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Leipheimer wins Dauphiné prologue

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) ripped to a dramatic victory in Sunday’s opening prologue at the 60th Dauphiné Libéré in a showdown between the Tour de France favorites. Leipheimer -- who won the 2006 Dauphiné – flew over the 5.6km course into Avignon to stop the clock at 6:10 to take a one-second victory to prologue specialist Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) stopping the clock third at six seconds off the pace.

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By Andrew Hood

Dauphiné 2008 prologue – Leipheimer: ‘It was my kind of course’

Photo: Graham Watson

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) ripped to a dramatic victory in Sunday’s opening prologue at the 60th Dauphiné Libéré in a showdown between the Tour de France favorites.

Leipheimer — who won the 2006 Dauphiné – flew over the 5.6km course into Avignon to stop the clock at 6:10 to take a one-second victory to prologue specialist Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), with Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) stopping the clock third at six seconds off the pace.

Dauphiné 2008 prologue – A beautiful day for a bike race

Photo: Graham Watson

“It was my kind of course and the Dauphiné is an objective after coming out of the Giro,” Leipheimer said. “You always hope to win, but it is so unpredictable, races over such a short distance. I knew my condition was very good.”

It was a huge victory for Leipheimer, who is fresh off finishing 18th at what was an unexpected start at the Giro d’Italia last month where teammate Alberto Contador claimed the pink jersey.

“Many people had their doubts about me after the Giro, but I knew better,” Leipheimer said. “Don’t forget that I was in California and in moderate training mode before getting the last-minute call to ride the Giro. I crashed the first week and had cheek and elbow injuries. As I could not get a good classification in the Giro, I worked 100 percent for Alberto in the mountains.”

Dauphiné 2008 prologue – Hushovd gets encouragement, but missed the win

Photo: Graham Watson

With Astana still being blocked from racing in next month’s Tour de France by race organizers, this edition of the Dauphiné takes special importance for Leipheimer, who was third last year in the Tour, but won’t have the opportunity to take aim for the maillot jaune.

“I felt the last week in Italy that my condition was getting better and better. I hope to continue that way. My team believes in me. I’m not planning to shake their confidence,” he said. “I would like to win again. The Dauphiné is a very prestigious race. To have a good result here would take away from some of the disappointment of not racing the Tour this year.”

Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said Wednesday’s time trial would reveal whether Leipheimer has the legs to win the Dauphiné for the second time in three years.

“We have to see how Levi has recovered from the Giro. Until we’re at the time trial, we won’t know,” Bruyneel said. “He’s won this race before, and if there are chances that he’ll be good, we have the team to support him. I know from experience that after the Giro, it’s quite tough, there’s only a week in between. We know that he’ll give his maximum if he’s good.”

Dauphiné 2008 prologue – Valverde finished third, at six seconds.

Photo: Graham Watson

The best was saved for last in the opening prologue of the Dauphiné, in what’s seen as a showdown between Tour favorites sharpening their form ahead of July’s big dance.

Valverde was happy enough with his performance as he looks ahead toward improving on his sixth place overall from last year’s Tour.

“I had good feelings from the opening meters and I knew that my time on the finish line would be good, but I didn’t think I would be so close to the specialists like Leipheimer or Hushovd,” said Valverde. “It shows that I’m already in good shape and I hope to do a good race here, even though it’s not a top goal of mine. The Dauphiné is the best preparation for the Tour and it’s also the best way to check my rivals’ level. If I can win a stage, even better.”

Vladimir Efimkin (Ag2r) was among the late-starters who pipped one another in succession on a tight race on the flat, wide-open 5.6km course from Pontet to Avignon.

Dauphiné 2008 prologue – Efimkin was in the hot seat, but finally settled for sixth

Photo: Graham Watson

Efimkin, who won a stage and held the leader’s jersey in last year’s Vuelta a España before settling on sixth overall, stopped the clock at 6:22.21 to push Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) out of the hot seat.

Quinziato – a steady time trialist who was ninth in last year’s Tour opening prologue in London — set the early fastest time at 6:23.98.

Hushovd, winner of the opening prologue at Paris-Nice in March, pulverized that time with 6:11.47, and looked to have the win the bag until Leipheimer came flying over the course.

Pre-race favorite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), runner-up in last year’s Dauphiné and Tour de France, stopped the clock for sixth at 13 seconds slower.

High Road continued its strong stampede through the first half of the season, pushing Craig Lewis (6:24.43), André Greipel (6:25) and Adam Hansen (6:26), into the top 15.

