Bradley Wiggins became the third Briton to win the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré after Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) took the final 117.5km stage between Pontcharra and La Toussuire on Sunday.
The Team Sky rider, who is a triple Olympic gold medalist and came fourth in the Tour de France two years ago, finished 1min 26sec ahead of the Australian Cadel Evans (BMC) in the overall standings, with the Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) another 23 seconds back.
The Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega-Lotto) took fourth in front of Rodriguez and the Frenchman Christophe Kern (EUC), who won Friday’s stage.
The 31-year-old Wiggins follows in the footsteps of Brian Robinson in 1961 and Robert Millar in 1990 as the only British winners of this traditional Tour de France warm-up race.
The victory is a major boost to Wiggins ahead of the Tour, which starts on July 2.
The Londoner showed his track skill by claiming the lead in the Grenoble time-trial but then produced a considerable effort on the mountain stages to control the race and maintain his lead.
“Everything was made possible by the time-trial; that is my specialty,” said Wiggins, whose eyes are now firmly on a successful Tour.
“I am just going to have to ride my race, not put myself in the red in trying to follow (Alberto) Contador and (Andy) Schleck. But it’s clear that the podium is certainly a real possibility.”
Wiggins rejected the suggestion that he had peaked too early for the race, a month ahead of the tough stages in the Pyrenees.
“No, I don’t think so. I wasn’t bad today in the last mountain. My condition is not yet at 100 percent. I have my training program. I can still improve.”
Stage winner Rodriguez, however, did not include Wiggins in his list of possible contenders for the Tour.
“It will be tougher fought than last year’s race as we will see the likes of Evans, Vinokourov, (Robert) Gesink and Van den Broeck back again.
“For me, it will again be between Contador and (Andy) Schleck. And if Contador shows the same form as he did in the Giro (d’Italia), then he has to be the favorite.”
In the final stage, a relatively short but mountainous stretch that included the climbs of Glandon and La Toussuire, Rodriguez produced a stunning final kick to claim his second victory in two days.
The Spaniard spun off in the final kilometer to finish eight seconds clear of rising French hope Thibault Pinot (FDJ) and Dutchman Gesink (Rabobank).
The 21-year-old Pinot had made the early breakaway before being caught by Thomas Voeckler (EUC). He began the final climb less than a minute ahead of Gesink, who was heading the first chasing group.
Pinot, Gesink and Voeckler were later joined by the Dane Chris Sorensen (SBS) but they were caught by Rodriguez with under a kilometer to go.
- 1. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (ESP), Team Katusha, 3:24:30
- 2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA), Française Des Jeux, at 0:08
- 3. Robert Gesink (NED), Rabobank Cycling Team, at 0:08
- 4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL), Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 0:08
- 5. Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ), Astana, at 0:08
- 1. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain), Team Sky, 23:33:24
- 2. Cadel Evans (Australia), BMC Racing Team, at 1:26
- 3. Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), Astana, at 1:49
- 4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium), Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 2:10
- 5. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spain), Team Katusha, at 2:50