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Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the penultimate stage of the Criterium du Dauphiné. Today's leg takes the riders 151kilomeres from Crolles to Alpe-d’Huez and is going to bring some serious fireworks.
The stage is the most mountainous of this year’s race, starting off with the relatively humane ascents of the Cote des Fontaines and the Col du Grand Cucheron, passing through the feedzone at La Girard and the first intermediate sprint at Saint Étienne de Cuines, and then suddenly becoming a whole lot more difficult.
The riders will slug it out on the 25 kilometre climb up to the 1924 metre-high summit of the Col du Glandon, descend to the day’s second sprint at La Paute, and then race onto the slopes of what is arguably cycling’s most famous climb. This will be the first time that Alpe d’Huez will feature in the race, and it’s certain that the race will blow asunder on the twisting, turning hairpin bends that wind towards the summit.
As things stand this morning, the following riders are all within five minutes of yellow.
General classification after stage 5 :
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 19:55:04
2 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia 0:01:15
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:01:41
4 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 0:01:56
5 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:02:43
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0:02:55
7 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:05
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:06
9 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 0:03:10
10 Reine Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne 0:03:28
11 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:03:29
12 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:03:43
13 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team Katusha 0:03:48
14 Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:03:53
15 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:04:01
16 Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Quick Step 0:04:03
17 Kristijan Koren (Slo) Liquigas-Doimo 0:04:15
18 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto 0:04:18
19 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Astana 0:04:23
20 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Garmin - Transitions 0:04:33
21 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 0:04:38
22 Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:04:43
23 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:04:44
For those more than two minutes back, it's going to be very hard to make up enough time on Alpe d'Huez; in fact, if Janez Brajkovic cllimbs like he did two days, ago, it's going to be hard to get any significant time off him. But in theory a longer-range attack - perhaps from the Glandon - could enable other riders to make inroads into his lead. It all depends on how strongly his RadioShack team is riding, and also how he himself is feeling. Today's climbs are the toughest yet in the race and any frailties will be exposed.
Alberto Contador has said that he isn't too focussed on the overall victory. However what is almost certain is that he would like to win on Alpe d'Huez, and send out a message that he is stronger than his performances in the past few days have suggested. He also knows that the climb is one of the most mythical in cycling, and being first to the summit would mean a lot.
It's going to be an interesting test for Brajkovic, who doesn't know these mountains, and also for the young rider Tejay Van Garderen, who has impressed thus far. Scotland's David Millar will also be focussed on performing well; he has lost time in the past on the more severe climbs, so will need to put a big effort in today.
So, let's update you with the current situation. 159 riders started this morning, with one missing out; Kevin Seeldrayers of the Quick Step team took an early exit from the race. Things have been pretty controlled thus far and the bunch is together. The riders are on the day's first climb, the third category Cote des Fontaines.
This was the order of riders over the top of the climb:
1. Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi), 4 pts
2. Francisco Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), 3 pts
3. Ruben Plaza Molina (Caisse d'Epargne), 2 pts
4. Julien El Fares (Cofidis), 1 pt
21 riders were ahead on the descent, from whom David Le Lay (Ag2r La Mondiale) sped clear. He was then joined by Plaza Molina, Martinez, El Fares, Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana), Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma Lotto), Stephan Denifl (Cervelo Test Team), Johan Van Summeren (Garmin Transitions), Cyril Gautier (Bouygues Telecom), and Guillaume Levarlet (Saur Sojasun). After 19 kilometres of racing, they were 15 seconds clear of the next riders.
The Footon Servetto team have been chasing behind to try to safeguard the mountains jersey held by Eros Capecchi, but the gap has risen to 30 seconds.
This was how the KOM classification looked this morning:
1 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto 31 pts
2 Thibault Pinot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 26
3 Bram Tankink (Ned) Rabobank 23
4 Guillaume Bonnafond (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 22
5 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 21
6 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Astana 20
7 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 20
8 Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 18
9 Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 17
10 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 15
There's a bundle of points up for grabs today, so there will be major changes by this evening. Capecchi must be worried about Martinez, who is a strong rider.
