Post Stage Analysis

Another beautiful day in the French Alps as the peloton reaches the final steeps of Col du Galibier, the first of three major climbs
9 Big Photos from Stage 7sirotti

Happy Anniversary, David Moncoutié
Moncoutié wins ten years after his first Dauphiné stage victory, Valverde still overall leader

June 13 update: David Moncoutié of Cofidis won solo today at Saint-François-Longchamp on the Col de Madeleine. The French climber joined an early break on the first climb of the day, the Col du Galibier, and survived to celebrate his second ever stage win at the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré. His first stage win came ten years ago and was his first ever professional victory. Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Épargne successfully defended the race lead another day, despite determined efforts from Cadel Evans to crack him.

The Story

A ginormous early breakaway went clear on the slopes of the Col du Galibier, the first climb of the day. The break included 26 riders, including yesterday's stage winner and leader in the mountains classification Pierrick Fédigo. Français des Jeux, clearly on a mission today, sent four riders up the road with the break. Christophe Le Mével of Français des Jeux held the highest general classification position in the break, twelfth at 5:42. All the major teams were represented, granting the escape its "get out of jail free" card. Over the top of the Col du Galibier, Christophe Kern of Cofidis took the mountains points. In the main field, Caisse d'Épargne made tempo, controlling the race for leader Alejandro Valverde.

On the Col de la Croix-de-Fer, the second hors catégorie climb of the day, both the break and the main field began to shrink. At less than 3 kilometers to go to the summit, the break achieved its maximum advantage of 3:55, but Caisse d'Épargne had matters well in hand, and steadily chipped away at their advantage. Over the top of the Croix-de-Fer, Pierrick Fédigo of Bbox Bouygues took the mountains points. The break now numbered 19 riders. In the Valverde group, the numbers also dwindled to less than 20 riders.

Descending the Croix-de-Fer, Chris Frank of BMC Racing attacked from the break. A wildcard team, BMC Racing has shown early and often in the breakaways during this Dauphiné Libéré. Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale soon joined Frank and the two steadily built up a small gap over the break. With 25 kilometers to race, Frank and Nocentini had an advantage of 3:43 over the Valverde group. The break remained in between.

As the final climb of the day to Saint-François-Longchamp on the Col de Madeleine approached, Amaël Moinard of Cofidis, Mikel Nieve of Euskaltel Euskadi, Yuri Trofimov of Bbox Bouygues and Juan Antonio Flecha of Rabobank set out to catch Frank and Nocentini. At the base of the climb, Frank dropped Nocentini, and held a small advantage of 25 seconds over the chase group of four. With 11.5 kilometers to go, the break came up to the chase group. Now, on the lower slopes of the Col de Madeleine, there were three groups on the road: Chris Frank of BMC out in front, the break about 30 seconds behind and closing, and the yellow jersey group at 2:45. The winner seemed likely to come from the break, unless Frank could hold on alone.

The winning move came with 10 kilometers to race. Climber David Moncoutié of Cofidis attacked from the break and soon caught and passed Chris Frank. Frank tried desperately to hang on, but Moncoutié proved ruthless in clearing his wheel. Then, it was Moncoutié alone. As the yellow jersey group with Caisse d'Épargne still in control hit the climb, Jacob Fuglsang of Saxo Bank attacked. The young Danish rider began the day in tenth in the general classification and now set out to improve his position. Evans tried to join Fuglsang's move, but race leader Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador followed him easily. Stalemate. Fuglsang then jumped again, and this time, went free.

With 8 kilometers to race, David Moncoutié held an advantage of 1:35, a gap that mostly held to the finish. Behind, the battle in the yellow jersey group settled into a predictable pattern. Cadel Evans attacked repeatedly, while his Spanish shadows Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador followed. Alberto Contador of Astana did much of the work of controlling Evans, while Valverde sat third wheel. With enemies like this, who needs friends? Evans, meanwhile, fought a desperate, but doomed, effort to take back the 16 seconds he needed to win the overall. Silence-Lotto team-mates Matthew Lloyd, who is just returning from injury, and Jürgen van den Broeck both did hard work on the front for Evans. But it was not enough.

At 6 kilometers to go, Robert Gesink attacked from the yellow jersey group in an effort to better his general classification position. Vincenzo Nibali, meanwhile, dropped off the pace under the pressure of the accelerations from Evans. Vladimir Efimkin of AG2R did his best impersonation of a human yo-yo, before he too, dropped back. Despite the attacks from the yellow jersey group, David Moncoutié continued out in front, his way clear for the stage win.

