Fabio Aru (Astana) won the 3rd stage of the Criterium du Dauphine by just holding off a fast charging peloton. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint for 2nd and Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek-Segafredo) was 3rd on the stage.
It was a long undulating stage from Boen-sur-Lignon to Tournon that saw 3 riders form the early break of the day. Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quickstep), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Dimitri Claeys (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) were the 3 opprtunists and they rode ahead to a 6-minute lead over the peloton.
Tinkoff, Katusha and Cofidis rode to control the gap throughout the stage while Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka waited for the category 2 Cote de Secheras that started with 24km to go, to as this was always going to be the deciding factor of the stage. As expected the break was caught on the climb and then a number of counter attacks followed. Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) led over the climb followed by a group of 8 riders, Aru included, and then the peloton was just 20″ further back.
Our African Team had Edvald Boasson Hagen right up in the front row of the peloton with Serge Pauwels, Nathan Haas and Igor Anton also all in close proximity to support our Norwegian Champion. The 8 chasers joined up with Martin with 17km to go but the peloton was just 10″ behind. When the break gave up hope of succeeding, Aru attacked just as the final 11km descent to the line began.
The Italian’s gap hovered between 6″ and 12″ all the way to the line and nobody was really expecting the Astana rider to make it. It was a technical descent though which played into the attackers favour as the peloton were held up on two occasions by crashes. Boasson Hagen was involved in one when he had to slam on the brakes with 5km to go and put a foot down to avoid going over Martin.
Boasson Hagen was able to chase back to the head of the peloton just as the final kilometer started but Aru was yet to be caught, and in the end, he wasn’t caught. The peloton sprinted it out for 2nd place with Boasson Hagen finishing 5th on the stage for our African Team.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – Rider
It was a fast day and I was feeling really good today. Omar Fraile kept me in a good position and also the rest of the guys too, particularly into the last important climb. I was in a good position all the way but unfortunately I was behind a small crash and had to brake. I lost a lot of position there and had to chase to get back into the sprint. In the sprint I was feeling quite good but I had to spend too much energy in the final so I didn’t get all the way up. Aru also stayed away, so it was a pity today but otherwise a nice day.