Events

Merckx solos to Dauphiné stage win; Landaluze earns jersey

An epic breakaway in the 219km march across the foothills of the French Alps turned the Dauphiné Libéré upside down. Gerolsteiner’s Levi Leipheimer fell out of the overall lead – and fell off his bike in a high-speed crash – while Spanish rider Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) slipped into the maillot jaune after hanging on as part of a 13-man breakaway. Results are posted It was Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto) who took full advantage of the rollercoaster race across the torrid hills from Vaison-la-Romaine, in the shadow of Mont Ventoux, to Grenoble in the shadow of the Alps. “What I did

By Andrew Hood

Photo: AFP

An epic breakaway in the 219km march across the foothills of the French Alps turned the Dauphiné Libéré upside down.

Gerolsteiner’s Levi Leipheimer fell out of the overall lead – and fell off his bike in a high-speed crash – while Spanish rider Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) slipped into the maillot jaune after hanging on as part of a 13-man breakaway.

Results are posted

It was Axel Merckx (Davitamon-Lotto) who took full advantage of the rollercoaster race across the torrid hills from Vaison-la-Romaine, in the shadow of Mont Ventoux, to Grenoble in the shadow of the Alps.

“What I did today was really great and I will enjoy this, but it wasn’t particularly clever,” said Merckx, the son of cycling great Eddy Merckx. “I felt like I would never get there. It was so long and hot today.”

Merckx and Landaluze were among the baker’s dozen that chugged away on the Col de Premol, the day’s first of six moderate climbs scattered over the Dauphiné’s fifth stage. The group opened up a gap of more than 14 minutes, forcing Gerolsteiner to chase to try to save the jersey for Leipheimer.

Merckx took his chance with a solo flyer up the day’s hardest climb – the Cat. 2 Col de Grimone at 110km – and never looked back, crossing the line 2:15 ahead of second-place Landaluze. His solo ride of nearly three hours reminded some of his dad’s old tricks.

. . . onto Landaluze's shoulders

. . . onto Landaluze’s shoulders

Photo: Graham Watson

In fact, his father’s former nemesis, Bernard Thevenet, called the elder Merckx during the stage to ask, “Who does he think he is? Does he think his first name is Eddy?” The heroic effort also seemed to confuse the giddy Belgian journalists, one of whom started the press conference with, “Eddy, can you describe the stage …”

Can he now win the race? Merckx said Saturday’s difficult, five-climb stage will prove a long day in the saddle.

“No way can I think about winning,” he said. “I will pay for my efforts today, but the most important thing today is knowing that I am in good shape for the Tour.”

Levi skids out of jersey

The day’s hard effort took its toll on the bunch a day after the climb up Ventoux. One rider, Iker Camano (Euskaltel), didn’t start, and eight others abandoned, including Athens silver medalist Sergio Paulihno (Liberty Seguros).

Letting a breakaway get up the road is common in long stages, but when Gerolsteiner was looking around for collaborators to help close the gap, they found few volunteers. Phonak finally lent a hand, but a frustrated Leipheimer could only watch the leader’s jersey slipping away as the gap just kept widening to the lead break.

Phonak lends a hand to the chase

Phonak lends a hand to the chase

Photo: Graham Watson

“Phonak was helping, but (the break) was still taking time out on us. We just lost control of the race,” admitted Leipheimer, who eventually crossed the line with the leading favorites at 9:36 back. “I’m surprised that T-Mobile didn’t help. They were just counting that Landaluze will crack tomorrow, but he finished with us yesterday (on Ventoux).”

Landaluze, indeed, finished eighth up Ventoux, riding with the Armstrong-Leipheimer group until he faded on the final ramps and ceded 46 seconds to Leipheimer on the Géant de Provence. And since he started the day 11th at 4:30 back, he presented more than just a casual threat to Leipheimer and the other contenders.

Landaluze and Eddy Mazzoleni (Lampre-Caffita) counter-attacked in the wake of Merckx and left the remnants of the breakaway behind them. Landaluze then went alone, and drove across the line 2:15 behind Merckx.

