Bradley Wiggins (Sky) defended his Dauphine crown and landed his third successive stage race of the season to become the first man to win Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine in succession to become the red-hot favourite to win the Tour de France. And I really hope he does. You’ve got to admire the focus, the dedication and all the planning, preparation and honing of the finer details. While the press has been speculating that he’s peaked too early, Wiggins says he’s only at 95% and will peak for the Tour.
I’ve long contended that Britain will field a Tour de France winner before the French find another Bernard Hinault. If Bradley wins, I’ll have bragging rights down at my cycling club for years to come and a certain Kitty Fondue will have to pay a forfeit of getting her picture taken in a Mod wig. [She’s not worried – Ed.] Don’t worry faithful readers, I’ll be in Paris to capture it all.
Cadel Evans (BMC) won the green points jersey, Columbian Cayetano Sarmiento (Liquigas-Cannondale) was top dog in the mountains, Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank) was the best young rider and Sky were named best team.
Here’s how the race was won.
Prologue: Grenoble, 5.7km
Australian national time-trial champion Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) took the opening day’s prologue in 6’39”, a single second faster than defending champion Wiggins. Astana’s Andriy Grivko was third.
Time trial world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) finished 5secs back from the winner, Evans was 6secs down and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) came in 26secs slower than Durbridge.
Stage 1: Seyssins to Saint-Vallier, 187km
Evans showed his mettle by winning the first stage from a three-man breakaway, which slipped away on a descent in the last 5km of the stage, to finish ahead of Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) – instigator of the attack – with Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) in third. The peloton, led in by Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat), finished 4secs later. Durbridge finished 27secs back to hand the yellow leader’s jersey to Wiggins, who was 1sec clear of Evans.
The stage was not without incident. Early on Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) crashed and, while the Frenchman rejoined the peloton, Sanchez – suffering from suspected broken ribs – had to be shepherded to the finish by teammates Ricardo Garcia and, VeloVoices man to watch, Pello Bilbao. Keeping the cycling wounded company at the back of the peloton were Schleck and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana).
Stage 2: Lamastre to Saint-Felicien, 160km
Joaquim Rodriguez’s faithful lieutenant Daniel Moreno (Katusha) sprinted across the line ahead of Julien Simon (Saur) and Tony Gallopin (RadioShack) to record his third victory of the season after GP Miguel Indurain and stage four of Vuelta a Andalucia.
The day’s racing began in an aggressive fashion with even the yellow jersey figuring in the early break, which was brought back pretty sharpish. Further attacks followed until finally David Moncoutie (Cofidis), Blel Kadri (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jose Sarmiento (Liquigas) and French time-trial champion Christophe Kern (Europcar) were let off the leash.
Despite BMC keeping the pace high, shelling riders such as Vinokourov, Schleck and Sanchez out the back, Moreno was able to open a gap in the run in ahead of Simon and Gallopin.
Stage 3: Givors to La Clayette, 167km
Sky’s boyish Edvald Boassen Hagen won stage three’s sprint finish ahead of Gerald Ciolek (OPQS) and Borut Bozic (Astana) showing that his team are more than capable of fighting for both the yellow and green jerseys at the forthcoming Tour de France.
Happily for Sky, two riders with no GC ambitions, Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), attacked from the start and were allowed an advantage of around six minutes before the sprinters’ teams lent Sky a helping hand. Once the peloton were all back together, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) stretched his legs briefly before being brought back by OPQS, who were hoping to set up Ciolek. With less than 2km remaining, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) punctured leaving one less sprinter to contest the rush for the line.
Stage 4: Villie-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse, 53.5km individual time trial
Wiggins turned in arguably his most impressive performance to date to beat current and former world time trial champions Tony Martin (OPQS) and teammate Mick Rogers and lock up the yellow jersey. He even came close to overtaking Evans, his two-minute man, in the closing 10km. Evans conceded 1:43 to Wiggins and dropped to fourth on GC, while Martin was 38secs behind Wiggins in the GC. Schleck crashed and lost over 10mins.
