Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde held onto his yellow leader's jersey on Friday at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. He finished stage six 4:12 behind winner Pierrick Fedrigo and maintained his 16-second lead over Cadel Evans and 1:04 over Alberto Contador.
"The stage today, which was only 106 kilometers long between Gap and Briançon, was rather short but all the same a difficult one because it was very hot and we had to climb the Izoard, which topped out only 20 kilometers from the finish.
"Today the plan was to control the race and try to reach the top of the Izoard with as many teammates as possible, so that they could protect me on the descent and in the last kilometers. I did almost the entire downhill ahead of the bunch to avoid danger."
Recovered from the previous day's effort of Mont Ventoux, Valverde said, "My most dangerous adversaries did not attack me until Alberto did on the final climb, one kilometer from the line. Evans went behind him, and I just followed. Once we caught him, Alberto attacked again. He was very strong and it was not easy to come back but we did it and crossed the line together."
Valverde is not underestimating the importance of Saturday's queen stage. "It will be really hard, with the Galibier, the Croix de Fer and the final climb to the finish. In such a stage, everything can happen. I can lose the yellow jersey, but I can also increase the gap over my adversaries, who are still the same: Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador, without forgetting Robert Gesink and Mikel Astarloza who are also in a good position."
"I hope I will have another good day and that I will still be wearing the yellow jersey tomorrow afternoon in Saint-François-Longchamp."
See Cyclingnews' full coverage of stage six of the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré.