Bradley Wiggins Dauphine 2007

Briton Bradley Wiggins and his Cofidis team are aiming to protect his Dauphine Libere lead ?for as long as possible.?

?For me personally, I?d love to climb the Ventoux [on Thursday] in yellow, because of Tom [Simpson]," said Wiggins. Simpson died on the mythical climb 40 years ago during the Tour de France.

There had been speculation whether Cofidis would ease back in order to protect the longer-term interests of their gc rider Sylvain Chavanel, or get stuck into defending what they had already achieved with Wiggins and his prologue victory.

?It?s been decided. We?re going to defend the lead come what may.? team manager Francis Van Londersele told CW. ?Even Sylvain will work for Bradley if need be.?

?This is the lead of the Dauphine Libere. You don?t throw that away just like that.?

?They want to defend it, the team are happy to honour the jersey.? Wiggins told CW on Monday morning at the start in Grenoble. ?Today, and tomorrow and hopefully to the time trial on Wednesday.?

?A 40 kilometre time trial isn?t super for me, but the way I?m going now, you never know.?

?So I?ll take it on the day by day. There?s no bonuses [for the sprint finishes] which is great, and I don?t know if I?ll be able to defend my lead on Wednesday against [American specialist Dave] Zabriskie. But we?ll see.?

Half-way through Monday?s rainsoaked 219 kilometre slog from Grenoble to Roanne, Frenchmen Nicolas Portal (Caisse D?Epargne) and Remi Pauriol (Credit Agricole) had an eight minute lead on the bunch. (Check back for updates after the stage).

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