France took their first stage win of the 2008 Dauphine thanks to a gutsy mountain-top move and even more courageous descent by Frenchman Cyril Dessel.
The Ag2R pro nearly came a cropper twice on the perilous descent off the Col de Le Saleve to the finish at Annemasse. But fortunately the 34-year-old Frenchman stayed upright and in control for a well-deserved solo win.
?Doing the downhill section alone was key to my success.? Dessel said afterwards. ?It was far less risky than going for it in a group of riders.?
?I got past the last guy ahead of me, [Pierre] Rolland (Credit Agricole), close to the summit of the Saleve, and then just gave it everything on the descent.?
Dessel?s success was born out of forming part of a 16-man break that shattered on the approach to the first category Saleve climb.
?Rolland went away and then I attacked with four other riders.? By the top of the toughest part of the climb – the first five kilometres – Dessel was alone and had the 21-year-old Credit Agricole pro in his sights.
Passing Rolland on the false flats that preceded the vertiginous drop down to Annemasse, Dessel then used the same descending skills that had already won him the toughest mountain stage in the Tour of Catalonia in May to snaffle a Dauphine stage win.
His victory also pushed him into fourth place overall, although he said he has no intention of going for the gc either in the Dauphine or in his big target for the summer, the Tour.
?If I finished nineth in the Tour, nobody would notice. Far better to get a stage win – and if I get in the top ten as a result, so much the better!?
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde had no problems on the Saleve, although he stayed close to the front and watching his top rivals Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) very closely. By the summit of the Saleve, there were a bare two dozen riders in the leader?s group, including Britain?s Charly Wegelius and the technical descent meant there was no chance of getting back on.
?There were no attacks, I think everybody was tired after the time trial.? Valverde said.
?But I could see that Leipheimer and Evans were in good shape, and I?m sure on the Joux-Plane tomorrow [Friday], they?ll try to do something. I?ve never been up the Joux-Plane before, but I know it?s much harder than anything we had to tackle today.?
Whilst pleased with his 30th place, Wegelius admitted to Cycling Weekly that he was ?lucky that there weren?t any big attacks on the climb by the favourites. I probably wouldn?t have been able to handle them.?
?It was a very tough climb, some of the hairpins were really steep.?
?It would have best if I?d been in the break, but in any case, I didn?t have the legs for that, because it was so fast [nearly 50 kmh in the first hour and a half] early on.?
?The way I?m going now after the Giro, it takes me a couple of hours to get really going. My team-mates are pleased that there aren?t too many climbs early on, but if there are, maybe I?ll be able to get into a move.?
Wegelius agreed that the final downhill was ?really dangerous, very dirty on the inside of the curves and not my thing at all.?
?I actually went away at the top in the hope that I?d get down at least half way by myself, but it didn?t work out.?
DAUPHINE LIBERE STAGE FOUR RESULTS
1 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2R 193km in 4hr 37min 16sec
2 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Credit Agricole at 18sec
3 Amael Moinard (Fra) Cofidis at 1min 21sec
4 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne same time
5 Lars Bak (Den) CSC at 2min 07sec
6 David De La Fuente (Spa) Saunier Duval-Scott
7 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Credit Agricole
8 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Credit Agricole all same time
9 Michael Rogers (Aus) High Road at 2min 09sec
10 Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux at 2min 11sec
30 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas same time
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE FOUR
1 Alejandro Valvede (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne 14hr 49min 46sec
2 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 23sec
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 37sec
4 Cyril Dessel (Fra) Ag2R at 1min 08sec
5 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis at 1min 17sec
6 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 1min 20sec
7 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 1min 58sec
8 Robert Gesink (Hol) Rabobank at 2min 28sec
9 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Credit Agricole at 2min 29sec
10 Yuri Trufimov (Rus) Bouygues at 2min 34sec
30 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 4min 41sec
Cyril Dessel’s definitive move in the mountains
Cyril Dessel wins the stage
Alejandro Valverde retains the race lead and gets a nice bunch of flowers
All photos by Luc Claessen/ISPA
DAUPHINE LIBERE 2008: STAGE REPORTS
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