The countdown began, and the gap to Leipheimer was still more than 10 minutes when the main bunch hit the day’s final climb at the Cat. 3 Cote des 4 Seigneurs with about 20km to go.

Leipheimer’s Gerolsteiner teammate Davide Rebellin pulled most of the way up the 6km climb, with an average grade of 7 percent. They took back some time from Landaluze as they hit the top of the climb and tore down the other side – but as Leipheimer was charging down the serpentine descent, he overcooked a right-hand turn.

“We were just going too fast going down the descent. Davide did a tremendous job on the climb. I just got excited and told him, ‘Let’s go for it.’ I just missed a corner. I was lucky, it could have been worse,” said Leipheimer, who crossed the line with cuts and scrapes on his right elbow and hip.

“We were just pushing the limits. I should have known better because the final descents at the Dauphiné are always very dangerous,” he said. “It was narrow, steep and fast. Davide was going very fast and I came into a turn. I was making up some ground and I was going a little too hot, and grabbed the rear brake and lost the wheel.”

Leipheimer took a nasty spill on a fast descent

Leipheimer took a nasty spill on a fast descent

Photo: Graham Watson

Leipheimer skidded off the pavement in what could have been a much more serious mishap. Discovery Channel slowed the tempo, giving Leipheimer time to scramble back on his bike and resume the chase.

“Thankfully, when I went off the road I didn’t hit a tree or anything. I had to climb back up. I fell like two meters,” he said. “I climbed back up and everyone waited. Discovery, I think, they shut it down and they took over from there to the finish, so that was nice.”

With two hard days still left on the menu, Leipheimer isn’t giving up hope yet. He lost no time to the other overall favorites and he’s hopeful he can make up the time to Landaluze in Saturday’s climbing stage.

None of the major players changed position, with Armstrong, Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile) and Floyd Landis (Phonak) all still within one minute of Leipheimer in the GC.

“I’ll take it down day by day, we’ll see how I feel,” he said. “I usually don’t feel too good after a crash.”

Landaluze to follow Lance

Whose wheel will Landaluze follow on Saturday?

Whose wheel will Landaluze follow on Saturday?

Photo: Graham Watson

Taking the jersey with the long effort was Landaluze, a rider whose biggest claim to fame was being the man who escaped with Filippo Simeoni in last year’s Tour de France, only to be caught at the line by the bunch.

“I will do what I can do. I don’t have any team here and we’ll see how I recover from the effort of today,” said Landaluze, now 2:32 ahead of second-place Merckx and 2:51 up on Leipheimer.

“I was okay on the Ventoux yesterday and I was with the Armstrong group until the final effort,” he continued. “I will just climb at my own rhythm and see if I can hold on.”

When asked which wheel would he fellow – because that’s all he can do at this point of the game with only three Euskaltel-Euskadi teammates left – he said the obvious: Armstrong.

“I see Lance as the strongest here. We don’t know if he’s riding now to try to win the race,” he said. “In any race, if you can stay with Armstrong, you’re doing okay.”

Armstrong has been somewhat enigmatic so far in this Dauphiné, perhaps in a strategy to further confuse his opponents one last time before his assault for a seventh Tour crown next month.

But Vinokourov is still in the hunt, too

But Vinokourov is still in the hunt, too

Photo: Graham Watson

Known for bluffing his opponents, Armstrong is keeping his cards even closer to his chest this year. Third in Wednesday’s time trial and fourth up Mont Ventoux, Armstrong could still spring into the overall leader’s jersey with a hard effort Saturday.

Like Ventoux, Joux-Plaine is an another of Armstrong’s old unsavory acquaintances. It was on the steep, unrelenting climb that he bonked in the 2000 Tour de France, a mistake he vowed never to repeat again.

Photo Gallery

Results

1. Axel Merckx (B), Davitamon-Lotto, 5:15:01 :00

2. Inigo Landaluze (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 2:15

3. Benjamin Noval (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 5:45

4. Eddy Mazzoleni (I), Lampre-Caffitas, s.t.

5. Paolo Bossoni (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 6:15

6. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, s.t.

