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Team Sky's outrageous F-Type TT team car, cooling vests and more
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Prototype wheels and saddles, cunning fixes and an arachnid
A custom stars-and-stripes machine for the triple national champion
The fun is over and the Dauphine gets serious today, with its first mountaintop finish. The peloton will travel 210 km today and finish up atop the Risuol, at 1870 metres. This is only the first of three high mountain stages, so the riders had better have their climbing legs ready.
Welcome to the fourth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine. We have a nice little romp in the mountains today. Actually we only have one mountain, but what a climb it is: Risoul, at 1870 metres high.
Danny Pate (Garmin-Transitions) and Stephan Denifl (Cervelo) got away at km 30 and have now built up a lead of 6:10. Team Radioshack is leading the chase.
Two riders have already dropped out along the way today: Bert Grabsch of HTC-Columbia, and Cervelo's Joaquin Novoa, who was lanterne rouge coming into today's stage.
As so often happens, we are having a bit of a problem finding out what is happening in the race. Did the organisers forget to send carrier pigeons up to the Cyclingnews blimp?
After 78 km , the gap is now 7:25. And the first intermediate sprint of the day is over, with Denifl taking it ahead of Pate, with Thomas Vaitkus of RadioShack taking third, some seven minutes later.
After all the cold and wet weather the peloton has faced this season, they can be happy with the weather now. There was a light rain at the start, but it has gone away and there is nothing but sunshine at the finish line. And the temperature is over 27° Celsius.
This long stage kicked off this morning at 10:44 – a whole four minutes late!
There was one DNS this morning, Jean-Christophe Peraud of Omega Pharma-Lotto. He crashed in both the first and second stages, and the team decided to give him a bit of rest before the national championships and the Tour de France.
The gap has gone up to eight minutes now.
Also not at the start today were Michel Kreder of Garmin-Transitions and Mauricio Soler of Caisse d'Epargne. Kreder crashed into a wall during yesterday's time trial and broke his collarbone. Soler finished way outside the time limit, due to a knee problem.
Just about halfway through the stage, and at the feedzone, the gap is now 8:25.
Yesterday's time trial brought about some changes in the general classification. Let#s take a look at the top five going into today's stage:
1.Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 10:22:04
2. David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:36
3.Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:50
4.Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:01:41
5.Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:02:01
Geraint Thomas of Sky leads the points classification with 64 points, ahead of Grega Bole (Lampre, 52) and Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack, 45).
The polka-dot jersey for the mountain classification is today being worn by Bram Tankink of Rabobank. He has 23 points, giving him a one-point lead over Ag2r's Guillaume Bonnafond, and two points over Cyril Gautier of Bbox.
Our messenger pigeons are having a nice nap right now, and not bringing us any news. They look just as cute as can be, in their little goggles and leather helmets, with the Cyclingnews backpacks.
The team classification goes to HTC-Columbia, ahead of Garmin-Transitions and Sky.
We now have a gap of 8:20.
Denis Menchov of Rabobank put in a strong showing at yesterday's time trial, finishing fifth and moving up to eighth overall. Like so many others, he is using this race as a preparation for the Tour de France, and told Cyclingnews, “The Tour is in three weeks. I'll be OK by then.”
Who are these two riders out there by themselves today?
Danny Pate is a 31-year-old -American from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He turned pro in 2000 with Sawaeco, rode for Prime Alliance in 2001-2003, Health Net in 2004, Jelly Belly in 2005, and TIAA-CREF in 2006, before joining his current team in 2007.
His biggest career achievement was winning the U-23 World time trial title in 2001, and he was also U-23 national road champion in 1998. Last year he finished third in the Criterium International.
Stefan Denifl is 22 years old, and from Fulpmes, Austria. He turned pro in 2006 with Volksbank, before riding for Elk Haus 2007-2009. He won the (U-23) Thüringen Rundfahrt last year, and was eighth in the Österreich Rundfahrt. In 2008 he won the national time trial title.
