Post Stage Analysis

Szmyd Wins on Ventoux
Szmyd wins stage, Valverde overall leader by 14 seconds

21 Big Photos from Stage 5 (link fixed) — sirotti and colin flockton

Sylvester Szmyd celebrated his first ever professional victory today on Mont Ventoux, after years of riding for team-mates in the high mountains. The Liquigas-Doimo rider worked a breakaway with Alejandro Valverde over the last 7 kilometers of the Géant de Provence. Alejandro Valverde took over as race leader from Cadel Evans, though the gap remains a short 14 seconds.

The Story

June 11 update: A break of four set off early in the stage. The lucky foursome included: José-Luis Arrieta of AG2R-La Mondiale, Alan Perez Euskaltel Euskadi, Frederick Willems of Liquigas-Doimo and Christophe Kern of Cofidis. They built up a maximum advantage of nearly seven minutes, but by the base of the final climb of the day, Mont Ventoux, their advantage dropped to 4:30. Sebastian Lang of Silence - Lotto, meanwhile, crashed on the descend from the Col de Lunel early in the stage and abandoned.

On the lower slopes of Mont Ventoux, Rabobank took over the pace-making in the hope of setting up Robert Gesink for a big result. Soon, Liquigas-Doimo came to the front, and both Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali had a go at escaping. The favorites group was quick to shut them down. Not ready to give up, Liquigas-Doimo sent Sylvester Szmyd up the road. Still, the early breakaway remained out in front, though its numbers dwindled to two, as both Willems and Perez dropped off the pace. Only Arrieta and Kern remained of the early break, with Kern clearly struggling. With just over 11 kilometers to ride, the break held an advantage of 2:02.

The next move came from Ivan Basso, who plainly had a stage win on his mind. Basso set out to join up with Szmyd who sat between the group of favorites and the remaining two riders of the early break. Mikel Astarloza, Jacob Fuglsang, Haimar Zubeldia, and Vladimir Efimkin followed. Then, David Mouncoutié of Cofidis tried to bridge across to the Basso move. Basso soon held a small gap over the main field, with the others a short distance behind him. In the yellow jersey group, Stef Clement of Rabobank made tempo. There remained just under 10 kilometers to go.

With Clement working on the front, Gesink put in a strong attack. David Millar, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans followed. Gesink tried again, but the others proved quick to mark the Dutch climber. The yellow jersey group now included Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador, David Millar, Vincenzo Nibali, and Alejandro Valverde. Basso and Szmyd, meanwhile, were together with Haimar Zubeldia of Astana at 1:20 behind the early break of Arrieta and Kern.

With 9 kilometers to go, Alejandro Valverde jumped hard and quickly got a gap. Few can match the acceleration of the Spanish rider when he jumps. In half a kilometer, Valverde built up an advantage of 40 seconds. The yellow jersey group did not accelerate, and still sat behind Clements. Valverde rapidly approached the group of Basso, Szmyd, and Zubeldia. With 7 kilometers to go, the Basso group caught the early break, while Zubeldia struggled to stay on terms. Au revoir to Arrieta and Kern, after a long day out.

Robert Gesink clearly wanted to win on Mont Ventoux today, and with just under 8 kilometers to go, he attacked the yellow jersey group yet again. Contador and Evans proved quick to follow, and the yellow jersey group came back together. Up ahead, with 7.5 kilometers to race, Valverde passed the Basso group. Basso could not hold the wheel of the flying Valverde. After a brief hesitation, Sylvester Szmyd climbed across to Valverde, and soon, the two rode together at the front. After a brief conversation, Valverde and Szmyd began to cooperate. Valverde rode for the race lead, Szmyd for the stage win. Steadily, the two-some began to run up the clock on the yellow jersey group.

In the yellow jersey group, the racing turned negative, much to the frustration of race leader Cadel Evans. With the gap to Valverde going out, Evans went to the front and began to make tempo. With 6 kilometers to race, Vincenzo Nibali attacked, but the move didn't stick. A counter followed from Jacob Fuglsang, which Evans covered. Stalemate. Back on the front, Evans continued to ride. Up ahead, Valverde's advantage increased as he and Szmyd continued to swap pulls, and Valverde soon became the race leader on the road. Behind Evans, a small group including David Millar regained the leader's group.

