Israel Start-Up Nation showed strong team spirit on the final stage of Critérium du Dauphiné, which ultimately saw Ben Hermans finishing 19th in the general classification.
Despite its length of 147 km, Sunday’s mountainous stage 9 had no less than six categorized climbs, including the feared Col de Joux Plane, which was crested just 17 km from the finish.
The ISN riders were very eager to make the morning break and they tried several times to get up the road. Early on, Mads Würtz Schmidt managed to get into a strong group but unfortunately, the Dane crashed on a descent and had to abandon the race. Würtz Schmidt suffered a concussion and was taken to hospital for observation and exams. He was later released to go home to rest.
After the crash, a big group of over 20 riders managed to distance the pack, and they quickly opened up a gap of five minutes. However, determined to do well today, ISN went to the front of the peloton to take control. Reto Hollenstein upped the pace significantly and took nearly two minutes of the gap off the break, bringing them within striking distance.
On Col de Joux Plane, Hermans played his card and attacked from the reduced peloton. Unfortunately, the group didn’t give the strong Belgian much of a leash. Ultimately, the early break made it all the way, while Hermans had to settle for 23rd place on the day and 19th overall.
Ben Hermans: “I believe I can be happy with this top-20. I had hoped for a little bit more, especially with the legs I had in the first six days, but during the weekend, I didn’t have the same high power. In any case, I’m happy with the result because if you look at top-20 overall there are only strong riders. Also, the team rode really well all week, always working together, which was great.”
Chris Froome: “For me personally, it was good to get some hard racing like this in the legs. This is exactly what I was missing and exactly what I need to help push me up to the next level. I definitely felt like I was settling into the race as the race went on, and as we got into the higher mountains, I definitely felt better today as well. I’m not up there with the front guys yet but if I look back just a month, to my last race in Romandie, there has definitely been a strong progression.”