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Dessel at the right time, Valverde holds the lead

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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale)

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christophe Le Mével (Credit Agricole)

Christophe Le Mével (Credit Agricole) (Image credit: JF Quenet)
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Valverde seems to be telling Leipheimer

Valverde seems to be telling Leipheimer (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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France's Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), 33, wins stage four of the Dauphiné Libéré after soloing down from the la Montée du Mont-Salève.

France's Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale), 33, wins stage four of the Dauphiné Libéré after soloing down from the la Montée du Mont-Salève. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Pierre Rolland (Credit Agricole) could not hold onto Dessel's wheel, and was sorely disappointed with second.

Pierre Rolland (Credit Agricole) could not hold onto Dessel's wheel, and was sorely disappointed with second. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The lead group rolls through the French countryside.

The lead group rolls through the French countryside. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The peloton rolls through the countryside enjoying stunning views.

The peloton rolls through the countryside enjoying stunning views. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer and a teammate descent on stage four.

Levi Leipheimer and a teammate descent on stage four. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) wears the jersey of best climber.

David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) wears the jersey of best climber. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Robert Gesink pulls up the climb and is closely followed by the yellow jersey and Leipheimer.

Robert Gesink pulls up the climb and is closely followed by the yellow jersey and Leipheimer. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer is a vision of colour with green and red, white and blue.

Levi Leipheimer is a vision of colour with green and red, white and blue. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) put in a heroic effort to win the stage.

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) put in a heroic effort to win the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Dessel scores a win in the fourth stage.

Dessel scores a win in the fourth stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Dessel leads the break on the final climb.

Dessel leads the break on the final climb. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans looks a bit unhappy while riding in the peloton behind Valverde.

Cadel Evans looks a bit unhappy while riding in the peloton behind Valverde. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Valverde seems to be telling Leipheimer that his team needs to pitch in to control the break since his own team has Pereiro up there.

Valverde seems to be telling Leipheimer that his team needs to pitch in to control the break since his own team has Pereiro up there. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roy Sentjens (Silence - Lotto) was one of 16 men off the front together.

Roy Sentjens (Silence - Lotto) was one of 16 men off the front together. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), another break member.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), another break member. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Bart Dockx (Silence Lotto)

Jose Angel Gomez Marchante (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Bart Dockx (Silence Lotto) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Australian champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) is easy to spot.

Australian champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence-Lotto) is easy to spot. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer sits in the Astana train.

Levi Leipheimer sits in the Astana train. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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These guys are definitely working: Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana)

These guys are definitely working: Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robert Gesink (Rabobank) drives the pace.

Robert Gesink (Rabobank) drives the pace. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roy Sentjens (Silence Lotto)

Roy Sentjens (Silence Lotto) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christophe Brandt and Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto

Christophe Brandt and Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) in the aero position.

Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) in the aero position. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto)

Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) gets the win.

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) gets the win. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) on his way to a stage win.

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) on his way to a stage win. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) on the podium.

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) on the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale)

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) sets the pace.

Cyril Dessel (AG2R La Mondiale) sets the pace. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and Roy Sentjens (Silence - Lotto)

Frederik Willems (Liquigas) and Roy Sentjens (Silence - Lotto) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frederik Willems (Liquigas) was in the stage four break.

Frederik Willems (Liquigas) was in the stage four break. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frederik Willems (Liquigas) was clearly focused on the task at hand.

Frederik Willems (Liquigas) was clearly focused on the task at hand. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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William Walker (Rabobank) takes a turn at the front.

William Walker (Rabobank) takes a turn at the front. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) attacked the front group.

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) attacked the front group. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) clad in green and yellow.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) clad in green and yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) racing along in his drops

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) racing along in his drops (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) on a descent.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) on a descent. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) well protected by his team-mates.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) well protected by his team-mates. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) could get used to wearing yellow.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) could get used to wearing yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Christophe Le Mével was talkative before going in the right breakaway and finishing 7th in Annemasse.

Christophe Le Mével was talkative before going in the right breakaway and finishing 7th in Annemasse. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Sandy Casar (FdJ) shows off his bike.

Sandy Casar (FdJ) shows off his bike. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Rémi Di Gregorio was unfortunate to puncture at the bottom of the Mont Salève but he climbed really well after a wheel change.

Rémi Di Gregorio was unfortunate to puncture at the bottom of the Mont Salève but he climbed really well after a wheel change. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Leipheimer signs on for stage four.

Leipheimer signs on for stage four. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Levi Leipheimer wears the green jersey of points leader, holding it for Valverde.

Levi Leipheimer wears the green jersey of points leader, holding it for Valverde. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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The Rabobank team confers before the start of stage four.

The Rabobank team confers before the start of stage four. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Evans sits in the group of favourites and is never too far from the front.

