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Good morning and welcome to the live coverage from the final stage of the 2010 Criterium du Dauphine. Today's leg is a 148km leg from Allevard-les-Bains to Sallanches, the location of Bernard Hinault's only world road championship in 1980. The stage finishes with an 11km circuit in Sallanches to be covered five times, with a leg-stinging climb of the 9.2 percent Côte de Domancy each lap.
Bernard Hinault negotiated that climb 20 times on the world championship circuit in 1980, putting his rivals to the sword there and soloing to a memorable victory.
Yesterday's stage of the race was a real battle, with attacks being fired off from bottom to top of Alpe d'Huez. Try as he did, Tour de France champion Alberto Contador couldn't shake off race leader Janez Brajkovic, and had to wait for the final sprint to win the stage. He didn't get any time back on his rival, yet said afterwards that he was content with the showing. He described his form as 'far from excellent' and, providing he can hit top form in time for the Tour de France, that must be worrying for his rivals.
The other question is, has Brajkovic peaked for this race? Or is he scheduled to ride the Tour, and has he got more to give? If so, he should be one of the big players. He notched up some very strong results earlier in his career but until now, hasn't developed as fast as was expected. He really has been impressive in this race, though.
Team-mate Haimar Zubeldia broke his wrist recently, and so he could be drafted in as a replacement (that's if he wasn't scheduled all along).
Some of Brajkovic's team-mates took part in the prologue of the Tour de Suisse yesterday. Here's how they got on, relative to some other riders:
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 0:10:21
2 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:01
3 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:03
4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Doimo
5 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick Step 0:00:10
6 Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank 0:00:11
17 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack0:00:18
44 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack 0:00:29
55 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Team Radioshack 0:00:32
125 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Team Radioshack 0:00:56
128 Jason Mccartney (USA) Team Radioshack 0:00:59
133 Dimitri Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack 0:01:03
138 Gregory Rast (Swi) Team Radioshack 0:01:07
151 Jaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Team Radioshack 0:01:15
On that basis, Brajkovic has currently the best form of the riders. One rider who was somewhat off the pace yesterday on Alpe d'Huez was Denis Menchov. He lost nine and a half minutes, but his Rabobank team played down any panic.
To today's stage - here are the climbs:
Km 62 : côte des Rafforts, cat.2 (11,2 km at 5,2 %)
Km 98,5 : côte de Domancy, cat.3 (2,4 km at 9,2 %)
Km 109,5 : côte de Domancy, cat.3 (2,4 km at 9,2 %)
Km 120,5 : côte de Domancy, cat.3 (2,4 km at 9,2 %)
Km 131,5 : côte de Domancy, cat.3 (2,4 km at 9,2 %)
Km 143 : côte de Domancy, cat.3 (2,4 km at 9,2 %)
Just two kilometres after the start today, eight riders went clear. They were: Maarten Tajallingii (Rabobank), Christophe Brandt (Omega Pharma Lotto), Christian Meier (Garmin Transitions), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), Stephane Augé, Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Dominik Roels (Milram) and Alan Perez (Euskaltel).
At kilometre 13 their advantage had risen to 1'40; they continue onwards, seeking to build more time.
The gap was 3'40 19 kilometres after the start but under the impetus of Team Sky, it had falled by a minute five kilometres later. That seems like an extraordinary drop, so perhaps the first time check was inaccurate.
The gap continues to fall, and has dropped to 2'15. This break isn't really been given any leeway at all.
Let's have a peek at yesterday's stage result again, shall we?
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 4:31:01
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack
3 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Doimo 0:00:17
4 Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:00:24
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:00:40
6 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne 0:01:17
7 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:18
8 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
10 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:01:26
11 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia
12 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:01:53
13 Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi
14 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
15 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:18
16 Anders Lund (Den) Team Saxo Bank
17 Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Quick Step 0:02:55
18 Ivan Velasco (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
19 Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:03:17
20 Thibault Pinot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 0:03:34
It was a good day for the French, who had five riders in the first twelve. This included the fourth place picked up by Jérôme Coppel, who earned valuable publicity for his Saur Sojasun team. Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas) was also impressive, netting third after being one of the most aggressive riders on the mountain.
Horner and Van Garderen were solid in tenth and eleventh, the latter continuing to have an excellent race. He's just 21 years of age and is a big, big talent.
