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Hyper-aggressive position for the sprint lead-out
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Live coverage of the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, 155.5km from Sisteron to Risoul.
As we pick up the action, a 24-man break is approaching the summit of the third category climb of the Côte de la Bréole with a lead of 3:35 over the main peloton.
The attacking was sparked by Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) shortly after the peloton left Sisteron under leaden skies. The Belgian's move triggered a flurry of counter-attacks and the last men boarded the train after 13km of racing.
The 24 riders in the break are as follows:
Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), Francesco Gavazzi, Andriy Grivko (Astana), Yannick Eijssen, Manuel Quinziato (BMC), Juan Manuel Garate, Marc Goos (Blanco), Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Leopard), Travis Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Mikel Astarloza, Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Anthony Geslin (FDJ), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Alessandro De Marchi, Jose Sarmiento (Cannondale), Jonathan Castroviejo, Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), William Clarke, Thomas Damuseau (Argos-Shimano) and Sebastien Duret (Bretagne-Seché).
Two early abandons to report on this final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné. Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) have both climbed off this morning. Elissonde was suffering from illness yesterday and finished the stage 45 minutes down after spending most of the stage lingering just in front of the broom wagon.
Not surprisingly, king of the mountains Thomas Damuseau (Argos-Shimano) leads the break over the top of the Bréole (5.4km at 5%), ahead of Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Anthony Geslin (FDJ).
The two remaining climbs on today's stage are significantly tougher propositions, of course. The first category Col de Vars (10.4 km à 6,9 %) comes after 119km of racing before the summit finish atop the first category Montée de Risoul, which climbs for 13.9 km at an average gradient of 6,7 %.
Damuseau's victory atop the climb has essentially sealed the king of the mountains competition for him. Chris Froome (Sky) has not quite won the Dauphiné just yet, but he is in a very commanding position coming into the final stage.
The GC picture is as follows:
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 25:00:13
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:51
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:37
4 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 0:01:47
5 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:49
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:02:04
7 Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 0:02:32
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:47
9 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp 0:02:48
10 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:02:56
Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) says that problems with pollen allergiesmean that he rarely performs well in June
. That problem is lightened somewhat when it rains, however, so the Spaniard will be doubtless be happy that the heavens opened on the way up the Bréole. The peloton reached the top of the climb 3:25 down on the escapees.
As we saw yesterday, it can be difficult for a large break to work smoothly together and the situation seems to be repeating itself here. Sky are riding tempo on the front of the peloton and the break's lead has been clipped back to 2:40 at the feed zone at Le Lauzet-Ubaye.
Passing through the feed zone, five more riders opt to bring their Dauphiné to a premature halt. Thor Hushovd, Ivan Santaromita (BMC), David Lopez (Sky), Sylvain Chavanel and Pieter Serry (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) have all climbed off.
As the Dauphiné winds down this weekend, across the border in Switzerland, the Tour de Suisse is just getting underway. You can read about Cameron Meyer's victory in yesterday's stage one time trial here.
Meanwhile, four more riders have opted to abandon here. Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), Ben King (RadioShack Leopard), Thomas De Gendt (Vacaonsoleil-DCM) and Nikolas Maes (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) have all peeled off their dossards and climbed into their team cars.
The peloton comes through the 80 kilometre mark 2:40 down on the escapees. The rain has been falling steadily for over an hour and the temperature is a chilly 13 degrees. The road is beginning to climb slightly too, although we are still 30 kilometres from the foot of the Col de Vars proper.
Saxo-Tinkoff are leading the pursuit of the escapees with the Sky train lined up just behind them. Today's stage is an important test for Alberto Contador ahead of the Tour, while Michael Rogers is looking to maintain his podium place here.
Chris Froome's yellow and blue jersey is hidden underneath a black Team Sky jacket. Indeed, racing capes are the norm in the bunch on what is an increasingly miserable afternoon. The general mood in the bunch is hardly helped by the fact that a queue of Saxo-Tinkoff and Sky riders are stringing the race out into one long line.