Evans sits in the group of favourites and is never too far from the front. (Image credit: Philippe Soubiran)

AG2R's Cyril Dessel, already a stage winner at the Four Days of Dunkirk and the Tour of Catalunya, added to his impressive 2008 palmares with a spectacular solo win on stage four in the Dauphiné. The Frenchman attacked the survivors of a day-long breakaway, catching and passing the young French hope Pierre Rolland (Crédit Agricole) on the final climb with 20 kilometres to go, and then courageously holding his lead to the line.

In the group of favourites, only Michael Rogers of High Road attacked the yellow jersey Alejandro Valverde, breaking clear before the line, but only gaining a few seconds over his rivals.

"It was a very fast stage," Valverde noted. "Initially we didn't want to let a breakaway go, but the presence of Oscar Pereiro in it made things easier for us. In the final climb, we controlled the situation. I had very good sensations. On the climb I could feel some pain in my legs, but that was the consequence of the time trial the day before, otherwise I was climbing well."

There was a race within a race as the breakaway realized that none of them would threaten Valverde's yellow jersey – the highest ranked rider was Lars Bak in 12th place at 2'47 with Pereiro in 13th at 2'48. It was then an all-out battle for stage glory.

The French riders, who last year scored the overall Dauphiné victory thanks to Christophe Moreau, were especially interested in the stage win and made a 1-2-3 with Dessel, Rolland and Amaël Moinard. It was Thomas Voeckler who was first to attack from the front group prior to climbing the grueling Mont Salève. Second year pro Rolland had no fear to go with him and drop him off. "I realized he was nervous," the 21-year-old from Crédit Agricole explained. "Unfortunately, Dessel rejoined me and passed me as he was sprinting."

"I wanted to go solo downhill to be able to choose my way down to the finishing town," Dessel, a former yellow jersey in the Tour de France confirmed. "My idea was to catch Rolland before the summit." The young one had no clue about the Mont Salève, a very steep climb nearby Geneva but still on the French territory. Dessel knew it since he climbed it once at the age of 14 with his father before he got his first racing license. Rolland thought the climb was over although there were still two kilometers before the summit.

"With a stage win, my contract at the Dauphiné is filled up," Dessel said. "I didn't necessarily plan to attack today, but I was inspired by my team-mate José Luis Arrieta who was calling the young riders to go to the front with the attacks. Only with attacking there's a chance of getting a result, I know that well. If I can get another top ten at the Dauphiné, I'll go for it."

There will be another grueling climb and a very likely similar scenario with Joux-Plane scheduled in stage five before arriving in Morzine. "I can feel my rivals are ready to attack me," Valverde observed. "They wanted to try something in the Salève but it went too fast. I have seen Robert Gesink was very strong in the climb and his Rabobank team was very committed as well. It wasn't a goal for me to win the Dauphiné at the beginning but now I'll try to. I will fight without taking risks though."

How it unfolded

Yaroslav Popovych (Silence-Lotto) gave birth to the first breakaway of the day at kilometre five. The Ukrainian was followed by Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Emanuele Bindi (Lampre), Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas), Karsten Kroon (CSC) and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval). There was a quick reaction from the bunch.

At km 12, Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) went clear. Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) joined him but once again, the bunch reacted. After one hour of extremely intense fighting, 16 men finally found their way out at km 62: Roy Sentjens (Silence-Lotto), Sergio Paulinho (Astana), Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), Juan José Oroz (Euskaltel), Pierre Rolland and Christophe Le Mével (Crédit Agricole), Juan Manuel Garate (Quick Step), Cyril Dessel (Ag2r), Amaël Moinard (Cofidis), Heinrich Haussler and Peter Wrolich (Gerolsteiner), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Frederik Willems (Liquigas), Lars Bak (CSC), David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) and Dominik Roels (Milram).

Eight kilometers further, their advantage was 2'50 over a bunch led by the Caisse d'Epargne team of race leader Alejandro Valverde. At km 114, the gap was 3'40 and Rabobank came to the front to give a hand to the Spanish team.

In the first small climbs, De La Fuente consolidated his polka dot jersey. Voeckler attacked at km 160. Rolland joined him away while Roels and Haussler stayed in between. At the foot of the Mont Salève (km 168.5), Rolland went solo. A trio was formed behind him by Dessel, Paulinho and Moinard.

At km 173.5, Dessel overtook Rolland and attacked straight away. Dessel was fist at the top of the Salève 22 seconds ahead of Rolland and 2'40 ahead of the group of the favorites with all the main contenders there, including Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who accelerated towards the top.

Despite a fright in the downhill, Dessel took his first Dauphiné win in Annemasse. Rolland came 2nd and Valverde kept his lead.

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