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The Criterium du Dauphine started with a prologue yesterday and gets down to business today in the first stage, with four ranked climbs. Will Alberto Contador defend his leader's jersey today?
Hello, and welcome to our live coverage of the Criterium du Dauphine. Notice the race's new name! Today's first stage covers 191 km from Evian-les-Bains to Saint-Laurent-du-Pont and features four ranked climbs.
After a flurry of attacks early on, Biel Kadri (Ag2r) and Cyril Gautier (Bbox) got away and were soon joined by Dominique Rollin (Cervelo), Sebastien Minard (Cofidis) and Matthieu Ladagnous (Francaise des Jeux). They had a maximal lead of 9:50, but now Astana and Saxo Bank are working together on the chase and the gap is now down to 8:25.
Ladagnous won the first climb of the day, the cote de Mornex, ahead of Gautier and Rollin. At the second climb, the cote de Sallenoves, it was Gautier ahead of Ladagnouse and Minard.
The first sprint of the day went to Rollin, ahead of Gautier and Minard.
Astana has pulled itself out of the lead work. The pace is now being set by Saxo Bank, liquigas and Sky.
Here is a look at our four climbs today:
Km 45.0 - Côte de Mornex - 2.3 km climb to 5.3 % - Category 4
Km 83.0 - Côte de Sallenôves - 1.4 km climb to 5.3 % - Category 4
Km 89.0 - Côte de Chilly - 1.7 km climb to 7.7 % - Category 3
Km 185.0 - Côte de Miribel-les-Echelles (D 49-D 28) - 3.0 km climb to 6.6 % - Category 3
The third climb is done, and Ladagnous took it ahead of Gautier and Kadri. That gives Ladagnous a total of 9points, with 8 for Gautier. The final climb will determine who wears the polka-dot jersey tomorrow.
The gap is now down to 6:55.
Jean-Christophe Péraud crashed a bit earlier and visited the medical car. His whole right side is bruised, as is his left shoulder, but the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider is back in the peloton and still going.
The race got off to a late start today, at 11:47 instead of 11:40.
The gap has clmbed back up to 7:40.
It is a lovely day in France today, and no doubt Alberto Contador of Astana decided he would be much too warm if he actually wore all of the jerseys to which he is entitled. He will be in yellow today, as the race leader. The green jersey for points leader will be worn on his behalf by Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia), who was second yesterday. The polka-dot jersey will be on the shoulders of Saur-Sojasun's Jerome Coppel, who was second-fastest up yesterday's climb.
Ag2r has Biel Kadri in the escape group. “He is naturally an offensive rider", team manager Vincent Lavenu told letour.fr. "He wants to do well. He was very focused this morning. The success of the breakaway will depend on the behaviour of Astana and other teams like Liquigas and Saxo Bank who could try and get a bunch sprint finish for [Daniele] Bennati and [Baden] Cooke. We’ll see how it goes. There is 3.5km long climb just before the finish, all the teams know that. They can’t be sure it would be a sprint at the end if they bring it back."
American youngster Tejay Van Garderen came so close yesterday to winning the stage. ““I felt really strong during the prologue. At the top of the climb, I saw that I was well positioned, so I mostly thought of not crashing downhill. I was also a bit scared because of the wind but it didn’t have any consequence. For my debut at this level, it’s a great performance. I’d like to finish in the top 15 overall,” he told the Dauphine newspaper.
Contador mainly wanted to use the prologue yesterday to test out his new time trial bike, and the win was a real bonus. Don't look for him to go all out to defend, though.
“Tomorrow I’ll be happy to give the yellow jersey to another rider”, Contador said. “I won’t ask my teammates to defend the lead. There are many riders with good form in this race and I’m here with my teammates to prepare for the Tour. That's the priority. To defend the jersey would be too taxing.”
Apparently the field has given up. At km 100, Saxo Bank stopped chasing. The gap at the feed zone, km 109, is now back up to nine minutes.
Canadian rider Rollin is the best-ranked of the escape group. He was 45th yesterday, 28 seconds down.
It is rather a surprise to see Peter Velits in the race for HTC-Columbia. He broke a bone in his arm quite recently at the Bayern Rundfahrt.
Garmin now moves up to lead the chase. At km 111, the gap has grown to 9:20.
We are beginning to have our doubts as to the time gaps we are being told. We now hear it is 7:07.
Now the gap has fallen to under six minutes. Garmin leads the chase, with Astana right behind them.
This is a very rolling stage today. Right now the riders are going through a lovely forested area.
