The Israel Start-Up Nation team leader, Ben Hermans, did well to stay with the top favorites and finish ninth on the uphill finish on stage 6 of Critérium du Dauphiné.
With a challenging second part of the course, including several hard climbs, Friday’s stage was the first of three difficult days in the mountains. Multiple riders wanted to make the early break, which made for a fast start. In fact, it took nearly 45 km of racing before a big group finally managed to get up the road.
Israeli champion Omer Goldstein was quick to join the move, letting his teammates sit back in the peloton concentrating on keeping Hermans in a good position for the climbs.
On the final ascent, the last remaining rider from the early breakaway got caught as the teams of the GC riders upped the pace, setting up their leaders for the uphill sprint. Having done recon of the climb not long ago, Hermans knew exactly what was coming and in the sprint, he put on a strong performance to take ninth place, which also saw him move up to 12th place in the general classification.
Ben Hermans: ”It was a fast day today, but until we hit the first climb, we didn’t suffer too much actually. From that point, the pace was quite hard though. Actually, from the top of Col de Porte, it was all out towards the finish. I’m really happy that I did a recon of this stage earlier. I knew every corner and that really helped me with positioning in the final.”
“Personally, I felt really good until the last four kilometers, when the others started attacking and accelerating but I think everybody was on the limit and when you suffer and see that everybody else is also suffering, it’s not too bad. In any case, I feel comfortable with the feelings I’ve got in my legs and the recovery I do. Every day, I feel that I recover really well so I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Chris Froome: “Today was a much better measure for me. Up until now, it has been a very explosive style of racing but this was a more accurate measure of what I’ve been training for; the longer types of climbs. I still came in a couple of minutes down but I tried to stay there and support Ben for as long as possible. I’m certainly feeling better and better as the race progresses, which is what I was hoping for. If things keep progressing like this, I will be very happy. It has been a tough start to the week but these next few days are certainly more my type of terrain. This is what I have been preparing for.”
“It’s also been fantastic to feel the warm welcome by the fans alongside the road these last six days. Everywhere we go, I hear fans cheering for me and that really motivates me to keep working hard to come back to my former level.”