Christophe Moreau (Ag2R) had a trouble-free ride to the second Dauphine Libere win of his career on Sunday, whilst Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov proved yet again that Astana will be the Tour team to beat by securing a fourth stage win for his squad ? and his second of the week.
Moreau?s most dangerous moment came on the Col du Forclaz, a severely steep first category climb situated less than 20 kilometres from the finish in Annecy. Astana upped the pace and the front group shrank to less than a dozen riders.
Isolated from his team, Moreau looked a shade vulnerable, but in fact there were no attacks from his closest pursuer overall, Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto). Andrey Kashechkin, third on gc, was yo-yoing off the back of the group so clearly wasn?t going to be a threat.
Saunier Duval?s climber Leonardo Piepoli tried to get away on the descent into Annecy but never gained more than a dozen seconds. Then American Levi Leipheimer?s attempt to restore some credibility following his disastrous stage through the Alps the day before initially looked more promising.
However, the Discovery Channel rider came a cropper on a roundabout, effectively gifting Vinokourov, who?d attacked just after him, the stage. Vino? then soloed to an impressive lone victory, and Astana?s third win in as many days. The Dauphine may have slipped out of the Kazakh team?s clutches, but overall Astana are clearly heading for July at full speed.
As for Moreau, seventh on the stage meant he could raise his right arm in victory as he crossed the line for the second Dauphine Libere win of his career. The veteran?s win also means he will be French favourite yet again for the Tour. At the same Evans, even if not the most adventurous of riders (?he never attacks? was how Vinokourov described the Australian), is also looking good for July.
Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) had no problems on the rainsoaked stage, finishing just over 15 minutes down. ?He got through fine.? Team manager Eric Boyer told CW. ?No crashes or anything. This week couldn?t have gone better: you could say we?ve discovered a new Bradley Wiggins.?
b>DAUPHINE LIBERE: STAGE SEVEN VALLOIRE – ANNECY
1 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 129km in 2-55-33
2 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 37sec
3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
5 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Lampre
6 Manuel Beltrán (Spa) Liquigas
7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R
8 Jose Antonio Redondo (Spa) Astana
9 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana
10 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery Channel all st
54 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 5-08
108 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis at 15-33
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2R 29-50-35
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor-Lotto at 14sec
3 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana at 1-27
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-52
5 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC at 2-16
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Discovery at 4-24
7 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5-00
8 Manuel Beltrán (Spa) Liquigas at 5-01
9 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Lampre at 5-17
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at 5-38
54 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir at 36-08
95 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis at 1-14-27