Here’s how Wiggins won the stage:
Stage 5: Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans to Rumilly, 186.5km
A solo move earned Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat) the biggest victory of his career. He’d been part of an early move on the first of the day’s climbs with seven others who had gained a lead of 6mins approaching the Grand Colombier. After resisting an attack from breakaway companion Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank), Vichot took off with 6km to the finish to take the win 26secs in front of Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel) and Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana).
However, the real excitement of the day unfolded behind the day’s breakaways. Evans broke free on the descent of the Grand Colombier in the company of three teammates and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) to establish a 1min cushion, putting Sky on the defensive. Boassen Hagen reduced the lead to 30secs before Richie Porte took over on the Col de Richemond to again halve the lead. With a gap of only 15secs left, Wiggins latched onto Evans’s back wheel with 25km remaining.
Stage 6: Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine, 166.5km
Columbian Nairo Quintano (Movistar) mounted a steady attack on the final climb and descent, resisted the combined efforts of BMC and Sky, to take the day’s stage ahead of Evans and Moreno. While Evans took back a few seconds on Wiggins, the real change on GC arose as a consequence of Martin being distanced on the final climb of the day. Rogers moved into second, Evans was back on the podium in third and Sky’s Chris Froome climbed to fourth.
The difficult queen stage – six ranked climbs including the Cat. 1 Col de Colombiere and the Col de Joux Plane (hors categorie) – showed the depth of Sky’s team as they occupied three of the top five places. Moreover, at the conclusion of the stage, Wiggins had three riders with him while Evans was isolated. Schleck abandoned as a result of injuries sustained the previous day.
Stage 7: Morzine to Chatel, 126km
Moreno attacked in the final 200m to sprint to his second Dauphine victory on the uphill finish of a short and undulating stage over some of the lesser alpine climbs, ahead of compatriot Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Evans.
The day’s break formed after 40km and included Dimitry Fofonov (Astana), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack), Christophe Le Mevel (Garmin-Barracuda), French champion Sylvain Chavanel and Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQS), Coppel and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil). With 40km remaining Coppel, Rolland and Westra distanced the others, only for Westra to be dropped 20km later. But it was all over for the remaining duo with just over 2km remaining. Moreno nipped out from around Sanchez to take the stage. Wiggins finished in the pack, arms aloft in victory.
After the race Wiggins reflected on his and the team’s achievement.
I think it’s always harder to do it a second time. Last year I didn’t come into the race as the favourite so to do that this year and know from day one, from being second in the prologue, that I was one of the favourites, it’s a better and harder way to win. Obviously we’ve had a few goes at it now so I think we’re getting better at it if anything. It’s probably gone better than the other races have gone this season, it’s been a lot smoother.
Wiggins also paid tribute to the support from the team and riders around him, adding:
Obviously everyone is getting ready for the Tour now. We had our strong guys here and Eddy’s back in this group and he’s made a huge difference this week. It’s certainly getting easier each time, not in terms of the effort but in terms of staying cool at the right moments and knowing what to do and when to do it.
I may have talked up Bradley’s chances in the opening paragraph, but no one should write off Cadel Evans. The former has arguably a superior team while the latter has the confidence of having one Tour title already under his belt; a title he’s not going to give up without one hell of a fight.
Question marks have to be raised over the form of Andy Schleck although as the Inner Ring rightly points out, he enjoyed a similar lack of success in last year’s Tour de Suisse and still managed to finish second. But this year has a much less favourable parcours for him, and the discord in the RadioShack camp won’t help. Their best bet might well be Haimar Zubeldia, who often slips under the radar to record a top ten result.
VeloVoices man to watch, young Pello Bilbao (Euskaltel), was charged with looking after his injured team leader and, as a consequence, ended up as one of the tail-end Charlies. Luckily Samu Sanchez hadn’t broken any ribs, but he was clearly in pain for the entire race as his trademark smile went walkabout. Get well soon, Sammy!
1. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 26:40:46
2. Michael Rogers (Sky) +01:17
3. Cadel Evans (BMC) +01:26
4. Chris Froome (Sky) +01:45
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) +02:12
6. Vasily Kiryienka (Movistar) +02:58
7. Janez Brajkovic (Astana) +03:07
8. Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank) +03:26
9. Richie Porte (Sky) +03:34
10. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Nissan) +03:50