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Rookie Trofimov capitalizes on Valverde-Evans duel

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Trofimov took off from the break and won solo

Trofimov took off from the break and won solo (Image credit: AFP)
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Cadel Evans takes second

Cadel Evans takes second (Image credit: AFP)
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Trofimov leads the trio

Trofimov leads the trio (Image credit: AFP)
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Evans leads Valverde home a few seconds ahead of the other favourites.

Evans leads Valverde home a few seconds ahead of the other favourites. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) wins the tough ride to Morzine.

Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) wins the tough ride to Morzine. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Trofimov took off from the break after the top of the Col de Joux-Plane was passed.

Trofimov took off from the break after the top of the Col de Joux-Plane was passed. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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The Russian savoured his victory 18 seconds ahead of Cadel Evans.

The Russian savoured his victory 18 seconds ahead of Cadel Evans. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Valverde smiles on the podium as he continues to lead the overall.

Valverde smiles on the podium as he continues to lead the overall. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) is all smiles as he celebrated one of his biggest wins today.

Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) is all smiles as he celebrated one of his biggest wins today. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans takes second on the stage ahead of Valverde.

Cadel Evans takes second on the stage ahead of Valverde. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Trofimov leads the trio of Juan Jose Cobo and Vladimir Efimkin.

Trofimov leads the trio of Juan Jose Cobo and Vladimir Efimkin. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Valverde responded to the attacks and finally got away with Evans.

Valverde responded to the attacks and finally got away with Evans. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Evans grits his teeth and gets ready to leave some folks behind.

Evans grits his teeth and gets ready to leave some folks behind. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer struggled on the climb, losing more than a minute to Valverde.

Levi Leipheimer struggled on the climb, losing more than a minute to Valverde. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Valverde's team leads on the descent before the final climb.

Valverde's team leads on the descent before the final climb. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Cadel Evans stretches his legs on the Col de la Joux-Plane

Cadel Evans stretches his legs on the Col de la Joux-Plane (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Valverde spots Evans' attack and then goes after him.

Valverde spots Evans' attack and then goes after him. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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George Hincapie (High Road) looking relaxed on a descent.

George Hincapie (High Road) looking relaxed on a descent. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lampre's Sylvester Szmyd rode well to finish fifth on the stage.

Lampre's Sylvester Szmyd rode well to finish fifth on the stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The group of favourites begins the ascent of the Joux-Plane.

The group of favourites begins the ascent of the Joux-Plane. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alejandro Valverde looked solid on the hilly stage to Morzine.

Alejandro Valverde looked solid on the hilly stage to Morzine. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Valverde enjoys his podium time after keeping yellow for another day.

Valverde enjoys his podium time after keeping yellow for another day. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Valverde used up all his team-mates to help him keep the yellow jersey.

Valverde used up all his team-mates to help him keep the yellow jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) stayed with the favourites until the final climb, where he could not hold on.

Maxime Monfort (Cofidis) stayed with the favourites until the final climb, where he could not hold on. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Russian jokes around on the podium.

The Russian jokes around on the podium. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Trofimov is having a good year.

Trofimov is having a good year. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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24-year-old Trofimov took his second win of 2008 after taking a stage and the overall in Etoile de Besseges.

24-year-old Trofimov took his second win of 2008 after taking a stage and the overall in Etoile de Besseges. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Trofimov leads the break on the way to Morzine.

Trofimov leads the break on the way to Morzine. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Crédit Agricole's Simon Gerrans is one of the stars of the publicity caravan at the Dauphiné.

Crédit Agricole's Simon Gerrans is one of the stars of the publicity caravan at the Dauphiné. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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French fan shows his support for banned rider Alexandre Vinokourov...

French fan shows his support for banned rider Alexandre Vinokourov... (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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...and for an Astana entry at this year's Tour de France.

...and for an Astana entry at this year's Tour de France. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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French climber Rémi Di Gregorio had pre-race advice from his Française des Jeux DS Thierry Bricaud.

French climber Rémi Di Gregorio had pre-race advice from his Française des Jeux DS Thierry Bricaud. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) had a good laugh before the start.

Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) had a good laugh before the start. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Scott) passed all the climbs of the day in first position.

Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval-Scott) passed all the climbs of the day in first position. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Yuriy Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) is congratulated by the mayor of Morzine.

Yuriy Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) is congratulated by the mayor of Morzine. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Russia's Yuriy Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) celebrates his stage win on the podium.

Russia's Yuriy Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) celebrates his stage win on the podium. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) continues to lead the race.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) continues to lead the race. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) cools down after the stage.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) cools down after the stage. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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'Hey, don't I know you from somewhere': Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) chats with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

'Hey, don't I know you from somewhere': Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) chats with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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'Next month, you climb here and I'll sit in behind, okay?' Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) chats with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

'Next month, you climb here and I'll sit in behind, okay?' Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) chats with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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No, Alejandro, beer is not a banned substance!

