Janez Brajkovic finished third today in the uphill finish to Risoul at the conclusion of the Critérium du Dauphiné's fourth stage. The stage was the first of three consecutive days in the Alps and it was Brajkovic's first day in the leader's yellow jersey. He didn't lose any time on his main rival Alberto Contador (Astana) and gained time over David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) and Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) who started the day second and third, respectively, on general classification.
"I'm very happy about it actually," Brajkovic told Cyclingnews after the stage. "This was the first day in the mountains and it went very well. Contador was feeling good, so he tried but I was able to follow. That was my satisfaction. Everyone suffered. To follow an attack by Alberto is almost impossible. It was hard but the headwind made the mission easier for me. It was hard but it went well."
The 26-year-old Slovenian experienced his first day in the lead with the RadioShack team escorting him as if he was Lance Armstrong. "That was incredible," he said. "I was a little bit worried because I got sick after the Tour of California so I was still unsure of my condition, but I have recovered well. It's a shame that we don't have Haimar [Zubeldia] here with us anymore but we have a great team.
"Today's climb gives me confidence for the rest of the Dauphiné of course. I don't know if I'll be able to follow Contador on L'Alpe d'Huez but at least I'll try to lose as little as possible. I don't feel like being a winner yet. We'll see day-by-day if it goes like today. I'll fight for every second, that's for sure."
Brajkovic and Contador have something in common when it comes to L'Alpe d'Huez where the Dauphiné's queen stage concludes on Saturday: neither has ever ridden this climb before. L'Alpe d'Huez was not on the Tour de France routes contested by the Spaniard, it's the first time it's included at the Dauphiné, and Brajkovic has no experience on French soil in the mountains.
"I've never done any of the French climbs before," the RadioShack rider said. "Everything here is new to me. It's gonna be hard but I'm ready to take up the challenge." The way he passed his first test as team captain is very encouraging.