Up ahead, the 24 escapees have a lead of 2:34 and are trying to maintain their cohesion at least as far as the foot of the Col de Vars.
Nicki Sørensen (Saxo-Tinkoff) is putting a mammoth turn on the front of the peloton, resting his forearms on his handlebars like Michele Bartoli in the post-Spinaci bars days. The Dane's efforts have brought the break's lead down to a shade over two minutes.
Andriy Grivko puts in such a powerful turn at the head of the break that he briefly drifts off the front with Juan Antonio Flecha, but he quickly checks his pace and waits for his companions. The break is approaching the foot of the Col de Vars.
A moment of seemingly unbridled mirth for Edvald Boasson Hagen in the main peloton as he helps Chris Froome extract an energy gel from the pocket of his jersey. At least someone's happy - there are a lot of understandably glum faces in the peloton this afternoon.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) attacks from the break as they approach the base of the Col de Vars. Just like yesterday at the foot of the Col du Noyer, Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) moves across to his wheel.
Wellens and De Marchi are now on the lower slopes of the Col du Vars, and their lead over the peloton is two minutes. The remnants of the break is 12 seconds behind this leading pair.
Travis Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) has bridged up to Wellens and De Marchi at the front of the race, while the remnants of the break are some 20 seconds further back the road.
Meyer comes immediately to the front and begins forcing the pace.
Sergio Paulinho (Saxo-Tinkoff) hands off his rain cape and sets to work at the head of the peloton on the lower slopes of the climb. The Sky team is lined up behind him.
Paulinho opens a temporary gap as soon as he hits the front and Contador moves up immediately to his wheel.
Michael Rogers is up in third position, just ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen and the rest of Froome's Sky guard.
Froome still has five teammates for company near the front of the yellow jersey group, which is beginning to be whittled down by Saxo-Tinkoff's pace-setting.
Travis Meyer has now punched his way clear alone at the head of the race, with five kilometres still to go to the summit of the Col de Vars.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) accelerates out of the main peloton. The Spaniard is 8th overall at 2:47 and he is picking off the remnants of the early break as he sets off in pursuit of Meyer, De Marchi and Wellens.
Valverde has Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) for company. The former Tour de l'Avenir winner and neo-pro is a fine climber and he comes through to the front as soon as he catches up to Valverde.
Barguil and Valverde have a lead of around ten seconds over the yellow jersey group. Up ahead, meanwhile, Alessandro De Marchi has almost battled his way back up to Meyer's wheel.
Barguil and Valverde aren't able to get out of sight of the main peloton, although the young Frenchman opens a small gap over the former Fuentes client each time he comes to the front.
Barguil has dropped Valverde and is now riding his way up through the fractured remains of the day's early break as he sets off in solo pursuit of the leaders.
Valverde and Jose Sarmiento have fought their way back up to Barguil's wheel, but the trio are not far ahead of the Saxo-Tinkoff-led peloton.
At the head of the race, Tim Wellens is straining every sinew to latch back on to the De Marchi and Meyer. He can see them dancing around the corner just ahead of him with a little under a kilometre to go to the top of the Col de Vars.
The Saxo-Tinkoff pace-making is causing problems for Sky in the main peloton. Ian Stannard and Edvald Boasson Hagen have both been struggling at the back for the past couple of kilometres, and the Norwegian champion has just been dropped. He only has 1.5km of climbing left to go, however, so he might be able to get back on terms on the descent.
Alessandro De Marchi leads Travis Meyer through the low cloud over the top of the Col de Vars. Tim Wellens is just behind and the Belgian should get back up to them on the way down.
Barguil crosses the summit a little under two minutes down on the leaders, with Valverde and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) just behind.