In the finale, Szmyd mis-shifted and hesitated, and a gap opened to Valverde. The Liquigas-Doimo rider said later that he simply panicked, overwhelmed by the prospect of winning. The Spanish rider looked back confused, wondering, where did he go? The two plainly had an unwritten agreement to divide the spoils, a common arrangement in a two-up breakaway that includes a general classification rider and a stage hunter. Valverde chose to honor the agreement and soft-pedalled long enough for Szmyd to come back across. Sylvester Szmyd won the stage, his first professional victory after many years of riding as a gregario in the high mountains. Earlier in his career, Szmyd rode for Marco Pantani, who also won on Mont Ventoux. Alejandro Valverde, meanwhile, took over as the race leader.

Behind them, Robert Gesink attacked from the yellow jersey group inside the final 2 kilometers, and took Jacob Fuglsang with him. Haimar Zubeldia, meanwhile, crossed the line third, 1:10 down on Szmyd. Gesink finished fourth, 1:47 down, and Fuglsang fifth at 1:57. In the yellow jersey group, Evans led out the sprint, and crossed the line ahead of Moncoutié, 2:10 down on Szmyd and Valverde.

Here is the current general classification:

1. Alejandro Valverde Caisse d'Épargne
2. Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto :16
3. Alberto Contador Astana 1:04
4. David Millar Garmin-Slipstream 1:43
5. Haimar Zubeldia Astana 2:21
6. Robert Gesink Rabobank 2:34
7. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Doimo 2:34
8. Mikel Astraloza Euskaltel Euskadi 2:44
9. Sylvester Szmyd Liquigas-Doimo 3:05
10. Jacob Fuglsang Saxo Bank 3:35

Valverde holds a slim lead over Cadel Evans and has 1:04 over Alberto Contador. Though he certainly would have preferred to retain the lead, Evans will not likely lose sleep over the time gap to Valverde with three stages still to ride. Contador has said he is not riding for the classification at the Dauphiné Libéré, and certainly he rode a relatively passive race today. It remains to be seen whether he continues in that mode, or decides to have a go at winning.

Looking further down to the classification, Robert Gesink and Haimar Zubeldia both made big runs up the classification after their good rides on the Ventoux. Zubeldia, though he could not hold the wheels of Valverde and Szmyd, rode solo ahead of the favorites, and now sits fifth at 2:21. Gesink attacked repeatedly, but managed to gain only a few seconds over the favorites in the end. The Dutch climber is currently 6th at 2:34, and will no doubt try to escape again when the road turns up.

Both David Millar and Vincenzo Nibali can thank their strong rides against the watch for their current placings, but both also rode well on the Ventoux. Mikel Astraloza is quietly riding a consistent Critérium Dauphiné, and is eighth in the general classification, while Sylvester Szmyd moved up to ninth after his climb today, and could remain in the top ten with three mountain stages to go.

Jacob Fuglsang had a big day out on the Ventoux, and the 24 year old Saxo Bank rider, who is a former U23 World Champion on the mountain bike, is showing the marks of a future stage racing ace. Fuglsang rode well against the watch and today, climbed with the best. By all accounts, Fuglsang will not ride the Tour de France this year, but may take the start at the Vuelta a España, if all goes well. Last year, he won the overall at the Tour of Denmark and he will hope to repeat that victory.

Cadel Evans still leads the points classification ahead of Alberto Contador. Neither scored during today's stage. Sylvester Szmyd takes over the lead in the mountains classification after his stage win today. Alejandro Valverde is second, just 5 points behind. Haimar Zubeldia trails by 10.

In other news, Ivan Basso has left the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré after today's stage. According to Liquigas-Doimo team manager Roberto Amadio, Basso is suffering from flu-like symptoms, including a fever. The team has decided that it is best for him to return home, rather than taking any risks. "For a rider who began racing all out in January and who intends to ride well at the Vuelta a España, we think it is the right moment for him to take a rest period," concluded Amadio. Basso finished 35th on today's stage, 8:14 down on the winner. Amadio's statement is posted at

Tomorrow, the Col d'Izoard

Tomorrow's stage features the Col d'Izoard as the main climb of the day. The hors catégorie peak comes after 70 kilometers of racing. The early kilometers include one category 4 climb, the Côte de Châteaux-les-Alpes. The Col d'Izoard climbs for 17 kilometers, then it's a fast descent to Briançon. At the finish, the course climbs steeply through the old sector of Briançon to the Place du Champs de Mars. Cadel Evans could find the 14 seconds he needs to take back the jersey in the final few kilometers through Briançon, but the short steep climb will also suit perfectly the characteristics race leader Alejandro Valverde. The stage win will likely go to a rider farther down in the general classification, who attacks on the Col d'Izoard and rails the descent.

