Critérium du Dauphiné: Jonas Vingegaard solos to victory atop Croix de Fer

Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) stamped his authority on the Critérium du Dauphiné, soloing to victory atop the Col de la Croix de Fer on stage 7. 

The Dane, who placed second in the stage 3 time trial and took the yellow jersey with victory on stage 5, underlined his form ahead of the Tour de France with a dominant display on the first high mountain stage of the Dauphiné. 

Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) was the closest challenger, finishing at 43 seconds to move up to second overall, albeit some 2:11 down on Vingegaard with one stage remaining. 

Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) claimed the final spot on the podium, 55 seconds down, as Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën) trailed in fourth to hang onto an overall podium position.

The first act of the mountainous final weekend took the riders of the Hors-Catégorie climbs of the Col de la Madeieline (25.1km at 6.2%) and Col du Mollard (18.5km at 5.8%) ahead of the summit finish on the Col de la Croix de Fer (13.1km at 6.2%).

After questions were asked of his team's climbing strength, and after some Ineos probing on the Madeleine, Vingegaard's men took control on the Mollard and the gentle lower slopes of the Croix de Fer, before blowing the bunch to smithereens. 

After the early pace setting of Nathan Van Hooydonck and Dylan van Baarle, Tiesj Benoot's sharp acceleration produced instant damage to a still-sizeable group, but it was Atilla Valter's startling turn that detonated the bomb. 

The Hungarian champion went so hard he found himself alone as the steep section of the Croix de Fer began, and when Vingegaard did rejoin his wheel, the race was all over the road, with only Yates ultimately able to follow the Jumbo-Visma pair.

Yates, though, was soon dropped too as Vingegaard took flight just over 5km from the summit. He held a lead of 15-20 seconds for a while but notably accelerated in the final 2km to put the stage - and surely now the overall title - beyond doubt.

In the overall standings, Vingegaard has a commanding lead of 2:11 over Yates, who leapfrogged Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) and O'Connor to move from fourth to second. 

O'Connor managed to cling on to the overall podium, 13 seconds down on Yates, keeping Hindley within his sights on the upper slopes as his compatriot moved into fourth place a further 12 seconds back. 

Yates, O'Connor, and Hindley are the only riders within three minutes of Vingegaard, as Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) at 3:04 and Dani Martinez (Ineos Grenadiers) at 3:27 follow in what is now realistically a battle for the minor podium placings.

How it unfolded

The stage started earlier than usual, at 10:20 local time, and got underway in rip-roaring fashion, with some 50.7km covered in the opening hour. With a flat first 55km ahead of the three big mountains, there was an intense fight for the breakaway, and it wasn't until just before the intermediate sprint in Grignon after 28km that a move did go clear. 

The four-man group was made up of Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny), Remi Cavagna (Soudal-QuickStep), Anthony Perez (Cofidis), and Madis Mihkels (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty). It didn't immediately settle, though, and soon a four-man counter-attack was formed: Anthon Charmig (Uno-X), Tobias Bayer (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Reuben Thompson (Groupama-FDJ), and Matteo Vercher (TotalEnergies).

The leading quartet reached the foot of the Col de la Madeleine (25.1km at 6.2%) with a lead of 90 seconds over the chasing quartet and 5:30 over the peloton.

The lower slopes of long Alpine climb saw fresh action with attacks from the peloton. Pierre Latour was the only one to make one stick, first going clear with the help of his TotalEnergies teammate, the polka-dot jersey wearer, Mathieu Burgaudeau, before having Vercher drop back to help him along.

On the second part of the climb, things broke up in the break, with Campenaerts dropping, in turn, Mihkels, Cavagna, and then Perez. The Belgian led the race solo over the summit, with Perez at one minute, as Latour linked up with the last-standing chasers, Charmig and Bayer, half a minute further down.

Having tackled the lower slopes calmly under Jumbo-Visma's watch, Ineos Grenadiers took it up and set a harder pace, thinning out the bunch and reaching the summit just 2:30 in arrears - the stage winner now almost-certain to come from that bunch.

On the descent, Latour lost contact with the chase group and even slipped back through the second chase group of breakaway stragglers on his way back to the peloton. Campenaerts lost a little of his lead but once he hit the valley he was away again, moving out towards the two-minute mark.

On the Col du Mollard, Campenaerts maintained his advantage as Perez, Bayer, and Charmig were, in turn, caught by the Jumbo-Visma-led bunch. The top of the second HC climb represented a virtual finish line for Campenaerts, who would move into the lead of the mountains classification if he stayed out front.

That he did, raising his arms and celebrating like a victory - albeit tongue-in-cheek - as he led the race over the top of the Mollard 15 seconds ahead of the bunch with 20km to go.

Campenaerts survived the descent but was caught as the Croix de Fer began, with Jumbo-Visma using Dylan van Baarle on the gentler lower slopes. The gradient was such that no real damage was done, until it was. Van Baarle swung aside with just over 6km to go and riders of the calibre of Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) were already getting dropped as Tiesj Benoot ramped up the pace.

What happened next was even more severe, as Valter sped up to the extent that he almost accidentally attacked. He eased to allow Vingegaard back into the wheel but by then there were riders scrambling everywhere, and when he wound up his last turn, O'Connor had to relent, swinging off and leaving a gap that left only Yates in contact.

A few moments later, Vingegaard launched and that was that - never seen again. Yates rode his own tempo and held the Dane at 20 seconds for a while as O'Connor and Hindley found themselves frustrated in a larger chase group that slipped to a minute at one point.

Hindley then opened the taps and O'Connor set off in pursuit, first followed by Martinez until the Ineos leader fell away. The chasers grew closer but there was no junction between Yates, Hindley, and O'Connor and, in any case, the Dauphiné looked even more like a closed case with one final mountain stage to come on Sunday.

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.

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