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Hello and welcome to our coverage from stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine.
Today's stage will go a long way to deciding the overall in this year's Dauphine, with 6 categorized climbs on the menu:
- Col de Plainpalais, cat. 1, alt. 1173, km 11.5
- Col de Leschaux, cat. 3, km 32.5
- Col des Essérieux, cat. 3, km 67
- Col de la Colombière, cat. 1, alt. 1613m, km 102
- Côte de Châtillon-sur-Cluses, cat. 3, km 129
- Col de Joux-Plane, HC, alt. 1691m, km 155.5
Lets recap what we've seen today: So far Andy Schleck, Vino, Péraud and Gilbert have been amongst the riders shelled out of the back.
Florencio and Fernandez have both quit the race.
We have a break up the road to, with 15 riders on the hunt for either a stage win or laying the foundations for the teams for later in the race:
Petr Ignatenko, Alberto Losada and Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Blel Kadri and Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Tiago Machado (RadioShack), Maciej Paterski and José Sarmiento (Liquigas), Rémy Di Gregorio and David Moncoutié (Cofidis), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Mario Marzano (Lampre), Jesus Hernandez (Saxo Bank), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma), Brice Feillu (Saur - Sojasun), Alexandre Geniez (Argos), Matteo Carrara (Vacansoleil).
We're hearing over race radio that Andy Schleck has abandoned the race.
It just goes from bad to worse for the Shack - Schleck camp doesn't it? Both Schlecks have had poor seasons with injury, bad luck and clear internal problems with their manager Johan Bruyneel.
Where does this leave their Tour de France preparations? Will Andy even start this year's Tour?
After 69km of racing the gap between the break and the Sky-led bunch is 3:20
Machado is the closest rider to Wiggins on GC: 5:33 down on the Sky leader. Sky won't be too worried about that for now as there are still plenty of kms and climbing to come. They'll be more concerned with Cadel Evans who, after yesterday's dangerous attack, is clearly keen on testing Wiggins. The question is, how deep do either men want to go before their main objective, the Tour de France?
As we know from last year, winning the Dauphine will count for little when the Tour podium is decided in Paris, and taking risks here could be crucial. Both will want to come out of the Dauphine with their health intact and confidence high though.
The break have crested the col des Essérieux with Sarmiento extending his lead on Kadri, who despite being in the break, was unable to pick up any points on the climb. The KOM competition is still wide open though.
Shack DS has spoken to letour.fr about Schleck: "He couldn’t pedal anymore. Since he crashed during the time trial, the whole right side of his body was hurting. He was climbing all right but he was suffering to hold his bike. Yesterday, he managed to finish but today, racing had become too difficult."
It sounds like he's better off taking some rest and making sure he at least starts the Tour healthy, with the hope of riding himself into form by the time the race hits the mountains.
And here's where we stand on GC:
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 18:54:23
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quickstep 0:00:38
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:01:20
4 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:44
5 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:45
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:48
7 Luis-Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:02:02
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:02:22
9 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:02:47
10 Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Saur - Sojasun 0:02:55
It's a big test for Tony Martin today actually, and Jurgen Van Den Broeck as well, who had a very strong time trial two days ago.
Martin will want to cement his place in GC and demonstrate that he can hold the climbers in the mountains. The downhill finish should help him, should he lose seconds on the final climb.
Van Den Broeck won a stage in the Dauphine last year in Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse and is one of the strongest climbers within touching distance of Wiggins.
In other news, Scarponi has re-signed with Lampre.
Amstel Gold Race winner Gasparotto has re-signed with Astana for a couple of years too.
And Chris Horner is staying at home in June as he crosses his fingers for a RadioShack Tour place.
Back in the race and the break of 19 have just gone through the feedzone with a lead of 2:55.
If you were wondering, like me, 'what's Andriy Grivko doing this very second' well he's just attacked from the peloton.
One final bit of news that's doing the rounds: Pinarello has told CN they're still negotiating with Sky for 2013. The French press had reported that a deal with Sky and Specialized had already been signed.
The Specialized rumour has been around for months, pretty much since Cavendish signed for the British team. Legally, no party can say anything, even if a contract has been signed. So for all we know Sky could be on MBK bikes for next year. Unlikely though...