As a result of his solid performance, he is third overall in the race, 2'41 behind Brajkovic. Even he probably didn't expect to be in that position with one stage to go.
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 24:26:05
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 0:01:41
3 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia 0:02:41
4 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:03:46
5 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:04:01
6 Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:04:17
7 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:04:23
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 0:05:54
9 Christopher Horner (USA) Team Radioshack 0:06:10
10 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas-Doimo 0:06:33
11 Branislau Samoilau (Blr) Quick Step 0:06:58
12 Christian Knees (Ger) Team Milram 0:06:59
13 Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel - Euskadi 0:07:45
14 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, le Credit en Ligne 0:07:49
15 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Team Katusha 0:08:09
Contador is a minute faster in second place. He might have a go today, but it would be a massive turnaround if Brajkovic were to lose significant time. We can't really see that happening, to be honest.
Maarten Tajallingii (Rabobank), Christophe Brandt (Omega Pharma Lotto), Christian Meier (Garmin Transitions), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step), Stephane Augé, Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis), Dominik Roels (Milram) and Alan Perez (Euskaltel) are now just 1'30 ahead of the peloton.
Rabobank's Paul Martens has left hospital after his bad fall on day one of this race. "That's one smalls step for mankind, but a big step for me" he twittered.
He suffered broken ribs and tore his kidney...ouch.
The points classification is rather more close that the overall standings. Brajkovic holds a four point lead over Alberto Contador, while Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is third, twenty points back. He might be aiming to chase some today - there's intermediate sprints at Praz sur Arly, 74.5 km into the stage, and at the second passage over the finish line in Sallanches. That comes 103.5 kilometres after the start, and 44.5 from the end. Of course, more points will be up for grabs there.
Here's how the points table looks now:
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 87 pts
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 83
3 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team 67
4 Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre-Farnese Vini 63
5 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC - Columbia 56
The leaders are now on the Cote des Rafforts, the day's first climb. It's a second category ascent and could well spell Game Over for the break, which was just 45" clear at the last time check.
On the early part of the climb, Roels, Brandt and Augé were dropped. Dumoulin and Meier were next to let go, leaving Tjallingii, De Weert and Perez up front. Perez is doing most of the work.
Thomas Rohregger (Milram) and Laurent Lefèvre (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) clip away from the peloton and try to bridge to the three leaders.
Aside from the points classification, the KOM ranking will also be decided today. The leader of that is looking fairly secure, though, unless Brajkovic and Contador go a-hunting. Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi) is 22 and 23 points ahead respectively.
1 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 55 pts
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team Radioshack 33
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 32
4 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto 31
5 Cyril Gautier (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom 29
6 Thibault Pinot (Fra) Française Des Jeux 26
Rohregger and Lefèvre were caught and seven others have set off in pursuit of the three leaders. The chasers are Francisco Perget (Caisse d’Epargne), Egor Silin (Katusha), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Christophe Le Mével (Française des Jeux), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis), Laurent Lefèvre (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Arkaitz Duran Aroca (Footon Servetto). The peloton is not far behind, though…
Maarten Tajallingii (Rabobank), Kevin De Weert (Quick Step) and Alan Perez (Euskaltel) have been joined by those seven chasers, Francisco Perget (Caisse d’Epargne), Egor Silin (Katusha), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Christophe Le Mével (Française des Jeux), Sébastien Minard (Cofidis), Laurent Lefèvre (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Arkaitz Duran Aroca (Footon Servetto).
Dario Cataldo (Quick Step), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), and Remi Pauriol (Cofidis) have also joined up, making it a lead group of 13 riders.
The leaders have just crossed the summit, going over the top of the côte des Rafforts in this order:
1. Perget, 10 pts
2. Minard, 9 pts
3. Perez, 8 pts
4. Cataldo, 7 pts
5. Duran Aroca, 6 pts
6. Tjallingii, 5 pts
At that point, the peloton was 35 seconds back. It's still very close.
Mario Aerts (Omega Pharma Lotto), Christian Knees (Milram), Inaki Isasi (Euskaltel Euskadi) and David Millar (Garmin Transitions) have clipped away from the peloton and joined up. That means there's 17 riders in the front group.
The leaders are now a minute clear.
It's a little wet at the finish, but out on the course the riders are in dry conditions. Tjallingii won the intermediate sprint at Praz-sur-Arly (km 74.5), beating Cataldo and Knees there.