Janez Brajkovic put in a stunning performance yesterday to win the time trial and take over the GC lead. It shouldn't have been too much of a surprise, as he is Slovenian national champion and was U-23 World time trial champion in 2004. But just to make the time trial more challenging, he had to change bikes during the stage. From there he had to rely on DS Alain Gallopin to encourage him on to the win. Read more here.
Today's stage is the longest of the race, at 210 kilometres.
The gap is holding steady at 8:10, with RadioShack still at the head of the peloton.
Maarten Tjallingii of Rabobank was riding well enough in the time trial to bring in a top ten finish, when he suffered a puncture with only 3 km to go. Unfortunately for him, there was no mechanic in the car following him, just the team doctor. The doctor have some spare wheels, but Tjallingii had to make the change himself. That cost him time, of course, and he ended up 29th at 3:19 down.
Time for me to wake up the messenger pigeons and put them back to work. That means Dan Benson will be taking over blimp duties. Over to you, Dan!
The bunch are lined out right now, Radioshack on the front of the bunch.
Horner sitting just in front of Brajkovic. The Slovenian had a great day yesterday. Word on the street is that he had a bike change too, which makes his time even more impressive.
A few birthday messages to get out of the way today. Andy Schleck turns 25, and Jonathan Vaughters from Garmin-Transitions turns 37.
Still time for a comeback JV, still time.
Back on the road and our two breakaway riders are still ahead of the bunch, the gap down to 7:38.
Astana start moving to the front, still a long way to go until the final climb, but they'll be looking to keep Contador out of trouble and near the front.
Garmin sitting tucked in behind the Radioshack team but there's also some Lampre riders there two. Menchov pokes his head out into the wind but then quickly decides that he's better off in the bunch and ducks back in.
The two leaders alongside the lake now, Pate setting the pace.
Less than 45km to go now and the pace is hotting up behind, the gap now down to 6:49.
The final climb is around 13km long, with an average of 7 per cent. So plenty of chances for riders to attack on the climb.
The main man to watch will be Contador but there will be other climbers hoping to shine too.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck could be one man to watch. He had a respectable time yesterday in the TT.
Moreau, who has won this race twice, could also try and go for the win.
Rabobank is now setting the pace, clearly Menchov thinks his form is there.
The two leaders are on a small unclassified climb but the strain is certainly starting to show on their races.
No sign yet of Van Garderen. He'll be tucked up in the bunch behind someone like Lars Bak taking care of him.
Over the top of the small climb and Pate moves to the front to set the pace.
Sky now send their men to the front. Big test for Thomas today. He's fifth overall
So around 15km until the start of the final climb of the day. Still with our two men ahead of the bunch. They'll probably be caught on the lower slopes of the climb.
The gap continues to crumble with the mountains firmly in view.
There's Van Garderen, right on Contador's back wheel. The weather looks a bit better now. We had quote a lot of cloud cover before but the sun is beginning to poke through.
The gap now down to 4:52 and we've got 25km to go.
The bunch are already climbing though, there's very little flat road between here and the finish.
These little bumps wont be too much trouble for the bunch but the two leaders will be feeling every pedal stroke now.
Liquigas has sent a lone rider to the front of the bunch to help with the chase.
Less than 20K to go now.
The two leaders are around 4km from the start of the climb but behind them the chase has intensified with Rabobank sending their men to the front.
Pate takes a quick drink with the gap now at 4 minutes.
Denifl swings through and takes a turn on the front. Both riders already on the small ring as they start to tackle the lower slopes of the climb.
Pint of milk anyone?
Milram join the party at the front of the bunch.
Gap down to 3:35 now. Astana still not moved to the front yet.
Denifl unzips his jersey, and the two leaders have a slight break as the road dips down for a few hundred meters. It's back up again now, all the way to the finish.