Welshman Geraint Thomas maintains a slim lead in the points classification; he's two ahead of Brajkovic:
1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 67 pts
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 65
3 Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini 63
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 58
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia 46
6 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 41
7 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 38
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 38
9 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto 35
10 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 33
Seven riders have now counter-attacked and are in pursuit of the leaders. Stand by for names...
Capecchi and Thibault Pinot (Française Des Jeux) were second and third yesterday, crossing the line behind the solo winner Daniel Navarro (Astana). You can read more about Pinot here:
The number of chasers increased to nine - Christophe Moreau (Caisse d’Epargne),Anders Lund (Saxo Bank), Francesco Bellotti (Liquigas), Cyril Dessel (Ag2r La Mondiale), Remi Di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux), Dario Cataldo (Quick Step), Sylvain Calzati (Team Sky), Thomas Rohregger (Milram) and Arkaitz Duran Aroca (Footon Servetto).
From this group, Di Grégorio, Cataldo and Rohregger got across to the leaders. That made it thirteen up front.
The full group is therefore: David Le Lay (Ag2r La Mondiale), Ruben Plaza Molina (Caisse d’Epargne, Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi), Julien El Fares (Cofidis), Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana), Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma Lotto), Stephan Denifl (Cervelo Test Team), Johan Van Summeren (Garmin Transitions), Cyril Gautier (Bouygues Telecom), Guillaume Levarlet (Saur Sojasun), Remi Di Gregorio (Francaise des Jeux), Dario Cataldo (Quick Step) and Thomas Rohregger (Milram).
38 kilometres after the start, five chasers were 20 seconds back. These were Oscar Pujol (Cervelo Test Team), Danny Pate (Garmin Transitions), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Amael Moinard (Cofidis) and Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom). The peloton was 50 seconds behind then.
The leaders were joined by those chasers halfway up the Col du Grand Cucheron, producing an 18 man lead group. After 44 kilometres of racing, these were 1’55 ahead of the peloton.
There have been several abandons : Pierrick Fédrigo (Bouygues Telecom), Vincent Jérôme (Bouygues Telecom) and Tomas Vaitkus (Team RadioShack).
Race leader Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) will doubtlessly regret the retirement of Vaitkus - the race will be little harder to control now. He said yesterday that he expects a big attack from Alberto Contador today.
The leaders now have an advantage of two minutes 25 seconds over the peloton. Two riders are 55 seconds behind - Igor Silin (Katusha) and Dimitri Champion (Ag2r la Mondiale). They'll try to get across as soon as possible, then save some energy before knuckling down to work.
Just under 50 kilometres into the stage, the leaders crested the summit of the third category Col du Grand Cucheron.
The order over the top, and KOM points earned, was:
1. Martinez, 10 pts
2. Gautier, 9 pts
3. Denifl, 8 pts
4. Bouet, 7 pts
5. Cataldo, 6 pts
6. Lefèvre, 5 pts
Champion had dropped Silin by that point and was just 25 seconds back at the summit. Silin was two minutes and 10 seconds down with the peloton three minutes 5 seconds back.
Champion then closed the gap to the leaders on the descent.
Correction - there's 20 in that front group. We missed out on Branislau Samoilau )Quick Step). Igor Silin (Katusha) is 2’15
back, while the peloton is now just 25 seconds behind the latter. He's going to be caught very soon.
Silin was caught a few clicks ago. The Astana and Radioshack teams are leading the chase behind; Contador must be thinking of going for the stage win, as they are chasing even though his team-mate Fofonov is up front. The current gap is down to 2’15.
Jurgen Van Goolen of the Omega Pharma Lotto team has pulled out of the race.
Tomorrow's stage is lumpy, with six climbs. However they are much smaller than today; one is a second category ascent, while the other five occur when the riders do laps of the Sallanches circuit. The Cote de Domancy hill is a third category climb, and so the pure climbers may not be able to open a big lead.
Essentially, if Brajkovic is to be challenged, the other contenders need to make big inroads into his lead today.
