The 2010 Criterium of the Dauphiné will start on Sunday with a 6.8km prologue in Evian-les-Bains, but only three of the riders who occupied the top 10 last year are on the start list this time around. The third man behind Spaniards Alberto Contador and Haimar Zubeldia is Christophe Le Mével, who claimed 10th last year.
Le Mével will be seeking his third victory of the season, even if he should have been given one win on a technicality but was denied.
The result in question comes from stage one of the Volta al Pais Vasco, where the Française des Jeux rider finished third in Zierbena behind Oscar Freire and Alejandro Valverde. Freire got disqualified for irregular sprinting and the stage was given to Valverde. After his losing his arbitration, Valverde has been suspended effective January 1 and is now written off all the results of the races he took part in this year.
"Strangely, the judges re-classified Freire in second place behind Valverde instead of the last position of our group, as rules state," Le Mével said.
"Now Freire is the winner again, I suppose, but not me. However, I won't go to court to be given the stage win. I don't really deserve to win a race I finished in third place but I guess it would have been valuable in terms of world ranking points for my team."
Marc Madiot told Cyclingnews that Française des Jeux is now going to question the UCI in a written letter over the unusual interpretation of the race regulations by the judges at the Volta al Pais Vasco. They hoped for Le Mével to be declared the winner.
The Frenchman heads into this weekend seeking to fine-tune his form for the Tour de France, where he also finished 10th place overall last year, duplicating his performance in the Dauphiné.
"My approach of the Dauphiné is very different this time compared with last year," said Le Mével. "The Volta Catalunya was in May and I was 12th there, so I knew I was going well but now I'm coming from training camps. On purpose, with my coach Frédéric Grappe, we have done everything on purpose for me to be fresh at the beginning of the Dauphiné. Maybe I'll suffer in the first few stages but later, the time trial will be an interesting test. Most of all, I want to fight in the mountains with the best climbers in this race."
"I'm motivated," said the Breton rider. "I'll target the top 10 again, maybe even better, but I'll race without any pressure. Even if I don't get a good position overall, my priority is to come out of the Dauphiné with great confidence for the Tour de France."
He held his personal training camps in the Alps with his teammate Wesley Sulzberger who won the GP Plumelec on Saturday. "That's a good sign," said Le Mével who claimed a stage and the overall win at the Tour du Haut-Var in February.