No, Alejandro, beer is not a banned substance! (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)
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Russia's Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) was delighted with his stage win.

Russia's Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom) was delighted with his stage win. (Image credit: Jean-François Quénet)

Russian Yuriy Trofimov created a surprise by claiming a stunning solo victory in Morzine. The Bouygues Telecom rider distanced his breakaway companions on the Col de Joux-Plane, and then held off the charge of the favourites to the line, just 18 seconds ahead of an unusually aggressive Cadel Evans and yellow jersey Alejandro Valverde.

"This victory is a big surprise for me," Trofimov explained. It's not a common affair that a first year pro wins a mountain stage in such a prestigious race. That's why the Russian added: "It's hard for me to realize what I've done."

"At the beginning of the stage, I didn't think I could win it. It's only at the end that I had an opportunity to do it. As I was first at the top before going down to Morzine, I became confident because the practice of mountain-biking made me going good in downhill. Now my ambition is to make a top 10 overall in the Dauphiné.

"I don't know if I'll do the Tour de France, it's not up to me to choose." He'll probably be lined up by Bouygues Telecom after winning the stage of Joux-Plane at the Dauphiné.The Russian is scheduled to go to Beijing for the Olympics as a mountain biker. He's now fourth on GC between Leipheimer and Robert Gesink (Rabobank), who will target the podium with the intention of giving it all on the way to La Toussuire.

The steep slopes of the Joux-Plane also provided the battlefield of champions, where a fit and feisty Gesink, who caused the selection of the group of favourites with a strong acceleration. The harshest attack came from Valverde, who made Levi Leipheimer come unglued. The American clawed his way back into the group only to come off again with an attack from Evans.

The Australian was very active towards the top of Joux-Plane but admitted he didn't think he'd be able to dethrone Valverde in Morzine. "I tried more to get some time onto Leipheimer," he commented. "I go one step at the time. I've tried to become second before thinking of getting first. Tomorrow we'll see. The day after is also selective but tomorrow is a hectic stage. Today in the hills I felt just ok, there's still a little bit of improvement that I need in my climbing." While Valverde is more of a favorite than ever, the Silence-Lotto rider is laying in an interesting waiting position prior to the queen stage

Evans rode strongly up to Joux-Plane but Valverde didn't show any weakness. "I always had good sensations," the Spaniard commented. "I have attacked at some stage in order to test Evans and Leipheimer. Evans saw it and he passed in front of me. He did all the work till the finishing line. He seemed to go very well. Today was a duel, but at the Tour de France, there will be Cunego, Menchov, Sastre, Schleck as well..."

There was another rider who looked happy at the finish: Michael Rogers. For the second day in a row, the Australian played a major role in the mountains and came home with Leipheimer about one minute after the duelling Evans and Valverde. "Slowly, this gives me the will to ride the Tour," the man from Canberra noted after crossing the line.

Saturday's longest stage of the Dauphiné will take the riders to La Toussuire via the grueling climb of La Croix-de-Fer. Another duel between Valverde and Evans is expected and it'll be interesting to see if super climber Gesink is on fire.

How it unfolded

Many skirmishes made the beginning of the race intense. Christophe Le Mével (Crédit Agricole), Matteo Carrara (Quick Step) and Rigoberto Uran (Caisse d'Epargne) formed a group of aggressive riders at km 32 before Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) attacked with Alexandr Kuchynski (Liquigas) at km 40. They also weren't successful.

Hubert Dupont (Ag2r) went away at the bottom of the col de Saxel (km 45). He was soon rejoined by Daniel Navarro (Astana), Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r), Yuriy Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom), Juan José Cobo (Saunier Duval), George Hincapie (High Road), Alexandr Kuchynski (Liquigas) and Inigo Cuesta (CSC).

At km 68, the whole Caisse d'Epargne team led the bunch exactly three minutes behind the eight men away. At km 100 at the bottom of the col de Joux-Plane, the peloton was 2'15" behind and exploded very quickly under the action of Robert Gesink (Rabobank). In the breakaway, Efimkin, Trofimov, Cuesta and Cobo dropped the other riders one by one, then it was the turn of Cuesta and Efimkin.

Cobo passed the summit of Joux-Plane in first position ahead of Trofimov who passed him and went away solo in the col de Ranfolly which prolongs Joux-Plane. The group of the favorites was 43 seconds behind at the top with only five riders: Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Sylvester Szmyd (Lampre) and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel). Levi Leipheimer (Astana) cracked two kilometers from the summit.

Trofimov descended well to keep an 18 seconds advantage on Evans and Valverde, who kept the yellow jersey while Cobo took the polka dot jersey over from his team-mate David De La Fuente after passing all the climbs of the day in first position.

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