Here's a map and profile of today's stage.
The bunch roll through the feedzone with Sky controlling affairs. The team have come such a long way in the last two years. Do you remember the stage of the 2010 Tour when Wiggins and his team fell apart on the stage that started in Morzine? They climbed the Colombière that day too but the team are almost unrecognisable to the squad that made the Tour debut in 2010.
By the way, over on our facebook page we've just smashed through 70,000 users. Well done us!
Anyway, right now cycling fans are discussing where Schleck's Tour bid now sits. Head on over, where you can read/like/post things like this insightful gem of knowledge:
I've always had quite a dislike for Andy Schleck. But since everybody's been bashing him and calling him Mandy and stuff I hope he will come to the Tour and strike back harder than ever before. Just pure ownage, win the Tour by 10 mins, then quit cycling and become a porn star. Yeah Andy, show how ******* tough you are.
Who said journalism is dead?
The break have started the col de la Colombière by the way, with the plucky Grivko just 1:15 back.
66km to go and the gap is at 3:27.
The leaders are closing in on the top of the climb as Sky continue to set pace. Grivko is stuck between the two groups but could make contact with the break on the descent.
Rolland comes through and takes a turn on the front, with Voeckler following suit moments later.
Sarmiento attacks from the break with Paterski. That's another 15 points in the bag and the jersey pretty much sown up.
Chavanel takes third as the break goes over the top.
Danny Pate leads the peloton under the 1km to go banner.
Cherel and a Euskaltel rider crash into each other near the top of the climb, both men are on their feet and chasing.
Pate and Knees are doing the same job as yesterday, setting the pace for Wiggins on the early climbs. So far everything is going to plan for the British team.
Knees leads the bunch on the descent with the gap still holding. It's at 3:37.
At the front of the race Carrara sets pace, taking a few risks on the corners but it's doing a job because the gap has gone out to 3:54. He's splitting the break with his speed.
45 to go with the Joux Plane coming up.
Evans will need to attack, quite early on if he's to really trouble Wiggins' race lead.
The Joux Plane:
Summit height: 1691m
Alt gain: 989m
Horner said of the climb: "It's epic, like a bike path, 20 per cent the whole way up."
Wiggins currently has Martin on his wheel, takes a look around, but isn't worried.
And Feillu has attacked from the leading group.
Feillu won a stage in the Tour a few years ago and he's looking to put in another winning display today. The riders in the break weren't riding together so the Frenchman launched an attack from the back of the group and he's already got a decent gap.
Meanwhile, Pate and Knees continue on the front of the peloton.
Feillu has 20 seconds on the Chavanel group.
As Gilbert drifts back to the BMC car and picks up some bottles for the team.
Feillu seems to be struggling on this flat section, he's still yet to hit the foot of the Joux Plane.
Saying that, his lead it out to 1:15 with the bunch at 4:16
Grivko made it to the main break by the way.
Lotto have taken up the pace setting on the front of the bunch. They want to push Van den broeck onto the podium.
Just 29 km remaining with Feillu leading, a group of 19 roughly 1:15 back and the bunch at 4:11.
Feillu has 1:50 on the chasing group. That's a strong effort but he needs to save something for the climb. Realistically he needs around 4-5 minutes on the bunch if he's to have a chance of wining the stage.
Wiggins and his men can sit back now but BMC haven't put a single man in the break or on the front today either. Surely they'll come to the front on the lower slopes of the climb and try and set Evans up for an attack.
Lotto is drilling it on the front and have strung the entire bunch out.
Feillu has hit the lower slopes of the climb with just 3:06 on the peloton.
And here come the BMC train, with Evans at the tail end. Sky are looking at each other, they need to think fast and move Wiggins up to the front.
They swing left and here we go, onto the Joux Plane.
Gilbert is second wheel, he'll soon have to show Evans his domestique duties.
Sky move up and alongside Gilbert, keeping the pace steady for Wiggins. Kelderman is up there too, with Barredo looking after him.
At the back, Sanchez starts to drop off.
Riders are already dropping off, Gallopin, who crashed earlier, is suffering too.
And again Lotto assume control on the front of the field.
Sky still have the number to support Wiggins, at least 5 men around the yellow jersey at the moment.
Vino: he's next to drop off the back of the bunch.
