Post Stage Analysis

9 Big Photos from Stage 1sirotti

June 7 update: Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto rocked the opening time trial of the Dauphiné Libéré today, winning the stage and taking the lead in the general classification. Evans leads Alberto Contador of Astana by 7 seconds and last year's winner Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Épargne by 23 seconds. Evans averaged 46 km/hr on the 12.1 kilometer course and finished with a time of 15:36.64. Only the top three riders beat the 16 minute mark.

Sébastien Rosseler of Quick-Step, who won the final time trial at the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque, held an early lead. His time held for nearly 50 riders, until a flying Cadel Evans took over the lead. Evans passed through the first time check with the fastest time, and never looked back. The course included a 3 kilometer climb, a fast descent, and some curvy bits through the old portion of Nancy. Though rain threatened early, Evans and the favorites raced on dry roads. The Australian beat the current World Champion in the time trial, Bert Grabsch of Columbia-High Road, by 30 seconds.

Evans also now leads the mountains competition, thanks to his fast time at the first check point. The race organizers gave the opening climb on the Nancy course a category 4 rating. Alberto Contador of Astana had the second fastest time, and should wear the jersey for tomorrow's stage.

Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas-Doimo finished fifth and leads the best young rider competition. Nibali will ride the Tour de France as co-captain with Roman Kreuziger and today's ride suggests he is coming on good form at the right time. Ivan Basso of Liquigas-Doimo, meanwhile, came to this Dauphiné Libéré to ride for the general classification, but today dropped 1:00 to Evans. Basso has never excelled against the watch, and he will have his work cut out for him if he wants a high finish here in France. With another 40 kilometers of racing against the watch, Basso's chances of wearing the leader's jersey in Grenoble look slim. Climber Robert Gesink also dropped more than 1:00 to Evans today, similarly complicating his route to overall victory.

Still, there's a long way to go to Grenoble, especially with four very difficult mountain stages on the menu. The top three in the general classification have clearly come with good form for this race and we should see some very competitive racing among them in the coming days. Evans has placed second the last two years running in the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré. No doubt he would like to break that particular streak. Contador has never won the Dauphiné, but will he hold back in view of his July goals at the Tour? Contador has already told the press that he "did not come to win" this race. Of course, the Tour always looms over the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré, and we can expect all the top riders to be thinking of July as they measure out their efforts here. All the same, it's hard to believe Contador isn't bluffing just a wee bit.

Here is the current general classification:

1. Cadel Evans 15’36’’64
2. Alberto Contador :08
3. Alejandro Valverde :23
4. Sébastien Rosseler :33
5. Vicenzo Nibali :34
6. Frantisek Rabon :34
7. Christian Knees :34
8. Benoit Vaugrenard :36
9. José Ivan Gutierrez :36
10. David Millar :37

Tomorrow should be a stage for the sprinters. The course runs southwest from Nancy to Dijon. There are 2 category four climbs along the route, which should be enough to tempt an early break to go on the attack, with the chance to wear the mountain's jersey for a day serving as the prize. Podium time is never a bad thing, especially for the smaller teams.

Both Quick Step and Katusha have brought their sprinters, and both teams are plenty strong enough to control the race. Tom Boonen is the favorite here, though Gert Steegmans has shown he can beat Boonen on his day. How about a long-shot sprinter shout-out? Mirco Lorenzetto of Lampre-Ngc. Can he beat Boonen? Probably not, but that's why they call it a long shot. 'til Tomorrow, my friends!

For a preview of tomorrow's course, please turn the page.

Course Preview

Stage 1: Nancy 12.10 km — Individual Time Trial

This year’s edition of the Dauphiné opens with a crono set in the city of Nancy. The race travels outside its home region for this stage, heading north into Lorraine. At 12.10 kilometers, the stage is too long to be a prologue and offers an early opportunity for the general classification riders to establish a heirarchy.

The time trial begins with a climb, the Côte du Haut-du-Lièvre. The course climbs for 3 kilometers at an average gradient of 4.7%. It’s not one of the hard climbs, by any means, but it may help a few of the non-specialists minimize their time losses. The climb plateaus, and there is a short descent followed by just over a kilometer of flat riding. The course passes through a large parkland area. Then, the riders will descend into the city.

From kilometer 7.5 to the finish, the course is mostly flat. But this is an urban course through the city center. What does that mean? Corners, my friends, it means corners. In this case, the course does not appear to be especially technical. After a few bends and turns, it crosses the canal de la Marne au Rhin. On the right bank of the canal, the course traces out a rectangle, with two corners. Then, it’s a straight, wide road back across the canal to the old city. There are a few turns, before a left-hander onto the Cours Léopold, named after one of the Ducs of Lorraine. The time trial finishes at the Place Carnot, which lies in the oldest section of the city.

The crono specialists should ride well on this course. The climb is not especially severe and the course includes several open straights where the wattage monsters can light it up. The pure climbers may start this Dauphiné behind on time, thanks to this crono, but they will have plenty of time to take their revenge, when the race heads into the high mountains.

Alberto Contador, known best for his climbing, won the 9 kilometer flat crono that opened Paris-Nice earlier this season by 7 seconds. That stage did not include even the hint of a climb, and was widely touted as a course for the crono specialists. Contador should place well in Nancy, if he doesn’t win the stage outright. Others to watch include: Frantisek Rabon of Columbia-High Road, who won the prologue of the Tour of Romandie and finished 2nd overall at the Critérium Intérnational; crono specialist David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream; former Dutch National Champion in the crono, Stef Clement of Rabobank.

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->