7. Rafael Casero (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.

8. Mario Aerts (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 6:17

9. Francis Mourey (F), Française des Jeux, at 6:18

10. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crédit Agricole, at 7:32

11. Juan Antonio Flecha (Sp), Fassa Bortolo, at 8:52

12. Christophe Moreau (F), Crédit Agricole, at 9:36

13. Philippe Gilbert (B), Française des Jeux, s.t.

14. Serge Baguet (B), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.

15. Massimo Giunti (I), Fassa Bortolo, s.t.

16. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Quick Step, s.t.

17. Pieter Weening (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.

18. Koos Moerenhout (Ned), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.

19. Bernhard Kohl (A), T-Mobile, s.t.

20. Nicolas Fritsch (F), Saunier Duval, s.t.

21. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery Channel, s.t.

22. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Discovery Channel, s.t.

23. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, s.t.

24. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, s.t.

25. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Gerolsteiner, s.t.

26. Santiago Botero (Col), Phonak, s.t.

27. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Crédit Agricole, s.t.

28. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, s.t.

29. Oscar Pereiro (Sp), Phonak, s.t.

30. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, s.t.

31. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), AG2R, s.t.

32. Francisco Lara Ruiz (Sp), T-Mobile, s.t.

33. David Arroyo (Sp), Illes Balears, s.t.

34. Alberto Contador (Sp), LSW, s.t.

35. Manuel Calvente (Sp), CSC, s.t.

36. Pierrick Fedrigo (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

37. Didier Rous (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

38. Marzio Bruseghin (I), Fassa Bortolo, s.t.

39. Massimo Codol (I), Fassa Bortolo, s.t.

40. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Discovery Channel, s.t.

41. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Crédit Agricole, s.t.

42. Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Sp), LSW, s.t.

43. Stephane Goubert (F), AG2R, s.t.

44. Jose Azevedo (Por), Discovery Channel, s.t.

45. Jose Pecharroman (Sp), Quick Step, s.t.

46. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, s.t.

47. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, s.t.

48. Jose Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.

49. David Canada (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.

50. Jose Luis Rubiera (Sp), Discovery Channel, s.t.

51. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis, s.t.

52. Wim Van Huffel (B), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.

53. Nicki Sorensen (Den), CSC, s.t.

54. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, s.t.

55. Jorg Jaksche (G), LSW, s.t.

56. Manuel Quinziato (I), Saunier Duval, at 10:45

57. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz), Domina Vacanze, s.t.

58. Anthony Geslin (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

59. Remy Di Gregorio (F), Française des Jeux, s.t.

60. Bram Tankink (Ned), Quick Step, s.t.

61. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), T-Mobile, s.t.

62. Juan Fuentes (Sp), Lampre-Caffitas, at 11:20

63. Inigo Chaurreau (Sp), AG2R, s.t.

64. Frederic Bessy (F), Cofidis, s.t.

65. Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Domina Vacanze, s.t.

66. Sylvain Calzati (F), AG2R, s.t.

67. Matej Jurco (Svk), Domina Vacanze, s.t.

68. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.

69. Allan Davis (Aus), LSW, s.t.

70. Xabie Zandio (Sp), Echaide Illes Balears, at 13:36

71. Constantino Zaballa (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.

72. Angel Edo (Sp), Saunier Duval, s.t.

73. Daniele Becke (G), Illes Balears, s.t.

74. Roberto Heras (Sp), LSW, s.t.

75. Alessandr Cortinovis (I), Domina Vacanze, at 14:31

76. Christophe Edaleine (F), Cofidis, s.t.

77. Jose Cayetano (Sp), Illes Balears, s.t.

78. Jurgen Van Goolen (B), Quick Step, s.t.

79. Stijn Devolder (B), Discovery Channel, s.t.

80. Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), Quick Step, s.t.

81. Mauro Gerosa (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, s.t.

82. Nick Nuyens (B), Quick Step, s.t.

83. Enrico Gasparotto, (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, s.t.

84. Gianluca Sironi (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, s.t.

85. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe), Liquigas-Bianchi, s.t.

86. Mikel Pradera (Sp). Illes Balears, s.t.

87. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe). Française des Jeux, .s.t.