Dauphiné 2008 prologue – Evans has his eye on July

Photo: Graham Watson

The 60th Dauphiné continues Monday with the 194km first stage from Avignon to Privas. The sprinters will get one of their few chances at taking the flowers in this challenging edition of the Dauphiné, but it won’t be easy.

There are a series of unrated climbs before the route hits the day’s main obstacle at the Cat. 4 Côte de Puy-Saint-Martin at 136km. The sprint teams should have plenty of road to reel in any breakaways, but the pure sprinters could have trouble with a steep, hilltop finish into Privas.

It’s an ideal finish for the GC favorites like Valverde and Evans. Or Leipheimer.

Photo Gallery


1. Levi Leipheimer, (USA), Astana 5.6km in 6:10:05 (54.486kph)
2. Thor Hushovd, (NOR), Credit Agricole, at 0:01
3. Alejandro Valverde, (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:06
4. Maxime Monfort, (BEL), Cofidis, at 0:12
5. Vladimir Efimkin, (RUS), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
6. Cadel Evans, (AUS), Silence-Lotto, at 0:13
7. Brett Lancaster, (AUS), Milram, s.t.
8. Manuel Quinziato, (ITA), Liquigas, s.t.
9. Llamazales Barredo, (ESP),, at 0:14
10. Haimar Zubeldia, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
11. Craig Lewis, (USA), Team High Road, s.t.
12. André Greipel, (GER), Team High Road, s.t.
13. Fabian Wegmann, (GER), Gerolsteiner, at 0:15
14. Adam Hansen, (AUS), Team High Road, s.t.
15. Mikel Astarloza, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:16
16. Janez Brajkovic, (SLO), Astana, s.t.
17. Bert Grabsch, (GER), Team High Road, s.t.
18. Samuel Sanchez, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
19. Robert Gesink, (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
20. Carlos Sastre, (ESP), CSC, at 0:17
21. Lars-ytting Bak, (DEN), CSC, s.t.
22. Tomas Vaitkus, (LTU), Astana, s.t.
23. Sebastian Lang, (GER), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
24. Andriy Grivko, (UKR), Milram, s.t.
25. Kevin Van-impe, (BEL), Quick Step, s.t.
26. Florent Brard, (FRA), Cofidis, at 0:18
27. George Hincapie, (USA), Team High Road, s.t.
28. William Bonnet, (FRA), Credit Agricole, s.t.
29. Juan-antonio Flecha, (SP), Rabobank, s.t.
30. Christopher Horner, (USA), Astana, at 0:19
31. Michael Rogers, (AUS), Team High Road, s.t.
32. Jerome Coppel, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, s.t.
33. Laurent Lefevre, (FRA), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:20
34. Thomas Voeckler, (FRA), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
35. Tom Stamsnijder, (NED), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
36. Stef Clement, (NED), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
37. Maryan Hary, (FRA), Cofidis, s.t.
38. Juan-manuel Garate, (ESP), Quick Step, s.t.
39. Sandy Casar, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:21
40. Julien Loubet, (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
41. Peter Velits, (SVK), Milram, s.t.
42. Christophe Riblon, (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
43. Oscar Pereiro, (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
44. Dominik Roels, (GER), Milram, at 0:22
45. Pierrick Fedrigo, (FRA), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
46. Koos Moerenhout, (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
47. William Walker, (AUS), Rabobank, at 0:23
48. Munoz Horrillo, (ESP),, s.t.
49. Simon Gerrans, (AUS), Credit Agricole, at 0:24
50. Jurgen Vandewalle, (BEL), Quick Step, s.t.
51. Sergio Paulinho, (POR), Astana, s.t.
52. Karsten Kroon, (NED), CSC, s.t.
53. Dmytro Grabovskyy, (UKR), Quick Step, at 0:25
54. Dmitriy Fofonov, (KAZ), Credit Agricole, s.t.
55. Acosta Garcia, (ViGceCnEte),, at 0:06:3544
56. Pierre Rolland, (FRA), Credit Agricole, s.t.
57. Perrig Quemeneur, (FRA), Bouygues Telecom, at 0:26
58. Grischa Niermann, (GER), Rabobank, s.t.
59. Cyrille Monnerais, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, s.t.
60. Juan Oroz, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:27
61. José Arrieta, (ESP), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
62. Inaki Isasi, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
63. Arnaud Labbe, (FRA), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
64. David Moncoutie, (FRA), Cofidis, s.t.
65. Michiel Elijzen, (NED), Rabobank, s.t.
