SAINT-JEAN-DE-MAURIENNE, France, (AFP) ─ Rabobank’s Lars Boom took the overall lead of the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré stage race after winning the prologue here Sunday.
The former world and Dutch national cyclocross champion completed the 5.4km race against the clock in 6:18, beating Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) by two seconds.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, one of several top names hoping to use the eight day race as a crucial warm-up for the Tour de France next month, was third at five seconds adrift.
Another rider using the race as a warm-up for the Tour, BMC’s Cadel Evans, a three-time runner-up here, finished seventh at nine seconds back.
Brief spells of rain had made the technical course something of a lottery for most of the peloton, although by the time the big favorites had warmed up and were ready to go most of the roads had dried.
Boom, who is just recovering from a bout of tendinitis, which flared up at the Amgen Tour of California, put his victory down to a solid block of training.
“Apart from the hill at the start of the race, it went really well for me,” said the 25-year-old. “I felt comfortable in the corners, where my cyclocross experience probably helped, but I think the biggest difference was having trained solidly last week.
“Now I’d like to keep the jersey for another day although I know tomorrow’s stage finishes on an uphill. The main aim for the team is to go for more stage wins, whether it’s me or someone else.”
Runner-up Vinokourov was more than happy with a place on the podium.
“I’ve got great legs,” said the Kazakhstani. “I trained hard in the lead up to the Dauphiné, and this is my reward. I’m delighted.”
Evans felt he was off to a good start.
“Unfortunately, when it’s changing weather conditions, it can make for a little bit of an unfair racing,” Evans said.
“But it was good the roads dried up for the GC favorites. It’s a good start to what is going to be an interesting race.”
BMC dirctor John Lelangue said Evans is on track for another good showing at the Dauphiné.
“There is still a big time trial coming and some nice mountaintop finishes,” Lelangue said. “Most important today was to be safe and not lose time.
Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck was the next best among the other hopefuls for a podium place at next month’s Tour, the Omega-Pharma all-rounder finishing in 15th at 14 seconds adrift.
Dutchman Robert Gesink (Rabobank) was a further two seconds further back while German Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad) finished 17 seconds behind Boom.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), who has made victory in the Tour de France his priority this year, could only finish 102nd at 34 seconds behind Boom.
Time trial specialist Boom thus claims his second victory of the season after winning the Tour of Qatar prologue in February.
The first stage of the Dauphiné will be held Monday. The 144km leg will take the peloton from Albertville to Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse.
In keeping with the tradition of the Dauphiné serving as a major warm-up for July’s yellow jersey battle, the third stage on Wednesday will feature precisely the same 42.5 km time trial course around Grenoble that will be used on the 20th and penultimate stage of the Tour de France.
- 1. Lars Boom (NED), Rabobank Cycling Team, 5.4km in 6:18
- 2. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ), Astana, at 0:02
- 3. Bradley Wiggins (GBR), Team Sky, at 0:05
- 4. John Degenkolb (GER), HTC-Highroad, at 0:06
- 5. Biel Kadri (FRA), Ag2r La Mondiale, at 0:08