Odd situation. At one point the gap was 10 minutes and it looked as if the peloton had given up. Or perhaps each team thought it was up to someone else to do the lead work? Now the gap is dropping like a stone. Is it because Garmin and Astana finally decided to get to work, or are the five leaders getting tired?
Kadri pays a visit to the team car, and holds on to it for a minute. Be careful, or the race jury won't be happy with you!
Less than 50 km to go and the gap is 5:17. Now we can begin to think they will be caught. Maybe.
The peloton makes its way through the city of Yonne. Oops, and the gap continues to plummet, now down to 4:43.
Just a reminder, here is our Top Five from yesterday:Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:08:34 2 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:02 3 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 0:00:05 4 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:00:10 5 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step 0:00:12
Everyone is still rolling along on this rolling course through lovely forests and country. The gap is now at 4:09.
And the gap is now under four minutes.
HTC-Columbia hasn't brought either of its two top sprinters to this race. The question is, which one will they take to the Tour de France, Cavendish or Greipel? Or both? Both are on the long list for the Tour squad.You can read more about it here.
We now see a Rabobank jersey near the head of the peloton.
The remainder of the stage is equally as rolling as before. And remember, we have our final climb only six km before the finish line.
A number of riders in the lead group are now falling back for quick chats at the team cars. They must know the party is almost over.
Rollin does some fancy stretching exercises on his bike -- and grins at us, too.
32,5 km to go and the gap is down to 2:58.
The field just came to a traffic circle, with most of them going around to the right, some to the left, and several opting to take the bike path.
Lovely landscape here near Grenoble, a wide river, mountains, woods.....
Lots of blue, white and orange at the head of the peloton, as both Rabobank and Garmin-Transitions are there.
The field has now picked up its speed and is flying through a town. 22.5km to go with a gap of 2:25.
A crash: Laverlet of Saur-SojaSun. No problem, though, he is back on this way to the peloton already.
Will the escapees be caught before the final climb? On the climb? Seems unlikely the field would be willng to wait until after the climb, though, that wouldn't leave much time and would be rather risky.
With 20 km to go, the gap is 2:10.
Now the gap has fallen under two minutes.
Astana starts moving up to the front of the field, and we see Cofidis there, too.
A sheer cliff up on one side, and a low stone wall on the other -- we don't want to think about what is -- or is not -- on the other side of that low wall.
Not a flat metre, nor a straight metre here for the lead group.
The gap is now 1:30.
15 km to go for the leaders, who are still hoping to hang on until the end.
The peloton has fallen apart. A crash, or is the pace so high? There are about 25 riders in the first chase group. Contador is in that group.
Beind that large chase group the rest of the field is spread out in many little groups, all trying to get back up to the front.
Apparently Garmin and Cofidis put up such a speed that they tore the peloton apart.
A handful of riders have caught up with the large chase group. Most of Astana is there, and Garmin, a handful of Milrams, who else?
Only 48 seconds now, as the leaders start up the final climb.
The chasers are now strung out single file, eager to finally catch those escapees.
Nine km to go, and 30 seconds.
Contador moves up in the chase group, now in third place. The various cars now pass the leadng group, since they will be caught soon.
Gautier takes off from the lead group.
A Quick Sep rider takes off from the chase group. He passes Rollin, and the field is on his heels.
Gautier was unable to really get away. He has small lead over the remnants of the lead group with the peloton within sight.
The Quick Step rider is back in the field. It was Cataldo. Cautier seems to be pulling away slightly.
Or perhaps not. The others are close behind him now.
Gautier doesn't make it alone to the mountain top.
He has been passed by Pujol (Cervelo) and Seeldrayers (Quick Step).
A handful of riders now comes up to the two leaders. Almost.
A RadioShack rider takes off in the lead.
äwe don't know who he is but he has a small lead over a chae group of about 8, with the peloton not far behind.
It is Janez Brajkovic, who is third overall, only five seconds down. Our new leader?
He is going well and looks to be pulling away.
Still two km to go, but the others have him in their sights.
He is now joined by Capecchi of Footon.
They have maybe seven seconds n the field, with one km to go.
Nip and tuck: will they make it?
No,. They are caught.
A sprint for th e finish!
A Lampre rider just pips a HTC -Columbia rider at the line.
We think our winner today is Manuele Mori, of Lampre. Second is Peter Velits of HTC-Columbia. Still waiting for official confirmation.
Not Mori, but Grega Bole of Lampre.
Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky opened the sprint, but went much too early. His teammate Geraint Thomas ended up third.
We are just waiting for our new GC.
No change in the overall rankings. Contador continues to lead over Van Garderen and Brajkovic.
That will do it for us today! Join us again tomorrow to see if Contador can hold on to his yellow jersey again. And thanks for reading along today.