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By Andrew Hood
Pierrick Fedrigo (Bouygues Telecom) delivered a French stage victory Friday out of a breakaway in the short, 106km sixth stage from Gap to Briancon at the Dauphiné Libéré.
Overnight leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) rode confidently in the main pack as 14 riders escaped over the day’s main obstacle up the Col d’Izoard to finish 16th with the same time as archrivals to retain his narrow 16-second lead going into the final weekend of racing.
Valverde crossed the line together with second-place Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and third-place Alberto Contador (Astana) at 4:12 back as none of the “big three” made any major moves a day after Valverde snatched away the leader’s jersey from Evans in Thursday’s summit finish at Mont Ventoux.
“It was a pretty tranquilo day, but it’s never easy over the Izoard. Then Contador tried to attack at the end, but it was OK,” said Valverde, who wore yellow shorts to match his leader’s jersey. “Tomorrow is going to be another story.”
With the favorites keeping an eye on each other, riders on the hunt for a stage victory took their chance. A group of 14 eventually pulled five minutes clear of the main bunch coming over the legendary Izoard summit.
Fedrigo – a winner of a Tour stage in 2006 – joined Lars Bak (Saxo Bank), Stephane Goubert (Ag2r), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) as the quintet broke free up the Izoard and rode into Briancon to fight for the flowers.
The final kilometers climbed through the narrow streets of Briancon, site of numerous stage finishes at the Tour, Dauphiné and Giro d’Italia. Fedrigo paced himself well and then dropped the stubborn Van de Walle in the final corner to claim the victory.
“We knew that it would be fast. The objective here, just like the Tour de France, is to win a stage,” said the 30-year-old stage winner, who also claimed the best climber’s jersey. “I realized I was running better all the time, then I was able to impose my own rhythm, staying concentrated on the last meters.”
The only GC contender to make a move was Basque climber Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who put in a big deal to climb from eighth to fourth overall, now 1:49 back, knocking David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) from fourth to fifth.
Contador ramped things up in the final kilometer with a surge that was quickly marked by Valverde and Evans.
Saturday’s penultimate stage is a three-climb, 157km mountainous route from Briancon to the summit finish at Saint-Francois-Longchamp. The course tackles two hors categorie climbs at the Galibier and Croix de Fer before the finish at the Cat. 1 Longchamp summit.
For Valverde, being aggressive will be his best tactic.
“If I can attack, I will. The Madeleine (Longchamp) climb is very hard, harder than last year at La Toussuire,” Valverde said, referring to last year’s decisive summit finish. “Evans and Contador are the two most dangerous adversaries for me right now, but I think Gesink and Astarloza will try something, too.”
Stage 6 results | Click for: GC standings
- 1. Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA/BBO) in 2:48:17
- 2. Jurgen Van_de_walle at 0:04. (BEL/QST)
- 3. Stephane Goubert at 0:05. (FRA/ALM)
- 4. Juanmanuel Garate at 0:14. (ESP/RAB)
- 5. Lars Bak at 0:25. (DEN/SAX)
- 6. Aliaksandr Kuschynski at 2:47. (BLR/LIQ)
- 7. Mauro Santambrogio at 2:47. (ITA/LAM)
- 8. Bingen Fernandez at 2:50. (ESP/COF)
- 9. Mikel Astarloza at 3:17. (ESP/EUS)
- 10. Alberto Fernandez_de_la_puebla at 3:41. (ESP/FUJ)
- 11. Markus Zberg at 3:49. (SUI/BMC)
- 12. Christophe Lemevel at 4:05. (FRA/FDJ)
- 13. David Moncouti? at 4:10. (FRA/COF)
- 14. Alberto Contador at 4:12. (ESP/AST)
- 15. Cadel Evans at 4:12. (AUS/SIL)
- 16. Alejandro Valverde at 4:12. (ESP/GCE)
- 17. Robert Gesink at 4:19. (NED/RAB)
- 18. Vincenzo Nibali at 4:21. (ITA/LIQ)
- 19. David Millar at 4:21. (GBR/GRM)
- 20. Jerome Coppel at 4:29. (FRA/FDJ)
GC after stage 6 | Click for: Stage results
- 1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/GCE) in 18:15:46
- 2. Cadel Evans at 0:16. (AUS/SIL)
- 3. Alberto Contador at 1:04. (ESP/AST)
- 4. Mikel Astarloza at 1:49. (ESP/EUS)
- 5. David Millar at 1:52. (GBR/GRM)
- 6. Robert Gesink at 2:41. (NED/RAB)
- 7. Haimar Zubeldia at 2:42. (ESP/AST)
- 8. Vincenzo Nibali at 2:43. (ITA/LIQ)
- 9. Sylvester Szmyd at 3:50. (POL/LIQ)
- 10. Jakob Fuglsang at 3:56. (DEN/SAX)
- 11. Stef Clement at 4:25. (NED/RAB)
- 12. Christophe Lemevel at 5:32. (FRA/FDJ)
- 13. Jose-Luis Arrieta at 5:39. (ESP/ALM)
- 14. Vladimir Efimkin at 6:13. (RUS/ALM)
- 15. Lars Bak at 6:17. (DEN/SAX)
- 16. Pierre Rolland at 6:52. (FRA/BBO)
- 17. Christian Knees at 7:20. (GER/MRM)
- 18. Marco Marzano at 7:35. (ITA/LAM)
- 19. David Moncoutie at 7:48. (FRA/COF)
- 20. Morris Possoni at 8:06. (ITA/THR)