Gilbert too. He's done his work for the day.
Grivko has been caught by the Sky bunch and Nibali has been dropped. That's a big surprise indeed.
Nibali is fighting to get back but that's a worrying sign for the Liquigas leader.
Up ahead and Feillu legs are still pushing a good gear. He has 2:13 on the yellow jersey and 1:30 on his chasers.
Sky are doing a perfect job, setting the pace, keeping it all together and watching their main rivals.
Boasson Hagen has been immense over the last two days, and he's setting the pace for Sky now.
Nibali is all alone now, with no teammates.
Wiggins has four men with him at the front of the bunch.
The yellow jersey group are tearing through the early break and picking up riders, one by one. Feillu has 1:54.
It looks like Evans has one or two men with him.
Voeckler has been brought back. Still no attacks from any of Wiggins's rivals.
Chavanel caught: Chavanel dropped.
18km to go as Voeckler drops off the back of the bunch.
Boasson Hagen drops off as well, having done a huge turn on the front.
Porte now takes over with Wiggins on his wheel. And Tony Martin has been dropped.
Evans is out of the saddle just to stay with the pace.
There are less than 20 riders in the yellow jersey group, about 5 of them are from Sky.
Feillu has 1:32 on the yellow jersey group but he's starting to really suffer.
Luis Leon Sanchez has been dropped. Sky are in a different league with this kind of performance.
Rolland has been dropped. Rogers is moving onto the podium with this ride.
Has Evans been dropped?
Kelderman has been dropped.
No, Evans is still there.
Porte is setting the pace for Sky with less than 15 riders in this group. Evans has van Garderen with him.
16km to go and Feillu has 1min on the Wiggins group.
Van den Broeck is with the Wiggins group.
Wiggins looks so comfortable though. Perhaps he'll attack?
Froome and Wiggins go alongside each other, and Rogers moves onto Wiggins's wheel. Weening, and Machado and Zubeldia are all there too.
10 riders, four of them from Sky.
15 km to go and the gap is down to 41 seconds.
Quintana attacked a bit earlier and he's closing on Feillu.
Machado has been dropped.
9 riders, four from Sky. They're in complete control.
It's all coming back together though as Quintana moves into the lead and Feillu is caught and then passed by the Sky train.
13km to go and the Movistar rider has 14 seconds.
1km to go until the summit of the Joux Plane.
Quintana goes over the top with 22 seconds, and Evans attacks just as they crest the top.
The Australian rider has all of 4 meters.
Evans has been brought back. He'll have another chance to attack on the descent as it's a very technical section.
Quintana's lead is down to 13 seconds.
Quintana is showing his descending skill here, taking a few risks but using his body weight to position himself on the bike perfectly as he takes each corner.
Moreno has made it over to the Wiggins group.
Evans moves to the front. He wants the stage win and the final step on the podium as well.
5km to go and Quintana has 27 seconds, Evans has a small gap on Sky.
Evans isn't pulling back any time on the Movistar rider yet. The gap is 28 seconds.
Evans is at least putting some time into Wiggins.
2km to go and the stage is heading to Quintana.
And Quintana comes home to take the stage win.
Here comes Evans for second place.
Wiggins comes home less than ten seconds later.
That was as dominant a display as you'll see in stage racing. Sky were immense. While a number of key rivals were missing or off form, Wiggins will be more than pleased with how he and his team controlled the race. TV commentators likened Sky's ride to Armstrong and US Postal - it's wasn't far off. Rogers moves up to second on GC, with Evans in third after Tony Martin showed why he won't finish in the Tour's top ten, cracking badly on the Joux Plane.
While Sky were strong, it was also noticeable just how average some of their opposition were though. Evans was badly isolated once van Garderen blew, and Nibali will be worried after he went into the red and out of the peloton half-way up the Joux Plan.
1 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 4:46:12
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:16
3 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team 0:00:24
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
5 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica GreenEdge
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
7 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
9 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan
General classification after stage 6 1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 23:40:59
2 Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:01:20
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:01:36
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:48
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:02:22
6 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar Team 0:02:58
7 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:03:07
8 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:03:26
9 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:03:44
10 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:03:51
Thanks for joining us and remember to check back here for our report, photos and results.