88. Jerome Pineau (F). Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

89. Ivan Gutierrez (Sp). Illes Balears, s.t.

90. Cyril Dessel (F) AG2R, s.t.

91. Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz). T-Mobile, s.t.

92. Christophe Mengin (F). Française des Jeux, s.t.

93. Pierre Drancourt (F). Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

94. Luke Roberts (Aus). CSC, s.t.

95. Christian Vande Velde (USA), CSC, s.t.

96. Jose Gutierrez (Sp), Phonak, s.t.

97. Maryan Hary (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

98. Marcos Serrano (Sp), LSW, s.t.

99. Ludovic Turpin (F), AG2R, at 16:33

100. Rafael Nuritdinov (Uzb), Domina Vacanze, s.t.

101. Oleksandr Kvachuk (Ukr), Lampre-Caffitas, s.t.

102. Preben Van Hecke (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 17:55

103. Johan Vansummeren (B), Davitamon-Lotto, s.t.

104. Sebastien Joly (F), Crédit Agricole, at 18:23

105. Mickael Delage (F), Française des Jeux, s.t.

106. Alessandro Spezialetti (I), Lampre-Caffitas, s.t.

107. Nicolas Vogondy (F), Crédit Agricole, s.t.

108. Gianluca Bortolami (I), Lampre-Caffitas, at 20:22

109. Roberto Petito (I), Fassa Bortolo, s.t.

110. Joost Posthuma (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.

111. Oscar Mason (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, s.t.

112. Stuart O’Grady (Aus), Cofidis, s.t.

Overall

1. Inigo Landaluze (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 20:41:15 :00

2. Axel Merckx (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 2:32

3. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Gerolsteiner, at 2:51

4. Lance Armstrong (USA), Discovery Channel, at 3:12

5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz), T-Mobile, at 3:17

6. Floyd Landis (USA), Phonak, at 3:38

7. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz), Crédit Agricole, at 4:51

8. Santiago Botero (Col), Phonak, at 5:16

9. Jose Gomez Marchante (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 5:44

10. Marzio Bruseghin (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 5:58

11. Oscar Pereiro (Sp), Phonak, at 6:07

12. David Moncoutie (F), Cofidis, at 6:36

13. Christophe Moreau (F), Crédit Agricole, at 7:30

14. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, at 7:59

15. Wim Van Huffel (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 8:16

16. Nicolas Fritsch (F), Saunier Duval, s.t.

17. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), AG2R, at 9:38

18. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears, at 9:55

19. Massimo Giunti (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 10:12

20. Didier Rous (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 11:11

21. David Arroyo (Sp), Illes Balears, at 11:36

22. Manuel Beltran (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 11:46

23. Stephane Goubert (F), AG2R, at 11:48

24. Jorg Jaksche (G), LSW, at 11:59

25. Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Sp), LSW, at 12:06

26. David Canada (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 12:09

27. Pieter Weening (Ned), Rabobank, at 12:21

28. Francis Mourey (F), Française des Jeux, at 12:57

29. George Hincapie (USA), Discovery Channel, at 13:14

30. Nicki Sorensen (Den), CSC, at 13:35

31. Jose Azevedo (Por), Discovery Channel, s.t.

32. Bernhard Kohl (A), T-Mobile, at 14:08

33. Paolo Bossoni (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 14:39

34. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr), Discovery Channel, at 14:47

