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61st Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré - ProT

France, June 7-14, 2009

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Stage 6 - June 12: June 12: Gap - Briançon, 106km

Live commentary by Gregor Brown

14:57 CEST   
Welcome back to Cyclingnews' coverage of the Dauphiné Libéré stage race. Yesterday, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) put down the hammer to distance Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and other favourites to take over the leader's jersey. His escape companion, Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas), took the stage glory.

Valverde will defend his lead today and try to put more time into his rivals. The riders face a short stage of 106 kilometres from Gap to Briançon.

14:58 CEST    57.5km/48.5km to go
We have an escape group of 14 with 5:12 on the peloton. The race is heading up the Izoard.

14:59 CEST    59km/47km to go
Garate (Rabobank), Verdugo (Euskaltel), Goubert (AG2R), Vaugrenard, Fernandez (Cofidis), Van de Walle (Quick Step), Tuft (Garmin), Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues), Santambrogio (Lampre), Steegmans (Team Katusha), Zberg (BMC), Kuschynski (Liquigas), Fernandez (Fuji Servetto) and Bak (Team Saxo Bank) are the 14.

Valverde's team leads to the base of the Col d'Izoard.

15:06 CEST   
Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) is the highest place rider in the group, at nine minutes back from Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

15:08 CEST    65km/41km to go
The riders pass through a tunnel on part of this rocky climb. It is really beautiful scenery.

We catch a glimpse of Valverde's yellow jersey in the pack. Remember, he won the race last year and will want to repeat this year to show strong in front of the Tour de France organisers, who don't want to have him to his race.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:09 CEST   
"I made an important step towards the overall win," said Valverde yesterday. "This morning I was 1:54 down, and now I'm 16 seconds ahead. I'll try to resist until the end.

"To win the Dauphiné is important for me and for my team. I still hope to ride the Tour de France but the decision isn't in my hands. The less I think of it, the more I can focus on this race."

15:12 CEST   
Astana rides behind Valverde's Caisse team in the peloton. The riders are drinking water to make it through the day.

The Izoard climbs up to 2360 metres.

15:12 CEST   
Valverde is completely in the role of race leader, yellow shorts to match the yellow top.

15:12 CEST   
Thanks for those e-mails and posts on the forum. Please keep them coming.

15:19 CEST    72.1km/33.9km to go
The Izoard is about to officially start.

How long will Gert Steegmans (Katusha), a sprinter, last? The climb could be too much for the Tour de France stage winner.

Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) is at the front of the escape right now.

The gap is 5:10 to the peloton.

15:26 CEST    75.4km/30.6km to go
It is hard to miss Valverde in this group of riders. The all yellow kit stands out well.

The 14-man lead group is getting aggressive. Gert Steegmans (Katusha) attacks!

15:28 CEST   
He may be trying to make a statement for his team. Katusha and Fuji were the only two ProTour teams not invited to the Vuelta a España.

The organiser selected its teams today. The full list of participating teams is AG2R La Mondiale, Andalucía Cajasur, Astana, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Caisse d´Epargne, Cervélo TestTeam, Cofidis, Contentpolis-Ampo, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Française Des Jeux, Garmin-Slipstream, Lampre-NGC, Liquigas, Quick-Step, Rabobank, Silence-Lotto, Columbia-Highroad, Milram, Saxo Bank, Vacansoleil and Xacobeo Galicia.

There are 16 ProTour teams. The five Professional Continental teams invited are Andalucía Cajasur, Cervélo TestTeam, Contentpolis-Ampo, Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team and Xacobeo Galicia.

15:30 CEST    76km/30km to go
Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) is trying to bridge to Steegmans.

A reminder on the members 14-man move:
Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale), Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux), Bingen Fernández (Cofidis), Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), Svein Tuft (Garmin-Slipstream), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Mauro Santambrogio (Lampre-NGC), Gert Steegmans (Katusha), Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Alberto Fernández De La Puebla (Fuji-Servetto) and Lars Bak (Saxo Bank)

They went free around 17 kilometres into the day.

15:30 CEST   
Zberg catches Steegmans.

Caisse still leads the peloton for Valverde.

15:32 CEST   
Swiss Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) drops Gert Steegmans (Katusha). The escape group pulls him back.

Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) tries his luck.

Markus Zberg, BMC's Swiss champ
Photo ©: Isabelle Duchesne
(Click for larger image)

15:33 CEST   
Zberg is clearly Swiss with the national champion's jersey on this back -- a white cross on the red background. He now has a Belgian, Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), for company.

15:35 CEST    78.2km/27.8km to go
The duo has about 40 seconds on the other 12 riders.

15:39 CEST    79.1km/26.9km to go
Yesterday, Contador stuck to Evans' wheel and today it is Valverde's wheel.

"I will continue to try and not whip myself too much in this race," Alberto Contador (Astana) said after yesterday's stage. "To do as well as possible, like today [yesterday], but without wasting more energy than necessary."

Daniel Martin (Garmin-Slipstream)
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

15:41 CEST   
We see Daniel Martin (Garmin-Slipstream) riding near the front. He finished eight minutes down yesterday.

"He was not feeling well today, perhaps hypoglycemia [deficiency of sugar in the blood - ed.]," said Garmin's team director, Lionel Marie.

15:42 CEST    79.9km/26.1km to go
Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) and Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale) are with Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step).

15:46 CEST    80.8km/25.2km to go
Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) and Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) are on their own, trying to bridge to the leaders.

The leaders are Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale), Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank), Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team). But we have not seen Zberg in a while.

The gap is 5:21.

15:49 CEST    81.2km/24.8km to go
Yes, Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team), went out the back door.

The leaders are Lars Bak (Saxo Bank), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale), Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step).

Bak is suffering.

