Tour Run-Up: Euro Race Review

RBA/AFP

Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt burst away to win the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, a 170.5km ride around the French city of Saint-Etienne on Sunday. Chris Froome leads the cast of riders competing in the race that is an important warm-up event for the Tour de France. He is preparing to defend his title on the Grand Boucle next month.
  Lotto rider De Gendt however stole the show as he finished 44 seconds clear of France’s Axel Domont after dropping him on the final climb of a hilly circuit, with the peloton almost a minute adrift. Froome came home in the peloton, 59 seconds behind the winner. De Gendt and Domont had themselves broken away from a group of seven riders with 23 kilometers left.
   “For the first 120 kilometers I wasn’t thinking about winning the stage, only about the points in the best climber standings,” said De Gendt. “I haven’t raced since the Tour de Romandie and I’ve been in training for the last month. It is a bit of a surprise victory for me.”

De Gendt, 30, has notably won one stage on the Tour de France in 2016 and another on the Giro d’Italia in 2012, when he finished third overall. He said he hopes to still be in the overall leader’s yellow jersey after Wednesday’s time-trial but he admitted he is unlikely to last much longer in
contention.

Froome, meanwhile, will be aiming to get himself into contention in the coming days. “It was a good stage and good for us to get that one out of the way without any major issues,” said the 32-year-old Team Sky rider. “Thomas De Gendt did well today and he’ll definitely hold onto the jersey for a few days. He’s obviously going well, but once we hit the big climbs I expect he’ll give up the jersey at one point.”

Monday’s second stage in the eight-stage race will be a 171km ride from Saint-Chamond to Arlanc.

TOUR OF LUXEMBOURG
Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet continued his powerful run of early season form Sunday clinching the Tour of Luxembourg.
 The gritty Belgian, who won the partially cobbled Paris Roubaix monument race in April, came first on three stages and twice on two to win by 29sec from Xandro Meurisse and 36sec on third placed Anthony Perez.
   “I’m still not quite at the top of my form,” said the 32-year-old who will be helping BMC co-leaders Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen in next month’s Tour de France. “I want to win a stage on the Tour this year,” said Van Avermaet, who won stages in both 2015 and 2016 and will be relishing a Tour packed with opportunities for a powerful puncher of his stature.
Tour of Luxembourg Results
   Stage:
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 174.6km in 4hr 46min 8sec, 2. Alex Kirsch (LUX), 3. Xandro Meurisse (BEL) both same time, 4. Luis Mate (ESP) at 3sec, 5. Alessandro Bisolti (ITA) at 4sec
General classification:
1. Van Avermaet 18hr 27min 50sec, 2. Meurisse at 29sec, 3. Anthony Perez (FRA) at 36, 4. Benjamin Thomas (BEL) at 40, 5. Huub Duijn (NED) at 40
Photo: Bettini

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