Tomorrow's race finishes in Sallanches, the site of Bernhard Hinault's world championship win.
Martinez won the sprint points at Saint-Etienne-de-Cuines (km 79), beating Levarlet and Van Summeren. The riders are on the foothills of the Col du Glandon.
The last time check saw the group pull further ahead on the climb; they are now 2'50 ahead of the peloton.
The RadioShack team is leading the peloton along now, controlling things behind and also making sure the break doesn't get too far ahead. Up front, Pate sits towards the back of the group, as does Fofonov. Lefèvre has been dropped by the break, so there's 19 riders in the first group.
The leaders have crested the summit; behind, the peloton continues up the Tourmalet. The RadioShack riders are followed by Contador's Astana team, who are lurking in wait.
Correction - the leaders are still on the climb. They have a lead of 2'18 with 60 kilometres to go. The front group is streched out into one long line, but there's no attacks...just a long, relentless grind up the mountain. Cataldo is pushing the pace at the moment.
Lefèvre got back up to the others so we have 20 leaders once again...
Former world under 23 TT champion Pate sits at the back of this group, but it's not a problem as it is all together now. If it splits, he could miss out, though. In fact, he's losing contact slightly...a small gap is opening. Perhaps he is still tired after his long break earlier this week.
Lefever is also in trouble, as is Roelandts. Up front, it's still Cataldo who is pushing this along. This group looks like it could start splitting in the five remaining kilometres of this climb. They are two minutes one second ahead of the Brajkovic group, and need to build a bigger lead if they are to hold off the big guns on Alpe d'Huez.
Four kilometres from the summit, and more and more riders are going out the back of the peloton. This is a long, hard climb and while there are no all-out attacks up front, the Astana team is now driving this along, notching up the pace for Contador. The riders have taken over from the RadioShack team and will be trying to put the pressure on Brajkovic.
Sergio Paulinho dropped back to the team car, and is now chasing back on. At the front of the peloton, Pate is about to be caught. The gap to those up front is currently 1'54.
Cataldo is having a great day, and is still on the front. Manewhile David Millar, who started the day fourth overall, looks like he has been dropped on the Glandon.
The leaders are very close to the top of the climb. The peloton is 1'41 back and is being subjected to the pace of the Astana team, which is causing all sorts of splits.
The front group is thinning out - Van Summeren is one of those who have been shelled. Denifl is now turning the screw as the group passes the 1km to go sign.
Spanish champ Ruben Plaza has also been shelled. He's in and out of the saddle, trying to find more pace but no joy. Ditto for Gautier.
Roelandts is being caught by the Contador/Brajkovic group. Martinez is near the front of the break, waiting for the chance to go for the next KOM points. He stands to pick up quite a few if he has the legs.
However it looks like Cervelo's Oscar Pujol might take maximum points - the Spaniad jumped clear close to the summit. But no - Martinez comes back to him and nips by just before the line.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) is also being dropped from the peloton. It's getting antsy up front...Contador was out of the saddle going over the top, looking eager. We'll see what happens on the Alpe.
The gap over the top was 1'25. The rides are all hurtling down the descent, hitting some pretty hot speeds.
Gautier is now being caught by the chasers. Ahead, Pujol and Martinez remain clear after the summit and are perhaps ten seconds ahead of the other leading breakaway riders.
Contador is taking some nourishment, and is followed by Brajkovic. He'll shadow the Spaniard from here until the finish; if he can contain his attacks, that'll be a big psychological boost for him and his team prior to the Tour.
Denifl, Di Gregorio and Bouet have clipped away on the descent. It appears that they are leading now, with Pujol and Martinez having been caught.
The leaders and chasers are both on a brief climb which interrupts the descent. Astana continues to turn the screw, and more riders continue to drift off the back. This is starting to hurt quite a bit... A couple of RadioShack riders are at the back of the peloton.
Geraint Thomas is having a determined ride today, and is still with the lead group. He's wearing the points jersey and has had a great race.