15:51 CEST   
Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) slides out the back.

15:51 CEST    82.1km/23.9km to go
In the main pack a Fuji and Euskaltel rider attack. The Euskaltel rider started it.

15:53 CEST   
It is Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) leading the charge. Fabrice Piemontesi (Fuji) is chasing.

15:53 CEST   
Don't forget, Brit David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) is going like a mountain goat. He is with favourites group and climbing well.

15:54 CEST    83km/23km to go
Our four leaders are Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale), Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step).

15:55 CEST    83.5km/22.5km to go
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) looks strong. He powers solo and should catch the 10 escapees behind the front four.

15:57 CEST   
There are 20 kilometres after the top of Izoard. The majority is downhill, but the final is a kick up to Briançon.

15:57 CEST   
We are two km from the top of Izoard.

15:58 CEST    84.3km/21.7km to go
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) catches Gert Steegmans (Katusha).

The Belgian has a big smile on his face. He fades towards the main group of favourites.

15:59 CEST   
The front four are near the top. 1500m left to go. Snow lines the road for Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) and Co.

15:59 CEST    84.8km/21.2km to go
David Moncoutié (Cofidis) launches out of the Caisse-led group.

16:00 CEST   
Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale) leads the four. Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) takes over.

16:00 CEST    85km/21km to go
They have 1km to climb.

16:01 CEST   
Jurgen Van de Walle's head is bobbing, he appears to be in pain.

16:03 CEST   
Aussie fans will remember that Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is a past winner of the Tour Down Under. He rode for AG2R when he won in 2003.

16:04 CEST    85.8km/20.2km to go
Garate looks smooth. He stands on his pedals every now and then to give his legs a stretch.

He won a stage in the 2006 Giro d'Italia as the Spanish Champion.

Race leader, Valverde, is the current Spanish Champion.

16:05 CEST    86.3km/19.7km to go
They have a bit of a wind up here. If the wind does not get our leaders than Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) might.

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is catching Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux).

16:07 CEST    86.5km/19.5km to go
Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) goes over Izoard first. Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank), Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) and Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale) follow.

16:07 CEST   
The roads are dry for the leaders. Belgium's Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) leads the charge downhill.

16:08 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) nears the top of the climb. He is now catching Svein Tuft (Garmin-Slipstream), better known for his TT rides than his mountain days.

16:08 CEST   
The original escape group is shattered.

16:09 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is 3:50 back on the front four.

16:09 CEST   
He goes over the top of the Izoard.

16:10 CEST    88.8km/17.2km to go
The front four lead by 5:01 on the favourites.

16:11 CEST   
Daniel Martin (Garmin-Slipstream) and David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) are near the front of the group, they cross Izoard's top at 4:57 back.

16:12 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has his guns blazing down Izoard's back side. He can forget about braking if he wants to catch the four leaders.

16:15 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) catches Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team). The Basque is determined, however, it seems impossible for him to catch the leaders.

16:15 CEST   
Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) will be going down the mountain a little slower, he is not known as the best descender of the bunch.

Race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) leads the group.

16:16 CEST    95km/11km to go
Who will win the stage?

16:18 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) may not catch the four leaders, but he will move up the classification. He is 2:44 behind Valverde, 10 seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank).

16:19 CEST   
Wait! Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) made his way back up the front four riders. That is a great bit of descending by him.

16:21 CEST   
Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) prompts moment. Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) attacks.

16:22 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) are working together.

16:23 CEST    102km/4km to go
We have only 4km left to race. The last metres of the climb are uphill.

16:24 CEST    102.8km/3.2km to go
The four pull back Garate.

Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) pull Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi) back.

16:25 CEST   
Are five leaders are Lars Bak (Saxo Bank), Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale), Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) and Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step).

16:25 CEST    104km/2km to go
Two km left. Who will win?

16:26 CEST   
Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) is the danger man.

16:26 CEST   
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) just went free for the final 1km.

16:27 CEST   
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) is suffering.

16:27 CEST   
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) is suffering.

16:27 CEST    105km/1km to go
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) starts the final km.

16:27 CEST   
It is all uphill here.

16:28 CEST   
Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale) tries to close to Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step).

16:28 CEST   
He has few metres on the other three.

16:28 CEST   
Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) leads the three.

16:29 CEST   
They pass the door into the city of Briançon. Watch out for Garate.

16:29 CEST   
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) still holds.

16:29 CEST   
Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) rides clear of Garate in the city centre.

16:30 CEST   
The Belgian, Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step), keeps pumping along. Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) joins him.

16:30 CEST   
Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) takes the win.

16:31 CEST   
Jurgen Van de Walle (Quick Step) held for second ahead of Stéphane Goubert (AG2R La Mondiale) and Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank). Lars Bak (Saxo Bank) finishes a little way back.

16:33 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) rides to the finish line.

Alberto Contador (Astana) attacks Valverde.

16:33 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) finishes 3:16 down.

16:34 CEST   
Piemontesi finishes.

Next is Marcus Zberg (BMC Racing Team).

16:35 CEST   
Contador, Valverde and Evans finish together at 4:13 behind Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom). Robert Gesink (Rabobank) next. Then Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) and David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream).

16:35 CEST   
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) gained around 57 seconds in the general classification.

16:40 CEST   
A great win from the escape group by Frenchman Pierrick Fédrigo. Besides Mikel Astarloza's move to fourth overall, the classification stayed the same. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) leads over Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Alberto Contador (Astana).

16:40 CEST   
Thanks for joining us today. Please come back again this weekend for the final two stages.


1 Pierrick Fédrigo (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
2 Jurgen Van de Walle (Bel) Quick Step
3 Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Juan Manuel Gárate (Spa) Rabobank
5 Lars Bak (Den) Saxo Bank
General classification after stage 6
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto
3 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana            

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