The leaders are a healthy 2'10 clear now, speeding on towards the finishing circuit. They'll be there in a little over ten kilometres, and then they will start the tough finishing laps. That's certain to spice things up somewhat, and will give a platform to any GC riders who want to try to attack Brajkovic.
The gap at the entrance to the circuit was 2'05. Each lap is 11 kilometres long and includes the ascent of that climb, the steep Cote de Domancy. Will one of the leaders do a Badger and try to solo clear?
By the time the peloton crossed the start/finish line, they had brought back a further five seconds of the lead. That still put the leaders two minutes ahead. It's not a huge lead, and so the front group is going to have to work harder if they will stand any chance of staying clear.
Aerts led the break over the the côte de Domancy for the first time. Knees, Tjallingii and Silin mop up the minor points there. The peloton is 1'20 back. It split slightly a while ago, wtih Brajkovic and several others getting a small gap, but we think it's back together again.
By the way, French TT champion Jean-Christophe Péraud (Omega Pharma-Lotto) could lose out on the chance to defend his title due to blood poisoning. He crashed twice in the Dauphine and is still in hospital. You can read more about that here.
The seventeen leaders crossed the start/finish line for the second time but soon afterwards, Knees suffered a puncture. He's currently twenty seconds behind the others and chasing hard. Meanwhile riders from the Ag2r la Mondiale team have been leading the chase behind; they were 1'10 back at the line.
Boasson Hagen is now putting the hammer down, stretching things out on this climb... He got a gap but the others have clawed their way back to him...that's gotta hurt, though...
The peloton is being led by the Ag2r riders. Ironically, their team-mate Dimitri Champion is briefly dropped at the back, but manages to fight his way back on. Up front, the lead group is now down to ten riders after those accelerations.
The rain is now falling and the roads are wet...that'll make things more stressful for the riders.
The front group is splitting up as they head over the start/finish line once again. The rain is really falling heavily now... A few minutes earlier, Le Mével beat Pauriol, Boasson Hagen and Duran to the top of the climb, netting top KOM points.
Maillot jaune Brajkovic is being guided along by his RadioShack team-mates while Contador, in green, has his Astana companions close by. It's still Ag2r doing the work, though.
Going over the line the last time, Silin, Le Mével, Boasson Hagen, Pauriol and Duran were slightly ahead.
There's now 12 leaders: Perget (Caisse d'Epargne), Silin (Katusha), Aerts (Omega Pharma Lotto), Santaromita (Liquigas), Le Mével (racncaise des Jeux), Boasson Hagen (Team Sky), Minard, Pauriol (Cofidis), Isasi, Perez (Euskaltel), Lefèvre (BBox Bouygues Telecom) and Duran Aroca (Footon). Le Mevel and Silin try to stretch this out. They are 1'21 ahead of the bunch.
Minard tries to slip clear but Le Mevel brings him back... He leads up the climb, with Duran glued to his wheel.
David Millar has been caught and dropped by the peloton.
Ouch...Pauriol fell on the descent...looks like he ended up against a barrier on the side of the road. He's trying to get his bike sorted out so he can continue.
This break is broken into several pieces....very tough finishing circuit. Ag2r La Mondiale still lead the peloton. The gap was approximately 1'38 to the leaders.
Five leaders now - Boasson Hagen, Le Mevel, Silin, Duran and Santaromita.. they are 1'35 ahead of the peloton.
Good to see Boasson Hagen riding strongly...he's had a frustrating season due to injury. He should never be ruled out, though, and will be one of the most dangerous riders when it comes to the finale. By that we mean dangerous in the sense of going for the win, not ushering his fellow competitors into the barriers...
Boasson Hagen would love to become world champion; maybe he'll take the victory today on this former championship circuit. The gap now is still over a minute and a half, and it's looking less likely that the peloton can catch these riders...
Several of the riders who were in the breakaway are now being caught by the peloton..up front, there's still five leaders: Boasson Hagen, Le Mevel, Silin, Duran and Santaromita
Anders Lund (Saxo Bank) now clips away from the peloton...he's got a gap, and is moving along quickly. He is cheered along by the crowd, which his helping keep the riders' spirits up on this damp day. Up front, EBH goes through, taking over from Le Mevel.
Duran goes! He kicks clear with 16 kilometres remaining, just before the top of the climb.
Still Ag2r driving it on - they've done a lot of work today. Up front, the leaders are on the descent and are well spread out. That's no harm, given the wet conditions....it looks pretty slippery out there.