For more details on tomorrow's stage, please turn the page.

Course Preview

Stage 5: Valence — Le Mont Ventoux 154 km

Cycling Provence: Le Mont-Ventoux and Gorges de la Nesque: Recon photos and report

The final four stages of this Dauphiné climb and climb seriously. Stage 5 finishes on the Géant de Provence, Mont Ventoux. Ventoux also provides the climbing finale for this year’s Tour de France, though the French grand tour will follow a hillier path to the massive climb. All the same, with this stage, the Dauphiné provides the riders with a valuable preview of one of the more significant stages of the upcoming Tour.

The stage departs from Valence which sits on the left bank of the Rhône River in the Rhône-Alpes region. From Valence, the course heads Southeast toward Nyons. Three categorized climbs appear in the 94 kilometers between Valence and Nyons.

The first climb of the day comes at kilometer 35. The Col de Lunel follows five kilometers of gradual climbing and lasts 3 kilometers. It gains100 meters in elevation and has an average gradient of 3%. The Col de Lunel is rated a category 4 climb, and should not cause any great difficulty for the field. After the col, there is a short descent. Then comes 10-15 kilometers of false flat climbing to the next col of the day.

The Côte de Bourdeux summits at kilometer 53.5 and has a total elevation of 685 meters. The côte lasts 4 kilometers and gains 260 meters. It is rated a category 3 climb, and offers points in the mountains classification. Here again, this climb should not cause any great separation in the bunch.

After a stretch of descending, the riders will climb Côte de Serre-de-Turc. A category 4 climb, the Côte de Serre-de-Turc gains 80 meters over 2 kilometers of riding. Nothing to worry about here. From the summit, there remains 66 kilometers to race to the start of the Mont Ventoux in Bédoin.

Passing through Nyons at kilometer 94, the course rises and falls with the uneven terrain of this mountainous region. A gradual climb begins in Vaison-La-Romaine at kilometer 109. The summit of the Col de la Madeleine lies at kilometer 126 and reaches a maximum elevation of 458 meters. This category 4 col gains 76 meters over the course of 2 kilometeres. From the Col de la Madeleine, there remains 6 kilometers to go to the base of the main event of the day, the Ventoux.

The Mont Ventoux is a storied climb for cycling. The Géant of Provence is a monster among high mountain climbs. It is unrelentlingly steep and only the lower kilometers of the road pass under tree cover. The remainder of the climb is barren limestone, a moonscape exposed to the sun and the wind. Especially the wind. The Ventoux lies in the path of the Mistral, a dry wind that blows from the north, often violently. The Mistal can attain speeds of 100 km/hr.

To read the list of winners on Mont Ventoux is to recall some of cycling’s greatest stories: Charly Gaul, the diminutive climber from Luxembourg, who won the 1948 Tour de France on a long solo escape; Raymond Poulidor, the eternal second and darling of the French public; Eddy Merckx, the Cannibal and quite simply the best there ever was; Marco Pantani, the magician of the mountains, whose career and life ended in tragedy. The most recent winner of a Tour stage on the Ventoux is Richard Virenque of France, who celebrated victory in 2002. On the most recent visit of the Dauphiné Libéré to Mont Ventoux, Russian Denis Menchov, who recently won the Giro d’Italia took the stage win in 2006.

From Bédoin, the Mont Ventoux gains 1622 meters and requires 22.7 kilometers of uninterrupted climbing. The gradient starts out gentle enough, averaging around 4% for the first 5 kilometers. Just past the village of Les Bruns, the climb begins to steepen and at kilometer 7, the gradient jumps to 9.4%.

For the next 9 kilometers, the gradient remains at or greater than 9%. Just after La Cisterna, between kilometers 10 and 11, the gradient hits 10 percent. At kilometer 16, the riders will pass the Chalet Reeynard at 1405 meters above sea level. A bit of relief follows and the average gradient drops to 6.9% between kilometers 16 and 17, and 5.4% between kilometers 17 and 18. Then, it’s 3 kilometers at 7%. The last two kilometers to the finish are between 9 and 10 percent. The unrelenting gradient, the length, and the exposed terrain make the Mont Ventoux one of the more difficult climbs in cycling. Certainly, this is a finish for pure climbers.

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