Lampre take over at the front now but the pace has eased a bit before Sky move to the front with Boasson Hagen now setting the tempo.
Thomas is sitting in second place, perhaps a little to near the front at this stage?
Pate has cracked though and Denifl moves clear.
Denifl actually looks pretty good right now. He's still got a long, long way to go though. He's got a two minute gap on the bunch.
Denifl out of the saddle as he takes a switchback, then moves back into the saddle to find his tempo again.
Boasson Hagen still setting the pace with Thomas on his wheel.
Pate is 30 seconds behind the leader.
Shack now move to the front. The pace still isn't that high and we've got an attack from Bbox and Liquigas.
10km left for the Denifl now as a Quick Step rider jumps out of the bunch. That's Samoilau.
Horner knows he can climb and goes straight to the front of the bunch.
The bunch aren't really catching the lone leader but there are a couple of riders between them.
Horner need to work on that tan. Jersey totally unzipped.
The bunch is still around 50-strong at the moment. Yellow jersey is there along with three or four teammates. Contador is around ten riders back .
Moreau has been dropped so there goes one of my predictions for the day.
Le Mevel has a little dig and gets 100 meters in no time. The Shack bunch are just riding steady at the moment.
Lefevere is now catching Pate.
Denifl still looks good, the gap still around 2 minutes so he's holding the bunch on his own.
Radioshack don't care about these little attacks. They'll be under order to keep things steady and watch out for Contador.
Pate is about to be caught by the bunch now as an Martinez goes passed Le Mevel as if he isn't even moving.
7km to go now. Shack are pulling back the little attacks and the pace is increasing ever so slightly.
Reine Taaramae is near the front of the bunch too. He could be a danger today.
Martinez is slowing though. He'll be caught soon enough by the bunch.
Tankink has cracked.
Denifl might hang on here. He's still got over 1:40 on the bunch with 6km remaining.
A Katusha rider goes passed Martinez.
Denifl doesn't look that strong now. He's in and out of the saddle but the gap is still holding at around 1:40.
As Martinez in caught a teammate jumps from the bunch.
Denifl reaches the steepest part of the climb.
Calzati has a go and jumps out of the bunch. The Shack led bunch has dropped to around 30 or so riders now. Horner is still on the front setting the pace.
Millar and Van Garderen are both there as the gap to Denifl is now at 1:25. So it's coming down slowly.
The Sky rider is caught thanks to Horner. Astana are now near the front of the bunch.
Denifl is looking for more gears but there aren't any.
As Menchov attacks.
Great move from the Russian who takes a Cervelo rider with him.
it's Pujol and now Astana are at the front and Horner is swept aside.
Contador is third wheel and the bunch are splitting to pieces.
Menchov's attack started things off. Contador gives the yellow jersey 'the look' and then gets back to setting the pace with his teammates.
Lots of gaps starting to appear now. Contador group is around 20 riders with Menchov still setting a good pace.
Denifl can hardly turn the pedals.
Contador has two men left, will he make a move. Brajkovic is all alone.
it's all coming back together now. Menchov is going to be caught, but so will Denifl.
Ovechkin makes a move, Menchov is trying to counter but here come Astana.
Only Brajkovic can respond as the duo bridge up to the Menchov group.
Vogondy is there too. Contador takes a breather but we have around 11 riders at the head of the field.
Vogondy attacks. Millar dropped.
Great move from Vogondy. Where did he come from?
Contador is setting the pace behind now.
Taaramae is there too. Told you he was good.
Contador asks for help with Vogondy with less than 1km to go.
Contador goes again and tries to drop the yellow jersey but it doesn't work. Menchov now attacks.
Menchov has a gap but Vogondy might hold on here for the win.
He's coming to the line.
Vogondy takes it.
Van Garderen comes home around 40 seconds down. Contador was third with Brajkovic in third.
It was Sicard who took second on the stage.
Thanks for joining us today. Stay tuned tomorrow for more live coverage from the Dauphine.