By Nigel Wynn
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) won the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné overall on Sunday after his Sky team once again successfully nullified any last-ditch attacks on the Briton's overall grip in the race.
Wiggins' successful defence of his win from last year means that he now goes into the Tour de France at the end of June as the front runner for the yellow jersey. Sky's almost complete domination of the 2012 Dauphiné bodes well for Wiggins to become the first Briton to win the presitigious Grand Tour.
Daniel Moreno (Katusha) won the uphill sprint in Châtel ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) in third. It's Morneno's second stage win after taking stage two in similar style in Saint-Félicien. Wiggins rolled across the line in a group behind Moreno, punching the air in celebration.
Wiggins finished the race one minute and 17 seconds ahead of Sky team-mate Michael Rogers in second, with Evans in third at 1-26. Chris Froome finished in fourth overall giving Sky three riders - and two Britons - in the top five.
Last day in the mountains
The short, punchy final stage was far from a formality for Sky. Five categorised climbs along the 124.5km route starting in Morzine played into the hands of the escape artists and attackers.
Sure enough, several groups tried their luck during the day with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) cresting the penultimate climb of Col du Corbier ahead of Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Saturday's stage winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in hot pursuit.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) then put his superior descending skills into action on the drop from Corbier, distancing the bunch containing Wiggins. Ultimately, the move proved fruitless as the gradient evened out, and all the escapees were mopped up as the roads reared up for the final ascent to Châtel.
It was BMC and Katusha, rather than Sky that led the bunch - their motives soon to become clear.
Several attacks came and went on the steep ramp, but a small group containing Evans, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Sanchez and Moreno kept up the momentum. Sanchez and Moreno forged ahead as Evans and Boasson Hagen faded, with Moreno taking the win.
Evans' consolation was to claim the points classification and, of course, his win on stage one.
Wiggins left the lead group to it, with enough time in hand to savour the win as he crossed the line. The Brit's win in the Dauphiné adds to his impressive palmares for the 2012 season having already taken Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie. Wiggins moves him up to third in the UCI WorldTour ranking behind leader Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Sky are now top team.
The Dauphiné is Wiggins' final race before the Tour de France starts in Liege, Belgium, on Saturday June 30.
Criterium du Dauphine 2012, stage seven: Morzine to Châtel, 124.5km
1. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha in 2-59-37
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Rabobank
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing
4. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
5. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
6. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
8. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at same time
10. Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky at 7 secs
Final overall classification
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky in 26-40-46
2. Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky at 1-17
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-26
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 1-45
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 2-12
6. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar 2-58
7. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 3-07
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank 3-26
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 3-34
10. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 3-50
Bradley Wiggins celebrates his overall win
Bradley Wiggins (middle), Michael Rogers (left) and Cadel Evans (right)
Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Latest news
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Live text coverage: Critérium du Dauphiné stage four time trial
Bruyneel disappointed with RadioShack's lack of results
Wiggins on Dauphiné: 'I've come here to race'
Wiggins happy with second in Dauphiné prologue
Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: The Big Preview - includes team list, TV guide, recent winners and more
Wiggins back to defend Critérium du Dauphiné title
Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Stage reports
Stage six: Quintana wins but Sky and Wiggins in complete control
Stage five: Wiggins maintains lead as Vichot wins stage
Stage four: Wiggins blitzes time trial
Stage three: Boasson Hagen blasts to stage win
Stage two: Moreno wins second stage in Dauphiné hill-top sprint
Stage one: Evans wins as Wiggins takes lead
Prologue: Wiggins second behind Durbridge
Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Photo galleries
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery
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