Nicolas Vogondy took the first French win in this year’s Dauphiné with a late attack on the final slope up to the ski station at Risoul.
Vogondy’s attack was the last in a series of bursts and with the overall contenders neutralising each other’s efforts, escaping from the lead group with just 1.5km left to race.
It was the most aggressive day’s racing and attacks started coming as soon as the bunch hit the climb to Risoul, a climb up to an altitude of 1870m.
Danny Pate and Stefan Denifl escaped just 30 kilometres into the stage, with Denifl leaving Pate to fend for himself as the road started to tilt upwards at the bottom of the climb. The Austrian’s lead was as steady as his cadence as he continued to command a lead of over two minutes over the thinning bunch.
It was with just three kilometres remaining that Denifl’s lead really started to shrink with a sudden move from Russian Denis Menchov. The attack was enough to shut down Denifl’s heroic escape attempt, as Alberto Contador showed himself for the first time on the climb, dancing out of the saddle to bridge back up to Menchov.
Shortly after, Vogondy was to make his decisive move. Contador attacked hard again, but this time what was left of the front group was comfortably tucked behind the Spaniard.
It was to be a French one-two as neo-pro Romain Sicard used the chaos on the climb to sneak away in the closing stages and claim second. Janez Brajkovic finished safely in third to retain the race lead.
With more climbing on the agenda tomorrow, with a mountainous stage to Grenoble – encompassing the HC-rated Chamrousse climb – Brajkovic’s race lead looks increasingly secure.
Welshman Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) lost his lead in the points classification to Brajkovic, who now leads Thomas but just one point.
Criterium du Dauphiné
Stage four: Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux – Risoul, 210km
1. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
2. Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 12sec
3. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) RadioShack at 15sec
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at same time
5. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 18sec
6. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
8. Eros Capecchi (Ita) Footon-Servetto at same time
9. Remi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis at 23sec
10. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at same time
General classification after stage four:
1. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) RadioShack 16:25-44
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Columbia at 1-15
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-41
4. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 1-56
5. Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom at 2-43
6. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 2-55
7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 3-06
8. Christian Knees (Ger) Milram at 3-10
9. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis at 3-28
10. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 3-29
19. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 4-38
Stage four scenery
RadioShack chase the break for race leader Janez Brajkovic
Britain’s Geraint Thomas
Frederik Kessiakoff assists David Millar
Alberto Contador leads Janez Brajkovic, but couldn’t shake him off
Nicolas Vogondy goes solo for the win