The peloton was 1'10 back at the top of the climb...just one more ascention to go. Hard to see them coming back now, unless some other teams get involved. The five riders are back together now, with Duran having been reeled in.
They cross the start/finish line for the penultimate time...EBH leads them over the line...will he be first in 11 kilometres?
If it comes down to a sprint, he'll certainly be one of the fastest; the others will try to get away from him before then. However the peloton is now just 50" back...they are getting closer...
Christophe Moreau sits on the wheel of Janez Brajkovic, hoping that he'll have a chance to go for the victory today.
To recap, the leaders are: Egor Silin (Katusha), Ivan Santaromita (Liquigas), Christophe Le Mével (Française des Jeux), Arkaitz Duran Aroca (Footon Servetto) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky). They are now just 36" ahead!
It's going to come down to this last climb....someone from this break needs to use it as a springboard to go clear. They are on it now...who will it be?
Duran leads again, stretching it out...he must be feeling good...
He's got a gap...behind, several attacks are being fired off from the peloton. Have they left it too late?
Boasson Hagen has a nice lead, and is working hard to extend it...Duran is chasing with Silin, Le Mevel is in trouble...
Astana now leads the peloton, but the bunch is still 35" back. Now world under 23 champion Roman Sicard goes! The Euskaltel Euskadi rider has been pretty active in this race.
He joins up with Dutch champion Koos Morenhout (Rabobank) and pushes on...he's very aggressive, towing the Dutchman along.
However Jerome Coppel is bringing the bunch back up to them. Geraint Thomas is at the back of the bunch, suffering, while his Team Sky team-mate Boasson Hagen is clear, alone, and racing towards the finish.
Sicard has dropped Moerenhout and continues alone. Boasson Hagen is still well clear, though, and looking strong...
Le Mevel and Silin are chasing hard behind, their faces a picture of pain. Sicard's about to be caught...
EBH is being chased hard by Duran, who isn't that far off. We'd still put our hard-earned cash on Boasson Hagen, though - he's a very strong rider and wants a result to make up for his tough spring.
EBH needs to make sure he stays rubber side down on the descent...it's wet, so no crazy risks...
Boasson Hagen is looking good for the win, hurtling down the descent. He's flicking from one side of the road to the other in the bends, keeping an eye out for bad road surfaces.
Last kilometer for EBH, who has a decent lead over Duran and is set to win...just stay upright!
He's riding in to what will be a well-deserved win. Arms aloft, smile beaming, he crosses the line.
Duran comes in for second, then Silin and Le Mevel... Behind, the peloton has split into pieces on that last ascent...
Brajkovic and Contador both finished together, so the Slovenian wins the race overall. He's delighted and is all smiles at the finish, being congratulated by team-mates and others.
So Boasson Hagen has overcome the Achilles Heel of his spring which was, incidentally, his Achilles Heel. We guess that seals his place in the Team Sky lineup for the Tour (not that there was much doubt once he was over his injury). Wiggins is also another sure bet for the team; Geraint Thomas has surely also earned his place.
Boasson Hagen was 27 seconds clear of Duran, with Silin and Le Meven 32 and 34 seconds back. Van Garderen and Alberto Contador took fifth and sixth, 40 seconds back, and so the latter should win the points classification as well as his two stages.
This is the provisional top 5 (subject to verification):
2. Contador, at1’41’’
3. Van Garderen, at 2’41’’
4. Van den Broeck, at 3’46’’
5. Coppel, at 4’17’’
EBH said that he decided this morning to try to do everything to win the stage. "It's a hard circuit so it's really nice to win here," he said. "I felt good today."
Brajkovic was delighted with his win, and what is the biggest victory of his career thus far. "We were a little bit lucky the break got away. We had everything under control. Alberto decided not to attack today, I guess he didn't want to risk crashing on the downhill so it was perfect for us. this is the biggest success of my career. The guys did an awesome job this week, they were just great."
He was asked how big this victory was, especially as he took on and beat some of the top riders in the world. "The Dauphine is a really hard race with a quality field," he answered. "Of course it is a month before the Tour. You don't want to forget that the riders come here and they are not in their very top shape, while I am close to my best. Let's hope I can do the Tour this year, and if not this year, some other year. I'd like to try for the overall in that."
We'll get some brief results up now, with full results and a report to follow shortly. That was a very good day's racing - thanks for reading, folks!