David Moncoutié conquered the summit of Saint-François-Longchamp alone to take the seventh stage of this year’s Dauphiné Libéré in France.
The Cofidis rider was the single remnant of an earlier 21-man breakaway that strung out along the route of today’s tough mountain stage. In baking conditions, the riders had to ascend and descend the legendary Col du Galibier and Col de la Croix de Fer before finishing atop Saint-François-Longchamp.
Snapping at the Frenchman’s heels were a compact unit of overall favourites, all trying to out-fox each other in the fight for vital seconds.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) were engaged in a cat-and-mouse game to the line. In the end, it was Gesink who edged ahead to take second after foiling a late attack by Evans. Valverde reached the line just behind Evans, exhausted but with his lead intact.
Alberto Contador (Astana) let the trio have their fun, and trailed in 14 seconds adrift – enough to limit his losses and keep his third place overall.
Britain’s David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream), who started the stage in fifth overall, came home over four minutes down on Moncoutié and has slipped to ninth overall.
Millar’s chances of a podium finish may be over, but he has shown that his form has come back together after breaking his collarbone during Paris-Nice in the spring. Next stop, Tour de France.
The race concludes tomorrow (Sunday) with a 146km stage from Faverges to Grenoble with three categorised climbs. There’s still opportunity for Evans to overthrow Valverde by snatching back his 16 second deficit, but it will require a big effort. Is the Australian willing to take chances so close to the Tour?
Stage seven; Briançon-Saint-François-Longchamp, 157km
1. David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis in 4-44-26
2. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 0-41
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at same time
5. Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank at 53sec
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 55sec
7. Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Francaise Des Jeux at 1-28
8. Vicenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 2-19
9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence-Lotto at 2-25
10. Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-32
17. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Slipstream at 4-17
18. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 4-17
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 16sec
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-18
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 2-41
5. Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-40
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank at 4-08
7. Vicenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 4-21
8. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana at 5-05
9. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Slipstream at 5-28
10. Christophe Le Mével (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 6-19
Garmin duo Daniel Martin and David Millar (left) came in 17th and 18th
Col du Lautaret
Alberto Contador and race leader Alejandro Valverde
The mighty Col du Galibier