Evans and BMC battle to the finish, but Sky takes top two steps on the final podium

CHÂTEL, France (VN) — Sky’s Bradley Wiggins clinched the overall title in the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday.

Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Katusha) won the final stage, a 126km leg from Morzine to Châtel, as BMC Racing Team and Katusha led a group of some 30 riders toward the red kite and the uphill finish.

Cadel Evans (BMC) had a go in the finale, followed by Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank). But it was Moreno who sealed the deal, claiming his second victory of the week — Sanchez had to settle for second while Evans crossed third. Wiggins finished safely in the group, crossing 19th at 10 seconds back.

When the times were tallied, the Sky captain had locked up the final victory for a second consecutive year by 1:17 over teammate Michael Rogers with Evans third at 1:26.

After paying tribute to his teammates, Wiggins said he was reassured to have defended his title.

“I think it’s always harder to do it a second time,” he said. “Last year I didn’t come into the race as the favorite so to do that this year and know from day one, from being second in the prologue, that I was one of the favorites, it’s a better and harder way to win.

“Obviously we’ve had a few goes at it now so I think we’re getting better at it if anything. It’s probably gone better than the other races have gone this season, it’s been a lot smoother.”

Sky sports director Sean Yates said he was delighted the team had come in and achieved what they had set out to do.

“It’s been a great effort by the team and a fantastic week. We couldn’t have asked for more,” he said.

“We came into the race with a clear plan, which was to try and win it, and obviously Bradley came up with the goods, which was mighty impressive. He had a fantastic team to back him up.

“The final stage panned out just as we wanted it. The parcours dictated what would happen. It was just a question of keeping your fingers crossed that there were no incidents of any kind which would put a spanner in the works.

“From a physical level it was never going to be a problem.”

Evans, a four-time runner-up, had lost most of his time to Wiggins in Thursday’s 53.5km time trial, leaving the Australian with no choice but to attack in the remaining stages in a bid to close the gap.

“I came here to try and win, but I was beaten by a better team and a better guy,” admitted Evans. “It was a week of hard racing and a good bit of training toward July and hopefully my big form of the year so far.”

One rider who didn’t make it to the finish was Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), who withdrew from the Dauphiné half an hour into the seventh and final stage.

“Thomas has a sore knee. He was already limping a bit yesterday evening, and he is suffering again this morning,” Europcar sporting director Andy Flickinger told the race’s official website.

“As a precaution, it was best for him to abandon, because we don’t want that to get worse.”

Voeckler finished fourth on last year’s Tour de France, having held the overall leader’s yellow jersey for 10 days.

He was 45th in the Dauphiné standings coming into the final stage, more than 15 minutes behind overall leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling).

Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Race results >>