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Evans regains lead at Dauphine as Grabsch wins ITT

Reigning world time trial champion Bert Grabsch (Columbia-Highroad) won Wednesday’s fourth stage at the 61st Dauphiné Libéré, while Australia Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) finished second and recaptured the overall leader’s jersey. Grabsch stopped the clock in 51 minutes, 26.48 seconds, overcoming a 12-second mid-race deficit to Evans to win by seven seconds on an undulating 42.4km course east of Valence.

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By Andrew Hood

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: World TT champ Grabsch showed why he has the jersey.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: World TT champ Grabsch showed why he has the jersey.

Photo: Graham Watson

Reigning world time trial champion Bert Grabsch (Columbia-Highroad) won Wednesday’s fourth stage at the 61st Dauphiné Libéré, while Australia Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) finished second and recaptured the overall leader’s jersey.

Grabsch stopped the clock in 51 minutes, 26.48 seconds, overcoming a 12-second mid-race deficit to Evans to win by seven seconds on an undulating 42.4km course east of Valence.

“This is my first victory since winning the world title. I’ve raced five or six time trials since then and I was always in the top 10, but they were too short for me. I like a longer distance and today was perfect for me,” said Grabsch, who turns 34 on June 19. “I hope now to be able to race the Tour, but I still don’t know if I am going to make the team. There are 13-14 names on a list, but with the time trials in this year’s Tour, I could make something special. We’ll see.”

Evans, who won Sunday’s opening time trial, posted the fastest time check at 22.4km, but folded to Grabsch’s brute strength in the closing kilometers to finish in 51:33. David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) claimed third on the stage at 39 seconds slower and climbed to fifth overall.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Evans regained his lead.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Evans regained his lead.

Photo: Graham Watson

“This was a course for Grabsch, I knew that when I previewed the course. I was thinking I might be able to win when I hit the intermediate split, but he was stronger in the end,” Evans said. “To take 37 seconds on Contador is good, but to be tranquil, I would rather have 37 minutes. In the mountains, he’s going to be the man to beat.”

Meanwhile, Alberto Contador (Astana) proved yet again he can defend on unfavorable terrain with a fifth-place time of 52:10, slotting into second place overall, 45 seconds slower than Evans.

“This result is very, very good for me in respect to my rivals at the Tour, especially Evans,” Contador said. “This course was completely flat, for pure rolleurs, as demonstrated by Grabsch’s victory, who probably weighs 20kg more than me. It’s for this I am so happy, to have finished within such small differences on a test like this. It’s clear that I still have some work to do on this (time trial) bike, but my preparation for the Tour is going perfectly.”

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Contador now trails Evans by 45 seconds.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Contador now trails Evans by 45 seconds.

Photo: Graham Watson

Overnight leader Niki Terpstra (Milram), who won Tuesday’s stage in a breakaway, lost more than five minutes after crossing the line in 114th on his regular road bike, lacking even handlebar extensions, after he was forced to switch from his time trial bike after a mid-race crash.

“Niki didn’t want to give up the yellow jersey without a fight and gave his all in the time trial. He went into it over-motivated,“ said Milram team manager Gerry van Gerwen. “He took a curve too fast and hit the ground with his pedal. After his crash his morale was, of course, rock bottom.”

Defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) did fairly well on the rolling course, which featured a minor fourth-category climb midway through the race, but slipped to eighth overall at 1:54 back.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Terpstra fought to retain his lead.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Terpstra fought to retain his lead.

Photo: Graham Watson

“I am pretty happy with the result because I didn’t lose too much time on a course for the specialists,” Valverde said. “I proved that I can defend just as well on the longer courses, something that’s important for the future. Now we’re moving into the mountains and that’s better terrain for me. I hope that I feel good and can make a move.”

The remaining four stages of the 61st Dauphiné unfold over difficult, mountainous terrain, which should provide an exciting duel between Tour de France favorites Evans and Contador.