Denifl, Bouet and Di Gregorio continue to lead and will do what they can to stay clear of the Astana-powered chase behind. Brajkovic doesn't have many team-mates around and could find himself isolated on the Alpe.
The trio up front are back on a descent, that steep section now just a nasty memory. That's always quite difficult, hitting a ramp while on a downhill. Di Gregorio is at the back, a few lengths adrift of Bouet. Denifl has actually dropped the other two and is hurtling down this descent, trying to open a gap before the final climb. He is 1'42 ahead of the Brajkovic bunch.
Stefan Denifl (Cervelo)
Dmitri Champion (Ag2r) and Remi Di Gregorio (FdJ) at ??
Plaza (GCE), Pujol (CTT), Van Summeren (GRM), Champion, Le Lay (ALM), Cataldo, Samoilau (QST), El Fares, Moinard (COF), Rohregger (MRM), Martinez (EUS), and Levarlet (SAU) at ??
Yellow jersey group at 1:33
Alpe d'Huez is drawing ever closer, and there the groups will all blow apart. Denifl knows that he needs to increase his buffer over Contador and the others, as they are going to really fly up the climb.
Cappechi looks set to lose his mountains jersey today, but he's undoubtedly a talented rider and one to watch for the future. There's more on him here.
The three leaders have been caught by the others who were in the day's break. There's now 13 riders in the leading group, and they are heading towards the base of the final climb. They have just 1'46 on the Brajkovic/Contador group; will it be enough?
The lead group is comprised of Stefan Denifl (Cervelo), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r) and Remi Di Gregorio (FdJ), Plaza (GCE), Pujol (CTT), Van Summeren (GRM), Champion, Le Lay (ALM), Cataldo, Samoilau (QST), El Fares, Moinard (COF), Rohregger (MRM), Martinez (EUS), and Levarlet (SAU).
Contador takes more food on board, knowing that he hasn't got too long to wait before the start of the Alpe d'Huez climb. Brajkovic is sitting on his wheel and must be a little worried about what will happen. He doesn't have anything like the same experience as Contador, although he has been riding very well. RadioShack team-mate Chris Horner is on his wheel, ready if he is needed, while Paulinho has gone to the front and is leading the group along.
This lead group is looking lively, with several attacks being fired off. Cervelo Test Team riders Pujo and Pujol have clipped away with Levarlet of Saur Sojasun, and are working together to open a lead over the rest.
However three others have got across to them - El Fares, Champion and Di Gregorio. They are very close to the climb now...here we go!!
The gap is 1'10 to the yellow jersey group.
Di Gregorio attacks! He is joined by Pujol and Denifl...
The Astana team lead the yellow jersey group onto the climb...who will jump first? Contador is prominent, but first to accelerate is Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas). Meanwhile Di Gregorio and Pujol are alone up front...
Just 55" to the front riders now...Astana are still driving it along. Many riders are going out the back of the Brajkovic group. The race leader sits fifth in line as Szmyd is caught.
Pujol is clear alone, holding a lead of just 53 seconds. We suggest it ain't enough, and he will be caught once the hammer really goes down.
There's only about 20-25 riders left in the chasing group...Pujol is now just 45" clear and has a sense of urgency about him.
Boom! Yesterday's stage winner Daniel Navarro has completely blown and nearly comes to a standstill. Also going out the back is Denis Menchov (Rabobank), who will hope to be one of the Tour contenders. Looks like Chris Horner is also gone too...
Brajkovic is dripping sweat, but he looks composed. Di Gregorio has been caught by that chase group....very few left now. Pujol fights on, gritting his teeth, squinting his eyes and praying for more speed from his tired legs.
Ouch....the chase group is now just 10 seconds back...he's toast...
He's been caught...Contador has just one team-mate left, with the others all having done their work and peeled off. Di Gregorio has gone out the back.
Van Garderen is still there, riding superbly. He's second overall, of course, and will swoop if Brajkovic cracks.
Contador is in and out of the saddle, waiting for his moment to kick. Pujol is out the back and sits behind the yellow Mavic car....he's fighting to get back on.
Van Garderen has cracked and gone out the back. Meanwhile Hernandez continues to lead Contador, and appears to be racking up the pace... Now Contador goes!!!
Brajkovic is chasing...the others have been dropped....
Brajkovic gets across, riding well to do so. The others are all gone...
Contador tries again...he gets a few metres...Brajkovic is trying to hold on...can he do it?
The yellow jersey manages to hold him, getting back up to his wheel. He doesn't try to match the surges, but rides up at his own pace.
Behind, Szmyd (Liquigas), Coppel (Saur Sojasun) and Van Den Broeck (Omega Pharma Lotto) are chasing.
Contador goes again! However Brajkovic once again covers the move, getting back up to him.
Contador hasn't quite looked as explosive recently as he did in last year's Tour. Let's see if he can kick again and make a difference.
Contador is doing all the leading of this two-man group. Brajkovic doesn't have to work, and won't. Szmyd is coming across and is close to them... Contador goes again, the yellow jersey covers him.
The crowds are far smaller than they have been when Alpe d'Huez features in the Tour, but those who are there cheer the riders on passionately. Szmyd gets across to the leaders and attacks....Contador covers him, and Brajkovic is briefly in trouble.
Szymd goes again....Contador covers him once more...then the Liqugas rider jumps once more. Brajkovic is hurting to get across each time, but is managing to do so.
Szmyd may have been dropped by Contador's first attack, but he seems to be strong now. He's been leading the group along, with the yellow jersey remaining third wheel all the time. Van Den Broeck and Coppel are getting back up to them now, while Van Garderen continues to chase too.
Van Den Broeck attacks as soon as he gets across, but is covered. Now Szmyd does a huge jump - Contador goes with him, Brajkovic is dropped and now Contador goes...!
However Brajkovic manages to bridge yet again, showing great determination. He doesn't have the same jump as the other two, but seems to be able to come back each time.
Coppel jumps now....Contador goes past him and goes again. Brajkovic covers him and actually looks smoother than Contador.. The others have all been dropped.
Contador is in and out of the saddle, pumping the pedals around. Brajkovic is usually seated, whipping the pedals around. He's been very calm today, dealing with whatever has been thrown at him.
Szmyd is coming back once again. It looks like there is a headwind and perhaps this is why it has been so hard for the attackers to keep their gaps.
Contador is gritting his teeth, really digging in. Szmyd now goes again...he's covered by the other two..
Szmyd tries again, but each attack appears to have a little less energy. All the riders are getting tired now. Brajkovic appears to be the most composed - will he try to jump clear near the end?
Szmyd went again; Contador countered...guess what? Brajkovic once again gets across, and sits on his wheel. He seems to be bulletproof on this climb.
Contador jumps again....can't get a gap....the others are gone, but Brajkovic holds on. In fact, he now goes to the front for the first time on this climb - he must be feeling confident.
Contador goes to the front again....he wants to make sure the others don't get back up to them. Now Brajkovic takes his turn, so the two of them look like they will work together.
The two leaders are getting close to the top; the slope flattens out somewhat here. They have just 500 metres to go...
They are working together, taking equal turns. they turn left onto the finishing straight...
Brajkovic leads it out, but Contador comes past to win on Alpe d'Huez... Szmyd is next, then Coppel. Van Den Broeck nets fifth...
Christophe Moreau leads home the next group, then Horner and Van Garderen come in together.
Contador shakes Brajkovic's hand and then the two embrace...nice to see the mutal respect there.
Estimates were that the climb took 45 minutes...if so, that's quite a bit slower than recent years at the Tour. The wind may have played a part in that, and so too the stop/start racing. The constant attacking made for some very exciting images - that was a good stage. We suspect it isn't the last time Alpe d'Huez will feature in the Dauphine...
So Contador will move to second overall, overtaking Van Garderen in the general classification. Brajkovic remains well clear and must be considered a big favourite to take the final victory tomorrow. We'll leave it there for now - make sure to come back later for a full report, complete results and plenty of news from the Dauphine. And we'll have live coverage for the duration of the final stage tomorrow. Thanks for reading!