Tim Wellens has caught Alessandro De Marchi and Travis Meyer on the descent of the Vars. The trio has a lead of 2:07 over the main peloton, which is still being marhalled by Saxo-Tinkoff.
Ian Stannard and Edvald Boasson Hagen have successfully caught back up the yellow jersey group and indeed are leading on the way down the descent.
Alberto Losada (Katusha) had been caught in the no-man's land between the break and the main peloton, but the Spaniard has descended wonderfully and has made it back up to the leaders. We now have four men at the front with 2:07 in hand on the bunch, while Manuel Quinziato (BMC) is also closing in on the leaders.
Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) crashes on the descent of the Vars and he brings Alberto Contador down with him. Contador is quickly back on his feet and he whips off his cape in frustration before getting back on his bike and giving chase.
Sergio Paulinho waits for Contador and the Iberian duo are now chasing frantically in low cloud through the race convoy.
Ian Stannard (Sky) continues pushing the pace at the head of the yellow jersey group on the descent. Given the conditions, however, he won't want to take any undue risks.
Contador is 20 seconds down on the yellow jersey group, which is itself 2:27 down on the five leaders - Quinziato, Wellens, De Marchi, Losada and Meyer.
Luis Angel Mate, who brought Contador down, has abandoned the race. For his part, Contador is within touching distance at the rear of the yellow jersey group.
Tim Wellens has lost contact with the leaders on the descent, and De Marchi, too, is struggling to hold the wheels on the greasy corners as Quinziato forces the pace. Warren Barguil is in no-man's land, 2:15 down, while the main peloton is at 2:45.
Contador is back in the main peloton, while news reaches us that Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) is the latest rider to abandon the race.
The four leaders begin the final climb to Risoul with a lead of 3:03 over the main peloton, while Warren Barguil gives lone chase 2:15 down.
The final climb to Risoul is 13.9km in length with an average gradient of 6.7%. On paper, it's hardly the toughest climb in the area but the conditions this afternoon will certain heighten the difficulty.
As the main peloton hits the base of the climb, Alberto Contador is locked on Chris Froome's rear wheel. Edvald Boasson Hagen continues to set the pace on the front of the group as the road begins to rear up. They begin the ascent 3:13 down on the leaders.
Travis Meyer and Alberto Losada are doing the bulk of the pace-making in the break on the climb. There are now five leaders, as Tim Wellens has gamely fought his way back on yet again.
Business time for Chris Froome. He has discarded the race cape and for the first time all day, we can see the yellow and blue jersey in full. His Sky teammate Ian Stannard has swung off and it is now Vasili Kiryienka setting the tempo on the front.
Sky are in familiar formation on the front. Kiryienka leads, followed by Boasson Hagen, Geraint Thomas, Peter Kennaugh, Richie Porte and Chris Froome. Alberto Contador and Michael Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff are keeping a watching brief just behind the Sky men.
Sky's tempo is beginning to stretch out the yellow jersey group but so far, all of the big names are still in situ, including yesterday's stage winner Samuel Sanchez, although Contador's teammate Sergio Paulinho has lost contact.
The yo-yo battle at the head of the race continues. Tim Wellens, seemingly out for the count a couple of kilometres ago, has now slipped away alone, although Meyer is leading a determined chase behind him.
Kiryienka is eating up the ground on the steady slopes of Risoul, and stringing out the yellow jersey group as he does so. There are still around 30 riders in this group with a shade over 10km still to go.
Warren Barguil has sat up and been caught by the Kiryienka-led train. The Belarus rider's efforts are also whittling down the break's lead. Wellens now has 2:37 in hand on the main peloton.
Wellens has a decent lead over his four erstwhile companions and is so far doing well to limit the gains being made by Sky behind. The Belgian has a lead of 2:32 over the main peloton.
For the time being, Kiryienka's pace-setting is brisk rather than infernal - it's quick enough to discourage attacks but so far, the heads of state of the peloton seem relatively comfortable.