66. Rémi Pauriol, (FRA), Credit Agricole, s.t.
67. Heinrich Haussler, (GER), Gerolsteiner, at 0:28
68. Daniel Navarro, (ESP), Astana, s.t.
69. Björn SchrÖder, (GER), Milram, s.t.
70. Sébastien Minard, (FRA), Cofidis, s.t.
71. Charles Wegelius, (GBR), Liquigas, s.t.
72. Rigoberto Uran, (COL), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
73. Cyril Dessel, (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale,, at 0:0:29
74. Arnaud Gerard, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, s.t.
75. Nicki Sorensen, (DEN), CSC, s.t.
76. Dario Cioni, (ITA), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
77. Alexandr Kolobnev, (RUS), CSC, at 0:30
78. Aleksandr Kuschynski, (BLR), Liquigas, s.t.
79. Christian Kux, (GER), Milram, s.t.
80. Amaël Moinard, (FRA), Cofidis, at 0:31
81. Stéphane Goubert, (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
82. Yury Trofimov, (RUS), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
83. Rémy Digregorio, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, s.t.
84. Alexandre Pichot, (FRA), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.
85. Sylvester Szmyd, (POL), Lampre, at 0:32
86. Hubert Dupont, (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
87. Bernhard Kohl, (AUT), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
88. Josep Jufre, (ESP), Saunier Duval, s.t.
89. Benjamin Noval, (ESP), Astana, s.t.
90. Sébastien Chavanel, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, at 0:33
91. John Gadret, (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale, s.t.
92. Arnaud Coyot, (FRA), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
93. Ruben Perez, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
94. Patrice Halgand, (FRA), Credit Agricole, s.t.
95. Samuel Dumoulin, (FRA), Cofidis, s.t.
96. Javier Megias, (ESP), Saunier Duval, at 0:34
97. Daniele Righi, (ITA), Lampre, s.t.
98. Scott Davis, (AUS), Team High Road, s.t.
99. Michael Barry, (CAN), Team High Road, s.t.
100. Juan Cobo, (ESP), Saunier Duval, at 0:35
101. Alessandro Proni, (ITA), Quick Step, s.t.
102. Davide Vigano, (ITA), Quick Step, s.t.
103. Mirco Lorenzetto, (ITA), Lampre, s.t.
104. Frederik Willems, (BEL), Liquigas, s.t.
105. Nicolas Portal, (FRA), Caisse d’Epargne, s.t.
106. Aurélien Passeron, (FRA), Saunier Duval, s.t.
107. Chris SÖrensen, (DEN), CSC, s.t.
108. Mario Aerts, (BEL), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
109. Joan Horrach, (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:36
110. Bart Dockx, (BEL), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
111. Mauro Dadalto, (ITA), Liquigas, s.t.
112. Christophe Brandt, (BEL), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
113. Inigo Cuesta, (ESP), CSC, s.t.
114. Manuel Beltran, (ESP), Liquigas, s.t.
115. Roy Sentjens, (BEL), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
116. Sergio Ghisalberti, (ITA), Milram, s.t.
117. Stéphane Auge, (FRA), Cofidis, at 0:37
118. José Rubiera, (ESP), Astana, s.t.
119. Carlo Westphal, (GER), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
120. David De-la-fuente, (ESP), Saunier Duval, s.t.
121. Marcus Ljungqvist, (SWE), CSC, s.t.
122. Matteo Carrara, (ITA), Quick Step, s.t.
123. Emanuele Bindi, (ITA), Lampre, at 0:38
124. Pieter Weening, (NED), Rabobank, at 0:39
125. Volker Ordowski, (GER), Gerolsteiner, s.t.
126. Jelle Vanendert, (BEL), Francaise des Jeux, s.t.
127. Matej Mugerli, (SLO), Liquigas, s.t.
128. Marchante Gomez, (AVngeElSP),, s.t.
129. David Lopez, (ESP), Caisse d’Epargne, at 0:40
130. Matthew Lloyd, (AUS), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
131. Peter Wrolich, (AUT), Gerolsteiner, at 0:41
132. Yaroslav Popovych, (UKR), Silence-Lotto, s.t.
133. Christophe Lemevel, (FRA), Credit Agricole, s.t.
134. Sébastien Joly, (FRA), Francaise des Jeux, s.t.
135. Valerio Agnoli, (ITA), Liquigas, at 0:42
136. Roberto Longo, (ITA), Lampre, at 0:43
137. Alberto Fernandez, (ESP), Saunier Duval, s.t.
138. Benat Albizuri, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, s.t.
139. Paolo Fornaciari, (ITA), Lampre, at 0:44
140. Mauro Santambrogio, (ITA), Lampre, at 0:45
141. Sebastian Schwager, (GER), Milram, at 0:47
142. Jon Bru, (ESP), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 0:53
143. Ruben Lobato, (ESP), Saunier Duval, at 0:54

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