Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) won the sixth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré on Saturday, emerging at the front of an elite group of contenders on the Collet d’Allevard climb and fending off challengers to the line.
Sky’s Bradley Wiggins stayed on course for the overall victory after fending off a determined attack from Kazakh veteran Alexander Vinokourov on the final climb to stay in the yellow jersey.
The 192km “Queen Stage” of Dauphiné covered a mountainous route from Le Gets to Le Collet d’Allevard, ending at an altitude of 1422 meters. Before the demanding uphill finish, the peloton climbed five other categorized climb where eight riders managed to escape from the field.
But on the uphill finish and with only ten kilometers to go, it was over for the front group as they were passed by the remains of the main field and soon after, only 15 riders were left in the front group.
The finale was dominated by repeated attacks from GC riders which made things tough on Wiggins.
Rodriguez went for the line on his own five km out and came in with half a minute to spare ahead of Dutchman Robert Gesink (Rabobank), Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Frenchman Christophe Kern (Europcar).
Vinokourov placed fifth just ahead of Wiggins, who held off Australian Cadel Evans on the 11.2km final climb to take his lead over Evans to 1:26 and 1:52 over Vinokourov.
In holding on at the finish at the 1422m Collet d’Allevard the 32-year-old Rodriguez went one better than a series of recent second place finishes which included the Amstel Gold Race and Fleche Wallonne.
“I didn’t time my attacks at the right moment in the other races,” said Rodriguez. “At 5km today it was the ideal moment.”
The Catalan racer came in fifth in the Giro d’Italia but is not intending to race in the Tour de France.
Sunday’s final stage is a 117.5km ride from Pontcharra to La Toussuire.
Saturday’s stage was earlier disrupted in bizarre fashion when two cows on the route caused a mass fall in the peloton some 25km out from the line.
Several riders, including Frenchman Arnold Jeannesson and Spaniard Mikel Landa, came to grief as the two beasts, having escaped from their field, trotted along the road blissfully unaware of the mayhem they had caused.
- 1. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (ESP), Team Katusha, 5:12:47/li>
- 2. Robert Gesink (NED), Rabobank Cycling Team, at 0:31
- 3. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL), Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 0:39
- 4. Christophe Kern (FRA), Europcar, at 0:41
- 5. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ), Astana, at 0:50
- 1. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain), Team Sky, 23:16:11
- 2. Cadel Evans (Australia), BMC Racing Team, at 1:26
- 3. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan), Astana, at 1:52
- 4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium), Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 2:13
- 5. Christophe Kern (France), Europcar, at 2:52