Kiryienka swings off, his job done for the week and Edvald Boasson Hagen takes over the reins at the front of the yellow jersey group.
Contador, Rogers, Valverde, Dani Moreno, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Samuel Sanchez, Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) and Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) are all still present and correct in this yellow jersey group, which is still being led by Sky. Boasson Hagen leads Thomas, Kennaugh, Porte and Froome at the head of the group.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) is riding very smoothly indeed at the head of the race. The Belgian still has 30 seconds in hand on the Meyer group and, probably more significantly, he maintains a buffer in excess of two minutes over the Froome-Contador group.
Wellens' teammate Van Den Broeck has been dropped from the yellow jersey group, where Matt Busche (RadioShack) has just accelerated off the front with Alberto Contador for company.
Correction, it is Tony Gallopin (RadioShack) who is off the front of the yellow jersey group with Alberto Contador. The pair have a lead of around 50 metres over the Froome group.
At the front of the race, Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) has dragged his way back up to Tim Wellens and has passed the Belgian.
Contador is reticent to come through and help Gallopin, confused, perhaps, by the fact that his teammate Rogers has been dropped from the Sky group and is in danger of losing his third place overall.
Contador sits up and waits for the yellow jersey group, which is now being led by Peter Kennaugh and is just 1:15 down on the lone leader Alessandro De Marchi.
Contador drifts to the back of the yellow jersey group and sits up to wait for Rogers. The Spaniard has opted to sacrifice his hopes of a stage win to try and help Rogers maintain his place on the final overall podium.
Geraint Thomas takes up the pace-setting for Team Sky at the front of the group. Contador tries to coax Rogers back up the yellow jersey group but it seems a lost cause. Indeed, Contador almost rides away from Rogers before correcting his pace.
Porte and Froome come to the front of the yellow jersey group as they pick off the remnants of the earlier break. Only De Marchi remains out in front.
Froome and Porte are on another level. The yellow jersey injects some pace into proceedings with two kilometres to go and only Porte can follow.
Froome is dragging Porte up towards De Marchi. The gap to the Italian is closing with every pedal stroke, while the remains of the yellow jersey group are nowhere to be seen.
De Marchi is in the low cloud near the summit, with a shade over 30 seconds in hand on Froome and Porte.
Froome accelerates with 500 metres to go in a bid to bring Porte back on terms but De Marchi is going to hang on for the win.
Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) wins the stage, while Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) catches back up to Froome and Porte within sight of the line...
Chris Froome wins the sprint for second place, 24 seconds later, just ahead of Talansky, while Porte takes fourth.
Jakob Fuglsang crosses the line in 5th place, and he looks set to move up to third overall from the flagging Michael Rogers.
Jakob Fuglsang crosses the line in 5th place, but it appears that Dani Moreno (Katusha) has done enough to hold off the Dane and claim 3rd place overall. Michael Rogers came in almost two minutes down, accompanied by his teammate Contador.
Chris Froome, of course, has sealed overall victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné, ahead of Sky's Richie Porte. It's the British team's third consecutive win in the race and it suggests that their winning formula is still in place for July.
1Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale4:28:09
2Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling00:00:24
3Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
4Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling00:00:31
5Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team00:00:38
6Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team00:00:49
7Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
8Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha
9Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis00:00:55
10Rohan Dennis (GBr) Garmin-Sharp00:01:00
1Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling29:28:46
2Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling00:00:58
3Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team00:02:12
4Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team00:02:18
5Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits00:02:20
6Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff00:03:08
7Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team00:03:12
8Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin - Sharp00:03:24
9Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi00:04:25
10Alberto Contador (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff00:04:27
Thanks for following our live coverage throughout the Dauphiné, and stay tuned to Cyclingnews during the week for live updates from the Tour of Switzerland. Until then, you will shortly be able to see a full report, pictures and results of today's stage here and we'll also have all the news and reaction from the Alps and from Switzerland.