, this time as the winner of the Tour of California, Julian Alaphilippe was among the early starters and rode full gas on the tough slopes of the ascent to the Les Gets ski station, clocking a time of 12 minutes. This result was enough to see Julian take the hot seat, where he stayed for a fair amount of time, before being dethroned by Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Alaphilippe wasn't the only Etixx – Quick-Step rider to drive hard on the climb of Mont Chéry, as Dan Martin – who was returning to competition following a break he took after the Ardennes Classics – produced his best ever individual time trial and sloted into fourth, just 21 seconds off Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), who won the prologue ahead of Richie Porte (BMC) and Froome. Obviously, the result left Dan satisfied at the end of the day: "I felt good on the course, enjoyed it and I'm content with my place at the finish. We'll see what will happen next, but Dauphiné is always a super aggressive race, difficult to control and every day will be a tough one."
For 24-year-old Julian Alaphilippe, the end of the prologue brought a visit to the podium, where he was rewarded with the white jersey, which he'll wear on Monday, during the 186-km long stage between Cluses and Saint-Vulbas, a new addition to the French race. This wasn't the first time he managed to impress this season in a time trial, the performance on Sunday coming after another strong one, albeit on a different parcours, at the Tour of California.
"Now I'm more relaxed, but it wasn't easy out there, especially as it was for the first time that I rode such a prologue. I think everybody suffered today, the climb was a nasty one, but luckily it suited me, so I could get this top 5. I am happy for myself and for Dan, these results are really good for the team. Now I hope to have a good week and maybe go for a stage win at some point", said Julian, the best young rider of the Criterium du Dauphiné.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele