On a stage that would have been ideally suited to his absent Katusha teammate Joaquim Rodriugez, Dani Moreno came up trumps in the stiff uphill finish at Châtel on the final day of the Critérium du Dauphiné, winning ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank). It was the Spaniard's second stage victory of the race, a haul which matches that of the more feted Rodriguez in last year's Dauphiné.
"Purito and I are always in contact. He congratulated me after I won earlier in the week and he sent me a message again today," Moreno told reporters at the finish. "We're not just teammates, we're friends."
Like Rodriguez, Moreno is a redoubtable puncheur, and the 1.5km climb to the line at Châtel was ideally suited to his characteristics. After winning on a similar finish at Saint-Félicien earlier in the week, the 30-year-old's form was such that he had the final stage earmarked for a repeat performance.
Though just 124.5 kilometres in length, there were no fewer than five climbs crammed into a frenetic day of action. After Moreno looked to save himself as best he could on the first-category Col du Corbier, his Katusha team, led by Denis Menchov in particular, set about shutting down escapees Pierre Rolland and Jérôme Coppel to prepare the terrain for the sharp finish.
"I had marked this stage in my road book, and I know that it was going to be important to keep some strength for the finale," he said. "From there, I just benefited from some great work from my team, and I managed to beat Luis Leon Sanchez by a hair's breadth."
Indeed, Moreno had sounded out his fellow countryman as the peloton rolled out of Morzine on Sunday morning, and on the final kick up to Châtel, he was careful to keep an eye on the orange and blue jersey of Sanchez.
"Luis Leon was my reference," Moreno admitted. "I spoke with him during the stage and I knew he had real intentions of winning the stage, but thankfully fortune smiled on me."
Moreno also faced fierce competition from third-placed Cadel Evans (BMC) in the closing meters, on a finale not dissimilar to the Mûr de Bretagne, where the Australian took his first, and so far only, Tour de France stage victory last year. "I saw BMC working and it was clear that the stage could have been a perfect finish for Cadel," he said. "But the plan for us was to get to the line in one group and the team did a great job."
While Moreno has enjoyed a fine outing in France this week, he will forgo the Tour de France and return to his regular duties as Joaquim Rodriguez's wingman at the Vuelta a España, where he also helped himself to a stage win in Sierra Nevada in 2011.
"Now I have to rest," he said. "Like last year, I'll doing the Giro and the Vuelta this year and not the Tour, because there's too much time trialling. Clearly, without Joaquim, I had the opportunity to do something here and it was nice to win two stages, but I enjoy racing with him too."