Evans is looking strong and Contador remains cautious, saying he hasn’t raced since winning the Vuelta a País Vasco in mid-April and is unsure of his fitness.

“I am not too worried about (GC). Like I said before coming, I am looking to sharpen my form and I am not going to spent too much energy fighting for the victory. I want to take advantage to recover well every day and not finish very tired,” he said.

“There are a lot of people who are not too far away in the GC who are going to try. I believe that Lotto want to fight for the race and we’ll be waiting. I want to be prudent and see how the race is unfolding before deciding the tactic to use. Probably Valverde, Gesink or Nibali will make a move, they’re not too far back and they can give a lot of war in the mountains.”

The first battleground in the mountains comes with Thursday’s highly anticipated summit finish up Mont Ventoux, site of the penultimate stage in this year’s Tour.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Evans was second on the stage.

2009 Dauphine Libere, stage 4: Evans was second on the stage.

Photo: Graham Watson

Evans can take confidence that he’s won before on Mont Ventoux, taking a stage in last year’s Paris-Nice up the north face to Mont-Serein ski area, well below the traditional summit that will be used for Thursday’s finale.

“The mountains will be a test for me. I haven’t raced on hard climbs since Basque Country in April,” Evans said. “Contador will be the man to beat in the mountains. I won before on Ventoux, but that was a different approach. And with Contador, it’s going to be another story.”

The route will climb the south face, starting in the quaint village at Bédoin. From there, it’s 21km to the summit of the géant du Provence, with an average grade of 8 percent.

Race Notes:

Ivan Basso lost more than two minutes on the stage and was later docked another 20 seconds because officials said his team director did not respect the rule of keeping the team car 10 meters back from his rider.

Photo Gallery

Results

Stage results | Click for: GC standings

1. Bert Grabsch (GER/THR) 51:26.
2. Cadel Evans (AUS/SIL) 0:07.
3. David Millar (GBR/GRM) 0:39.
4. Frantisek Rabon (CZE/THR) 0:40.
5. Alberto Contador (ESP/AST) 0:44.
6. Stef Clement (NED/RAB) 1:01.
7. Koos Moerenhout (NED/RAB) 1:19.
8. Sebastien Rosseler (BEL/QST) 1:20.
9. Mikel Astarloza (ESP/EUS) 1:23.
10. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA/ALM) 1:24.
11. Lars Bak (DEN/SAX) 1:31.
12. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/GCE) 1:38.
13. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 1:43.
14. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) 1:45.
15. Joost Posthuma (NED/RAB) 1:47.
16. Martin Velits (SVK/MRM) 1:57.
17. Laszlo Bodrogi (FRA/KAT) 2:08.
18. Christian Knees (GER/MRM) 2:10.
19. Sebastian Lang (GER/SIL) 2:10.
20. Jurgen Van de Walle (BEL/QST) 2:11.

GC standings

| Stage results
1. Cadel Evans (AUS/SIL) 11 h 16:19.
2. Alberto Contador (ESP/AST) 0:45.
3. Bert Grabsch (GER/THR) 0:48
4. Frantisek Rabon (CZE/THR) 1:07.
5. David Millar (GBR/GRM) 1:09.
6. Stef Clement (NED/RAB) 1:33.
7. Sebastien Rosseler (BEL/QST) 1:46.
8. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/GCE) 1:54.
9. Koos Moerenhout (NED/RAB) 2:01.
10. Mikel Astarloza (ESP/EUS) 2:07.
11. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/LIQ) 2:12.
12. Rinaldo Nocentini (ITA/ALM) 2:12.
13. Lars Bak (DEN/SAX) 2:13.
14. Christian Knees (GER/MRM) 2:37.
15. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 2:38.
16. Martin Velits (SVK/MRM) 2:40.
17. Ivan Gutierrez (ESP/GCE) 2:47.
18. Sebastian Lang (GER/SIL) 2:47.
19. Jerome Pineau (FRA/QST) 2:50.
20. Joost Posthuma (NED/RAB) 2:58.