Overnight leader Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) was among those dropped, and although Cadel Evans (BMC) forced his way clear on the descent to take a fine stage victory, he didn’t succeed in pegging back the time he lost to Wiggins in the previous day’s prologue.
“I've got the jersey but that wasn't the objective today," Wiggins said afterwards. "If I wasn't the yellow jersey, they'd say that I was rubbish, and if I get it, they say that it's too early. It doesn't matter.”
Wiggins now leads Evans by one second in the overall standings, and the Dauphiné could provide the pair with a fascinating dress rehearsal for next month’s Tour de France, where they will line up as the favourites for overall victory. “No disrespect to this race, but it’s only the Dauphiné,” Wiggins noted. “We’re still a long way from the Tour.”
Wiggins won the Dauphiné twelve months ago, but crashed out of the Tour de France in the opening week. Evans went on to take the yellow jersey in Paris on that occasion, and Wiggins noted that the Australian is a hugely consistent performer at this time of year.
“It’s not a surprise that Cadel won. He’s always good when it gets close to the Tour de France,” Wiggins said.
Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) delivered a rather more erratic display, however. Already handicapped by the surfeit of time trialling miles in this year’s Tour de Fracne, the Luxembourger’s general form appeared to be significantly less advanced than that of Wiggins and Evans as he was dropped on the Côte de la Sizeranne. Schleck ultimately rolled home over three minutes down.
“For Andy, I don’t know,” Wiggins said. “I spoke with him this morning, and he seemed quite good. But he has his own system, he’ll be up there at the Tour.”