Mikel Landa showing good climbing form
The Critérium du Dauphiné is considered as a final rehearsal for the Tour de France by many. After three of a total of five stages, Mikel Landa is positioned in 5th in the overall standings, and thanks to strong rides of its mountain domestiques Team Bahrain-McLaren has moved up to 4th in the team classification.
This year’s edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné is particularly demanding: Each of the five stages feature an uphill finale, and throughout the first three days riders were facing scorching heat, thunderstorms, rain and even a hail storm. Team Bahrain-McLaren makes good use of this stage race to fine-tune its preliminary selection for the Tour de France. As the designated captain for the overall standings Mikel Landa can rely on the support of a strong team. For the climbs Pello Bilbao, Damiano Caruso and Rafa Valls form his support team while Sonny Colbrelli, Matej Mohoric and Dylan Teuns are ready to take over in hilly terrain.
There was no chance for an easy warm-up as the first stage over a distance of 218.5 kilometers featured a steady up and down and no less than seven categorized climbs. After an animated race a group of 56 riders contested the uphill sprint for the stage win in Saint-Christo-en-Jarez, with Belgian Wout Van Aert celebrating the win. On the steep final kilometer Team Bahrain-McLaren’s riders were positioned a bit too far back to sprint for a top10 result. But Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao and Rafael Valls all were given the same time as the day’s winner as they crossed the finish safely in the group of favourites.
The second stage of the Dauphiné started in Vienne and was considered the Queen’s stage by many experts. The main reason for this was the equally long and steep final climb to the Col de Porte. In the finale the two teams Jumbo-Visma and Ineos set a brutal pace, shrinking the group of favourites to about 15 riders. Mikel Landa was the only rider of Team Bahrain-McLaren who was able to keep up with this pace, keeping himself in the group of favourites. He only lost contact when Primoz Roglic attacked with 600 meters to go. The Basque rider crossed the finish line ten seconds adrift, booking his first top10 result of this race with an 8th place.
The HC-category Col de la Madeleine as the main obstacle of the third stage already came after half of the distance. Early on nine riders went up the road while Team Bahrain-McLaren decided to keep its powder dry and protect Mikel Landa in the peloton. The first rider to crest the Col de la Madeleine was Davide Formolo, and the Italian did so with an advantage of more than five minutes. In the end he managed to keep 33 seconds of that gap as the day’s solo winner. In his wake all other attackers were caught by the group of favourites that was shrinking quickly on the final climb to Saint-Martin-de-Belleville. For much of this climb Mikel Landa could rely on the support of Pello Bilbao and Damiano Caruso, with the latter only being dropped with two kilometers to go. Landa showed no weakness and was rewarded with a 6th place. moving up to 5th in the overall standings as a consequence.
Almost a week ago Team Bahrain-McLaren lined-up for its first of cycling’s monuments under the new team name. At Milano-Sanremo Sonny Colbrelli and Ivan Cortina were the designated sprinters, but Cortina suffered a mechanical on the approach of the Cipressa and Sonny Colbrelli suffered from cramps in the hot conditions. So it was up to Matej Mohoric to contest the finale, and that’s what he did: Mohoric rode hard to get back to Julien Alaphilippe and Wout Van Aert but narrowly missed out on doing so. As the team’s best-placed finisher Matej Mohoric finished in 10th place - a decent result in such a big race but still too little a reward for his effort.
The second monument is about to be ridden tomorrow Saturday with the Lombardia race. Team Bahrain-McLaren will be riding in support of Hermann Pernsteiner and Mark Padun. On their way from Bergamo to Como, these two can rely on the support of such experienced riders as Eros Capecchi, Grega Bole and Enrico Battaglin. Completing the seven-rider line-up are Domen Novak and Scott Davies.