35. Bram Tankink (Ned), Quick Step, at 15:13

36. Oscar Sevilla (Sp), T-Mobile, at 15:19

37. Alexandre Botcharov (Rus), Crédit Agricole, at 15:30

38. Ivan Gutierrez (Sp), Illes Balears, at 15:49

39. Jose Gutierrez (Sp), Phonak, at 15:55

40. Jose Pecharroman (Sp), Quick Step, at 16:02

41. Constantino Zaballa (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 16:31

42. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Cofidis, at 16:43

43. Remy Di Gregorio (F), Française des Jeux, at 16:45

44. Inigo Chaurreau (Sp), AG2R, at 16:49

45. Davide Rebellin (I), Gerolsteiner, at 16:51

46. Frederic Bessy (F), Cofidis, at 17:20

47. Rafael Casero (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 17:30

48. Alberto Contador (Sp), LSW, at 17:44

49. Xabie Zandio Echaide (Sp), Illes Balears, at 18:11

50. Juan Fuentes (Sp), Lampre-Caffitas, at 18:18

51. Massimo Codol (I), Fassa Bortolo, at 18:33

52. Jerome Pineau (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 18:37

53. Sylvain Calzati (F), AG2R, at 19:04

54. Pierrick Fedrigo (F), Bouygues Telecom, s.t.

55. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, at 19:46

56. Maryan Hary (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 20:16

57. Manuel Quinziato (I), Saunier Duval, at 20:27

58. Allan Davis (Aus), LSW, at 20:45

59. Christophe Edaleine (F), Cofidis, at 21:06

60. Mario Aerts (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 21:13

61. Roberto Heras (Sp), LSW, at 21:15

62. Andriy Grivko (Ukr), Domina Vacanze, at 21:32

63. Cyril Dessel (F), AG2R, at 21:39

64. Koos Moerenhout (Ned), Davitamon-Lotto, at 22:14

65. Manuel Calvente (Sp), CSC, at 22:16

66. Philippe Gilbert (B), Française des Jeux, at 22:58

67. Anthony Geslin (F), Bouygues Telecom, at 23:02

68. Jose Luis Rubiera (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 23:14

69. Eddy Mazzoleni (I), Lampre-Caffitas, at 23:16

70. Gerben Lowik (Ned), Rabobank, at 23:21

71. Joost Posthuma (Ned), Rabobank, at 23:25

72. Marcos Serrano (Sp), LSW, at 23:29

73. Alessandro Cortinovis (I), Domina Vacanze, at 23:54

74. Serge Baguet D(B), avitamon-Lotto, at 24:04

75. Johan Vansummeren (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 24:17

76. Benjamin Noval (Sp), Discovery Channel, at 24:29

77. Sebastian Lang (G), Gerolsteiner, at 24:34

78. Enrico Gasparotto (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 24:39

79. Juan Antonio (Sp), Flecha Fassa Bortolo, at 25:15

80. Nicolas Vogondy (F), Crédit Agricole, at 25:56

81. Francisco Lara Ruiz (Sp), T-Mobile, at 26:36

82. Daniele Becke (G), Illes Balears, at 26:43

83. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crédit Agricole, at 26:45

84. Jose Cayetano Julia (Sp), Illes Balears, at 26:51

85. Sebastien Joly (F), Crédit Agricole, at 27:35

86. Mauro Gerosa (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 27:37

87. Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz), T-Mobile, at 27:48

88. Nick Nuyens (B), Quick Step, at 28:09

89. Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz), Domina Vacanze, at 28:11

90. Rik Verbrugghe (B), Quick Step, at 28:12

91. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe), Française des Jeux, at 28:16

92. Christian Vande Velde (USA), CSC, at 28:21

93. Andreas Klöden (G), T-Mobile, at 28:28

94. Nicolas Jalabert (F), Phonak, at 29:34

95. Nicolas Portal (F), AG2R, at 30:34

96. Christophe Mengin (F), Française des Jeux, at 31:10

97. Bert Grabsch (G), Phonak, at 31:13

98. Michael Boogerd (Ned), Rabobank, at 32:34

99. Robert Hunter (RSA), Phonak, at 33:27

100. Luke Roberts (Aus), CSC, at 33:32

101. Stijn Devolder (B), Discovery Channel, at 33:57

102. Oscar Mason (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 34:09

103. Juan Miguel Mercado (Sp), Quick Step, at 34:11

104. Stuart O'Grady (Aus), Cofidis, at 34:17

105. Preben Van Hecke (B), Davitamon-Lotto, at 34:22

106. Gianluca Sironi (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 34:50

107. Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 35:05

108. Jurgen Van Goolen (B), Quick Step, at 35:24

109. Pierre Drancourt B(F), ouygues Telecom, at 36:14

110. Devis Miorin (I), Liquigas-Bianchi, at 36:16

111. Angel Edo (Sp), Saunier Duval, at 36:23

112. Mikel Pradera (Sp), Illes Balears, at 36:26