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61st Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré - ProT

France, June 7-14, 2009

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Stage 5 - June 11: Valence - Le Mont Ventoux, 154km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Susan Westemeyer

14:59 CEST   
Welcome back to our live coverage. The Tour de France is looming right around the corner, and the riders will get a taste of it today, as today's stage finishes atop the Mont Ventoux. And that is exactly where the penultimate stage of this year's Tour finishes.

15:02 CEST   
The stage got off to a nervous start, with numerous breaks trying unsuccessfully to get away. A crash on the descent of the day's first climb, the Col de Lunel, took down a number of riders, and Silence-Lotto's Sebastian Lang had to leave in an ambulance.

At km 42, four riders finally got away: Jose Luis Arrieta (AG2R), Alan Perez (Euskaltel), Frederik Willems (Liquigas), and Christophe Kern (Cofidis). The foursome worked well together and the field was willing to let them go. By km 66.5 they had built up a lead of 8:25. That was too much, and the peloton has turned the speed up a notch and brought it back down to 7:25.

15:05 CEST    94km/60km to go
The stage is about two-thirds done, but the big action will come at the end. The big climb starts at km 132.5

15:10 CEST   
So who will take it today? Will one of the Tour favourites go for it and try to show his rivals up? Or will they all eye each other and let a climber get away for a moment of glory? You can talk about it in our forum.

15:13 CEST   
Yesterday's time trial win went to, logically enough, the World time trial champion, Bert Grabsch of Columbia-Highroad. It was the German's first victory since winning the title last fall. “This course was good for me,” he said. “The length was right, it was windy and not too hilly.” The 33-year-old is now hoping to make the team's Tour de France squad.

15:18 CEST   
Cadel Evans finished second on the day in the time trial, but took over the general lead. “I did not necessarily come to win, but it’s better to lead, for sure,” he said. “The track was fast and Grabsch was the best today. But I fear for the Ventoux tomorrow.”

15:19 CEST    104km/50km to go
The gap is continuing to come down, ever so slightly. It is now at 7:25.

15:23 CEST   
Evans knows that the real test will start today. “For me, the mountains will be a real examination. Contador is the man to beat in the mountains, even if one should also be wary of other riders.”

Today's climb should be familiar to him. "The last time that I climbed Mont Ventoux, I won the stage (Paris-Nice). But it will be another thing with Contador in the race."

15:28 CEST   
Young Niki Terpstra of Milram has had his moment of glory in this race. He probably never really expected to defend his leader's jersey in yesterday's time trial, but he also probably didn't expect to do quite so poorly.

It wasn't really his fault, though, that he finished nearly five and a half minutes down. He was over-motivated, according to team manager Gerry van Gerwen. “He took a curve too fast and hit the ground with his pedal. After his crash his morale was, of course, rock bottom.“ He finished the race on his road bike.

15:32 CEST   
Let's take a quick look at who is leading what ranking. Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto has his yellow jersey back, after losing it for one day to Terpstra. The Australian leads second-placed Alberto Contador by 45 seconds.

15:36 CEST   
Evans also has the points jersey. He has a good lead there, with 71 points ahead of Contador (46) and Terpstra (43). However, Evans is only second in the mountains ranking. Remi Pauriol of Cofidis has a whopping lead there, 20 points, ahead of Evans and Alexandre Pichot (Bbox), both with 8 points. We may well see a change in this ranking today.

15:38 CEST   
Team Columbia-Highroad jumped to the head of the list in the team rankings after yesterday's time trial, where it finished first (Bert Grabsch) and fourth (Frantisek Rabon).

15:41 CEST    120km/34km to go
The leading quartet now has only 34 km to go. Meanwhile, back in the pack, Alejandro Valverde had a flat tyre.

15:43 CEST   
Who are these guys in the break group? Arrieta is one of the peloton's older riders, at age 37. He turned pro in 1993 with Banesto and stayed with the team until 2005. He joined AG2R in 2006. The Spaniard was well-known as a domestique for Miguel Indurain. Arrieta won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana in 2006.

15:45 CEST   
Alan Perez is a 26-year-old Spaniard. He turned pro with Orbea in 2005 before joining Euskaltel in 2007. He is still looking for his first win.

