The Critérium du Dauphiné has always had the reputation of being a miniature Tour de France before the big event in July itself, and this was confirmed again on Monday when Cadel Evans (BMC) took the stage victory while Bradley Wiggins (Sky) moved into the general classification lead. Both Tour de France overall favourites showed themselves at the front, and while the same could not be said of Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), one of the last pre-Tour tests lived up to its expectations.
At the stage finish in Saint-Vallier, following Evans' victorious sprint of a three-man group, morale at the BMC team bus was understandably high. But team director John Lelangue insisted that the Australian did not only prepare the Tour de France at the Dauphiné, but also came for the event itself. "It wasn't our intention to deal out a blow to our rivals for the Tour - we want to ride a good Dauphiné," the manager told Sporza. But he couldn't deny that almost everything that happened at the French stage race could be interpreted in view of the Tour.
"We are here with almost our complete Tour squad. It is a good dress rehearsal for us."
Unlike over at RadioShack, BMC has nothing to worry about in light of the recent results. "Cadel has a good altitude training camp behind him. His programme was purposely lighter than last year, but he's in good shape already. In three weeks, he will be even much better," added Lelangue, who however did not want to comment on Andy Schleck's poor performance.
"I don't look at our rivals, only at our own team. And this team is completely on the desired level at the moment."
Still, when it came to equally positive performances as Evans such as Wiggins' grip on the yellow jersey, Lelangue naturally spoke of his squad's competitors. "Wiggins may be our strongest rival in this Dauphiné. He was already good last year and without his crash at the Tour, would have been a difficult client at the Tour."