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Chris Froome (Sky) clinched the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné crowd on Sunday as Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) won the final stage ahead of the race leader, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and Richie Porte (Sky).
Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol) had been the last man standing of a 24-rider break that rolled off early in the 155.5km race from Sisteron to Risoul, which featured two category-1 ascents — the Col de Vars and the summit finish at Montée de Risoul.
With 10km remaining he was more than two minutes ahead of the GC group, tapping out a smooth rhythm on a cold, wet final stage that saw several retirements.
World time-trial champion Tony Martin, suffering from a sore throat, didn’t even start. Others who did found the going too tough, including French champion Nacer Bouhanni; compatriots Pierre Rolland and Sylvain Chavanel; Thomas de Gendt, 2010 world road champ Thor Hushovd; and David Lopez.
One rider who hadn’t called it quits was De Marchi. The Cannondale rider, who had been in the escape with Wellens, regained the Lotto man’s wheel on the final climb and then rode away from him, the Sky-led GC group just 1:15 back with 3km to go.
Michael Rogers (Saxo-Tinkoff), meanwhile, found himself suffering on the final climb, and teammate Alberto Contador — who had just taken a dig with RadioShack-Leopard’s Tony Gallopin — dropped back to try to help Rogers protect his third place on the overall.
As the two Saxos fell behind, Froome and Porte gave it the gas and went after De Marchi.
With 1km to go Porte was having a hard time holding Froome’s wheel as the two forged upward through the mist, and Talansky was closing fast. They couldn’t quite overhaul De Marchi, who took his first victory as a pro, and then Froome had to kick one final time to ensure second on the day, leaving Talansky to sweep up the crumbs of third.
Froome said he would have liked to help Porte take the finale, but De Marchi was just too strong.
“It would have been great to win the stage, but we have already won two this week. It just proved impossible to reel in De Marchi,” he said.
As for De Marchi, he was delighted to have survived the onslaught.
“It is the first time that I have won since I turned professional,” said de Marchi. “I have been waiting a long time for it, and I am happy that the dream has come true. I have often tried my luck in escaping but I have never succeeded until today.”
In the final standings, Froome collected the overall title by 58 seconds over teammate Porte. Rogers couldn’t save his podium place, despite Contador’s help — he slid to sixth overall, at 3:08, and Daniel Moreno (Katusha) replaced him in third at 2:12.
Froome, who said that the whole week had gone like a dream, dismissed suggestions he was the favorite for the Tour de France.
“No, I do not consider myself the favorite for the Tour,” he said. “I have won the Dauphine, and other races before, but the counter is back to zero when the Tour starts. There will be six to seven main contenders for overall victory. The names? Contador, Valverde, Rodriguez, Evans, van Garderen, Quintana, Porte. …”
Froome added that he would not be contesting the British national road championships prior to the Tour.
Contador, who had less than a stellar outing during the Dauphiné, nevertheless found a couple of upsides to the rainy finale. First, he said, the damp weather helped resolve his allergy issues.
“With the rain, I breathed a lot better,” he said. And while he was unable to help Rogers hold third overall, he said he was happy that he felt good while trying.
As regards a crash he took on his left side, Contador said it was too early to tell whether there would be consequences, but added: “Fortunately, with the rain, you wear a lot of clothes, which serve as protection. I hope it will not disturb my preparation for the Tour. ”
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from the Dauphiné.