15:50 CEST   
Frederik Willems is a Belgian on the Italian Liquigas team. He turned pro in 2003 with Chocolade Jacques and joined Liquigas in 2007. 2006 was his biggest year, as he won stages in both the Ster Elektrotoer and the Tour of Britain, as well as a stage and the overall title in the Etoile de Besseges.

15:51 CEST    126km/28km to go
The four escapees have hit the top of the penultimate climb, the col de la Madelaine.

15:55 CEST   
It is a beautiful sunny day today -- will the weather be as nice up near the top of Ventoux?

15:58 CEST   
Christophe Kern, 28, has made his way around the French teams, riding for Francaise des Jeux, Bouygue Telecom, and Credit Agricole before joining Cofidis this year.

16:00 CEST   
Rabobank is leading the peloton in chasing down the four in the break, hoping to set things up for Robert Gesink. All the other favourites are all there in the pack: Contador, Valverde, Evans.

16:02 CEST   
A single Silence-Lotto rider is now at the head of things, keeping an eye on the orange-and-blue clad Rabo riders.

16:03 CEST   
Alberto Contador of Astana was happy with his performance yesterday, finishing fifth. He called it “ very, very good for me with regard to future rivals in the Tour, Evans in particular."

It doesn't bother him to be second overall. “As I said before I came here, the Dauphiné is a good setup and I will not spend extra forces needed to fight for victory. I take every day to recover well and do not punish myself too much. "

16:05 CEST    139km/15km to go
The escapees are grinding their way up the mountain. The field is still 4:50 back.

16:05 CEST   
Oops, lets change that to 2:43 for the gap!

16:06 CEST   
Perez can no longer stay with the break and is the first to fall back.

16:06 CEST   
Kern is the next to have to let go.

16:07 CEST   
Mont Ventoux is an Hors Categorie climb. The riders will go up 1617 metres over 21.8 km, reaching an altitude of 1909 metres. Things start out easily enough with an average gradient of 3.9%, but over the last 16km, the average gradient is 8.9%.

16:08 CEST   
Kern has managed to catch up with the other two again.

16:11 CEST   
Liquigas has now moved to the front, with an Astana rider right behind them. In fact, Basso and a helper and the Astana rider have pulled slightly away from the field.

16:13 CEST   
Those three are caught but Basso takes off on his own. Up front, his teammate Willems can't take it any more and starts wobbling all over the place as Arrieta takes off without him.

16:14 CEST   
It is of course not Basso who has gotten away but his teammate Sylvester Szmyd.

16:16 CEST   
Another handful of riders take off, including Basso. The rest of the favourites are still in the group, which now has 20-30 riders.

16:17 CEST   
Arrieta and Kern are together at the front.

16:19 CEST   
Basso's pace was too high and this group has fallen apart. Possoni of Columbia is the next to jump out of the field. Evans and Contador are eying one another...

16:19 CEST    143km/11km to go
There are some 14 riders in the Evans/Contador group. A Cofidis rider tries his luck -- David Moncoutie.

16:20 CEST   
Perez is now back in the field.

16:21 CEST   
Gesink goes, as the gap to the two leaders is down to 2:10. But the other won't let the Dutchman go, and he drags along a train of half a dozen riders.

16:23 CEST   
David Millar of Garmin is up there in the favourites group, as they have all come together again.

16:23 CEST   
Evans is sitting comfortably on Gesink's wheel.

16:24 CEST   
Things are very confusing here -- looks like Basso and another rider are somewhere between the leaders and the yellow jersey group.

16:25 CEST   
It is warm enough today for open jerseys, so we get to see lots of hairless chests.

16:26 CEST   
Valverde jumps!

16:26 CEST   
The group lets him go, and he quickly joins the two leaders, along with a Saxo Bank rider.

16:28 CEST   
So it wasn't the two leaders, who still are up there alone. But Valverde takes off from his companions and gives chase.

16:28 CEST   
Valverde hopes to change his bad experiences with Mont Ventoux. "I had a very bad experience in that climb two years ago when I lost more than 42 minutes," and finishing next to last, he noted. "In that respect, it's impossible to do worse this time!"

16:29 CEST    145.4km/8.6km to go
Valverde is now only 47 seconds behind the leaders.

16:30 CEST   
Szmyd, Basso and Zubeldia (Astana) are also between the leaders and the yellow jersey group.

16:30 CEST   
Valverde has the two leaders in his sights now.

