Valverde in yellow with Evans on his wheel at a last years Dauphine
The final Tour de France tuneup, the Criterium du Dauphine Libere, is in full swing after 5 stages. Last year’s winner Alejandro Valverde of Spain took command today on the climb of le Mont Ventuox – a climb that Lance Armstrong called the hardest climb in France. Valverde, currently under suspicion in the same doping scandal that earned Ivan Basso a suspension, flexed his climbing prowess on the lunar landscape to the summitt finishing right behind Sylvester Szmyd. Valverde won’t participate in the Tour de France this year, so the Dauphine Libere is his chance to show the cycling world what he’s got. He attacked the leaders, namely Cadel Evans (2nd at the 08 TDF) and Alberto Contador (1st at the 07 TDF and 09 favorite). Neither had an answer for the Spaniards acceleration to the summitt. Those men now sit 1,2, and 3 on the general classification.
Evans, who is a capable but not a pure climber, could not respond to Valverde finishing 6th on the stage. Contador, who is a superb climber, seemed content to hold onto Evans wheel for dear life and finished 8th. Perhaps both spent too much on yesterday’s time trial. There are still plenty of big climbs to go though, so at :18 seconds ahead its far from over.