South African champion Daryl Impey used his nous to claim an unexpected win on Stage 1 of Criterium du Dauphine on Monday.
Impey, riding for Australian team Mitchelton-Scott, claimed to surprise himself despite his convincing sprint victory over some tough competition. In the process, the 33-year-old has moved up to second place overall, just two seconds down on the current race leader Michal Kwiatkowski from Team Sky.
"I surprised myself to beat guys like Kwiatkowski and Alaphilippe just before the Tour de France, so is a nice step in my career," said Impey in a team press release.
"To win in Dauphine, it is a big race, so I am really chuffed. Sometimes the guys think you will be one of the favourites but to think that as well is a different thing."
Monday's stage was 179km long and saw only a trio of riders breakaway, namely Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Brice Feilli (Fortuneo-Samsic) and Lawson Craddock (EF-Drapac).
At best their advantage was six minutes as Kwiatkowski's Team Sky, as well as Quickstep-Floors and Vital Concept worked at the head of peloton to keep their advantage in check.
Edet, Feilli and Craddock's hopes of staying away all day were all but extinguished when the main group moved within a minute of them 25 kilometres out fromSaint-Just-Saint-Rambert, southeastern France.
Then, when they were swept up at the 10 kilometres to go mark, teams' race final race strategies had to be formulated. As it happened, Impey wasn't backing himself to be in the mix...
"I had no plan, even in the meeting when the team said we might go for you today, I thought it was a bit far-fetched because I didn't know how I was going.
"It was a tough day all day, I actually didn't feel too good. I told Alex Edmondson he should go for the final himself and if I am there at the end I will try, but don't look after me, so I surprised myself at the end," Impey revealed.
The deciding factor, as expected, proved to be the final fourth category climb and who could stay with the stage favourites over it. Almost immediately Julian Alaphilippe (Quickstep-Floors) launched a dangerous attack which caused the front of the race to shrink in size and the group to stretch out.
Impey, significantly, remained part of the peloton which reeled Alaphilippe in before the descent and with his support-sprinter ability was in as good a position as anybody to make the decisive launch for the line... even more so when a gap opened up for him.
"I found myself in a good position so decided to go at about 200 metres, it was a long way out but I had good legs in the final.
"Today I just kept fighting to the end and it was nice to show myself that I could be there."
While it was Impey's fourth win of the season, Alaphilippe had to settle for second place and Pascal Ackermann of Bora-Hansgrohe rounded off the podium.