By Nigel Wynn
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has won the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné overall, with Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) taking the final stage win atop La Toussuire on Sunday.
It's Wiggins' - and team Sky's - biggest road win to date and confirms that he is on great form ahead of the Tour de France in July. He is only the third British rider to win the Dauphiné, after Briain Robinson in 1961 and Robert Millar in 1990.
Wiggins gained time on his rivals during the individual time trial on Wednesday and defended the yellow jersey the rest of the way with apparent ease.
Rodriguez took his second stage win in two days, netting himself the points classification.
Wiggins finished 10th on the stage to secure the overall victory ahead of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in second and Alexandre Vinkourov (Astana) in third.
Wiggins' big day
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) launched a solo attack from an 11-man escape group on the ascent of the Col du Glandon before continuing alone to the hors categorie summit of Col de la Croix-de-Fer.
On the fast descent, he was joined by a plummeting Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and the two Frenchmen linked up to stretch their advantage over the chase group containing race leader Wiggins.
Pinot struggled to keep up with Voeckler's pace on the downhill and was dropped by his compatriot. Robert Gesink and Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) then attacked the Wiggins group toward the end of the descent, with Garate dropping Gesink off at the base of the day's final climb, La Toussuire.
Gesink then caught Pinot, and then the pair linked up with Voeckler. Behind, Rigoberto Uran was leading the chasers for his Sky team leader Wiggins.
As the three escapees hit the 5km-to-go marker, Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Sungard) bridged up to join them. Sorensen won the last time the Dauphiné visited the climb in 2008 and immediately went to the front of the lead group.
In the contenders group, it was up to Evans, Vinokourov, Rodriguez and Van Den Broeck to set the pace as Wiggins sat behind keeping an eye on the attacks.
Rodriguez then attacked, passing the lagging lead quartet. Evans and Van Den Broeck followed Rodriguez. Wiggins didn't panic, sitting in and getting back up to the attackers with a measured ride as the lead group came back together for the final kilometre.
Rodriguez then rode away from the group with a huge attack. No one could follow his wheel as he took his second win in two days. Wiggins crossed the line in a small group 11 seconds behind Rodriguez, his work done and his arms aloft.
Both Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Daniel Lloyd (Garmin-Cervelo), the other two Brits in the race, finished outside the time cut in a large group and were eliminated.
Sky on top
Wiggins Dauphiné win has now established him as one of the strongest current stage racers. More than that, the performance of the Sky team as a whole was more cohesive than we have yet seen. Wiggins never looked isolated as his squad rallied around him.
Edvald Boasson Hagen in particular was always in the mix, contesting time trials, bunch sprints and even Monday's mountains stage. But for many, Boasson Hagen's most memorable performance of the race was his mammoth pace-setting turn leading Wiggins up the final climb on the penultimate stage.
The importance of Wiggins' win at the Dauphiné cannot be underestimated - for himself, Sky and for Great Britain. It is one of the toughest and highest-ranked races on the world calendar.
His stage placings and overall win has netted a sizeable chunk of UCI ranking points which will assist Great Britain's bid for a full-strength team at this year's road race World Championships in Copenhagen, where Mark Cavendish will be bidding for the title.
Wiggins now moves up to equal 10th with Sean Yates in Cycling Weekly's all-time list of pro winners.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2011, stage seven: Pontcharra to La Toussuire, 117.5km
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 8 secs
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
5. Alexandre Vinkourov (Kaz) Astana at same time
6. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank at 11 secs
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing
8. Kantstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack
10. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky at same time
Final overall classification
1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky in 23-33-24
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-26
3. Alexandre Vinkourov (Kaz) Astana at 1-49
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 2-10
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 2-50
6. Christophe Kern (Fra) Europcar at 3-05
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 3-30
8. Kantstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad at 4-14
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack at 4-22
10. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar at 4-30
Bradley Wiggins leads Jurgen Van Den Broeck
Double delight: Joaquin Rodriguez
Bradley Wiggins tops the podium, flanked by third-placed Alexandre Vinokourov (left) and Cadel Evans (right) in second
Critérium du Dauphiné 2011: Stage reports
Stage six: Rodriguez wins stage as Wiggins defends lead
Stage five: Wiggins stays in yellow after Kern takes stage
Stage four: Easy for Degenkolb as Wggins retains lead
Stage three: Wiggins moves into overall lead after time trial
Stage two: Degenkolb wins as Wiggins moves up
Stage one: Van Den Broeck wins stage as Vinokourov takes lead
Prologue: Boom wins as Wiggins comes third
Critérium du Dauphiné 2011: Photo galleries
Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage three ITT photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Critérium du Dauphiné 2011: Related links
Critérium du Dauphiné 2011: The Big Preview - includes stage guide, TV guide, team list, previous winners and more
Want a new gravel bike but can't find stock? Stayer Cycles could have the answer
British custom frame builder teams up with Ingrid components to offer its Groadinger gravel bikes for pre-order
By Luke Friend •
'There was a lot of things in the run-up to Tokyo that wasn't ideal': Laura Kenny opens up on team pursuit disappointment at the Olympics
Kenny's two medals at Tokyo were her first as a mother, and she plans on returning to the Olympic scene in Paris
By Chris Marshall-Bell •