16:31 CEST   
No, sorry, as we said, it is confusing. He is at the Basso group.

16:32 CEST   
Gesink goes out of the favourites group, and the others give chase, as Contador leads the way.

Up front, the Basso group has caught the two leaders. Basso is at the back of the group and Zubeldia is having problems staying with them.

16:33 CEST   
Valverde takes off out of the group. He is determined to win today.

16:34 CEST   
Gesink now leads a small group of five or six, including of course Evans and Contador.

16:34 CEST   
Valverde and Szmyd are now together in the front.

16:35 CEST   
There is also a Liquigas rider in the yellow jersey group, so Liquigas has three riders near the front.

16:36 CEST    147.4km/6.6km to go
30 seconds for Szmyd and Valverde.

16:36 CEST   
Gesink continues to pull his little group up the mountain. They now catch Basso.

16:37 CEST   
The two leaders have now passed the tree line. They can expect some wind now.

16:38 CEST   
The Evans group drops Basso off the back and kicks up the speed a notch.

16:39 CEST    5.4km/148.6km to go
Valverde keeps on going, with Szmyd on his rear wheel. Their lead is 1:30.

16:40 CEST   
Evans takes over the lead work with Contador on his rear wheel.

16:41 CEST   
The Evans group is also approaching the tree line now.

16:41 CEST    149.4km/4.6km to go
Valverde is up out of the saddle on one of the endless horseshoe curves on this climb.

16:42 CEST   
Szmyd now takes over the lead work.

16:43 CEST   
Evans and Contador are still one-two in their group.

16:44 CEST    150.5km/3.5km to go
Valverde and Szmyd can see the top of the mountain now -- but it is still an agonizingly long way off.

16:45 CEST   
Fuglsang of Saxo Bank takes off out of the Evans group, but is quickly caught again.

16:46 CEST   
The young Dane is now leading the group, and he looks back as if to say, how come I am doing all the work here?

16:47 CEST   
Moncoutie takes off but, you guessed it -- they won't let him go.

16:48 CEST    151.7km/2.3km to go
Another half dozen or so riders, including Millar, is now approaching the Evans group.

Valverde and Szmyd now have a 1:44 lead.

16:48 CEST   
If things continue like this, Evans could lose his yellow jersey to Valverde.

16:49 CEST   
Valverde was only 1:54 down on Evans going into today's stage.

16:49 CEST    153km/1km to go
One kilometre for Valverde and Szmyd, and the gap has grown to 1:56.

16:50 CEST   
The gap continues to grow a second at a time. No one in the favourites group is reacting.

16:51 CEST   
A little conversation between the two leaders. Is Valverde saying you can have the stage if I get the yellow?

16:51 CEST   
Fuglsang and Gesink lose their patience and take off from the Evans group.

16:53 CEST   
Valverde has his mouth wide open to catch as much oxygen a possible as the gap is now over two minutes.

16:54 CEST   
500 metres for the two leaders.

16:54 CEST   
The road is full of fans, and Valverde takes off, as Szmyd seems to stand still suddenly.

16:55 CEST   
That is enough for the Spaniard and he goes all out.

16:55 CEST   
Szmyd is going again, and it looks like Valverde is waiting for him. This is strange.

16:56 CEST   
Aha. Szmyd goes by Valverde and takes the stage win.

16:56 CEST   
Moncoutie turns on the speed and now pulls Evans and Contador with him.

16:57 CEST   
Zubeldia comes in as third.

16:57 CEST   
Gesink is the next to come in, at 1:46 down, followed by Fuglsang.

16:58 CEST   
Evans sprints up hill as best he can, but it is too late. He crosses the line at 2:06, and loses his yellow jersey.

16:59 CEST   
Evans picked up three seconds on Contador with his closing sprint.

17:02 CEST   
So Valverde indeed takes over the race lead, 16 seconds ahead of Evans, with Contador in third place at 1:04.

17:04 CEST   
Thanks for reading along today and join us again tomorrow afternoon for some more climbing fun from Gap to Briancon.

Provisional results
1 Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas) 
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Caisse d'Epargne)
3 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Astana)
4 Robert Gesink (Rabobank)
5 Jacob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank)
6 Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto)
7 David Moncoutié (Cofidis)
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana)
9 Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
10 Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R La Mondiale)
General classification after stage 5
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Caisse d'Epargne)
2 Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto)
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana)

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