At the line, David Moncoutié had plenty of time to celebrate his stage win at Saint-François-Longchamp, his second victory of the season. Behind, Evans still tried repeatedly to shake the shadows, but under the red kite, Evans, Contador, and Valverde remained locked together. Cadel Evans made one last play for time over Alejandro Valverde, a gutsy move against a rider with Valverde's finishing speed. In the rush to the line, Evans and Valverde overtook Gesink and Fuglsang, before crossing the line together. Evans finished almost a bike length up on Valverde, but he could not break Valverde's hold on the race lead. Alberto Contador chose not to sprint, and rolled in with Jacob Fuglsang just behind Evans and Valverde. Vincenzo Nibali finished sixth, Mikel Astarloza seventh. David Millar of Garmin-Slipstream, who began the day in fifth place overall, crossed the line with young team-mate Dan Martin at 4:16 down on Moncoutié.

Best known for his climbing, David Moncoutié last won a stage of the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré in 1999, when he won at Passy Plaine-Joux in his first win as a professional. The French climber has two stage wins at the Tour de France to his credit, and last year won a stage and the mountains classification at the Vuelta a España. Earlier this season, Moncoutié won on Mont Faron at the Tour Méditerranéen, and today marks his second win of the season. After the stage, he said that the stage was "very difficult, with the climbs and the heat." "But I love it when it is difficult," he confided. "I feel very good, really very good," Moncoutié noted all smiles, and he is looking forward to the Tour de France, for which he has prepared "very seriously."

Here is the current general classification:

1. Alejandro Valverde Caisse d'Épargne
2. Cadel Evans Silence-Lotto :16
3. Alberto Contador Astana 1:18
4. Robert Gesink Rabobank 2:41
5. Mikel Astarloza Euskaltel Euskadi 3:40
6. Jacob Fuglsang Saxo Bank 4:08
7. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Doimo 4:21
8. Haimar Zubeldia Astana 5:05
9. David Millar Garmin-Slipstream 5:28
10. Christophe Le Mével Français des Jeux 6:19

The top three in the general classification remains unchanged, despite the big efforts from Cadel Evans. Alejandro Valverde leads Evans by 16 seconds and Alberto Contador by 1:18. Contador dropped a few seconds at the finish today, when he chose not to join the sprint between Evans and Valverde.

Below the podium, the top ten reshuffled. Robert Gesink attacked on the final climb, and though he finished at same time with Evans and Valverde, he moved up in the general classification to fourth. Mikel Astarloza dropped to fifth. Jacob Fuglsang began the day in tenth, but after a big ride on the Col de Madeleine, he now sits sixth. David Millar, meanwhile, continued his steady drop down the classification, though he has ridden well in these mountain stages. Millar began the day fifth and finished ninth. Vincenzo Nibali could not follow the repeated accelerations of Evans, but now sits seventh, while Haimar Zubeldia is eighth. Rounding out the top ten, Christophe Le Mével of Français des Jeux joined the early break today. After a solid ride on the final climb of the day, Le Mével is now tenth in the general classification.

In the mountains classification, Pierrick Fédigo leads with 111 points ahead of David Moncoutié with 82. Fédigo took the points on the Col d'Izoard yesterday and the Col de la Croix-de-Fer today. In the points classification, meanwhile, Cadel Evans continues to lead Alejandro Valverde. No doubt Evans would be happy to trade his green jersey for Valverde's yellow.

Tomorrow's stage has three climbs: the Col des Leschaux, a category 3, the Col du Frêne, a category 3, and the Col de St.-Bernard-du-Touvet, a category 1. It's a long, fast descent to the flat finish in Grenoble. The top three in the general classification is likely set, as the stage offers few opportunities for Evans to attack, though certainly, stranger things have happened. Look for the stage-chasers to have their day tomorrow and a big breakaway to go early. — Gavia

To read more about tomorrow's course, please turn the page.

Course Preview

Stage 7: Briançon — Saint-François-Longchamp 157 km

This stage picks up where the previous left off, and departs from Briançon, which has the highest elevation of any city in France. It’s another day of mountains for the Dauphiné Libéré, and a very difficult one at that. The course climbs the hors catégorie Col du Galibier, the hors catégorie Col de la Croix de Fer, and finishes on a category 1 climb to the ski resort at Saint-François-Longchamp, which is on the hors catégorie Col de la Madeleine. The finish for this stage lies approximately 6 kilometers below the summit of the Madeleine. There are very few stretches of flat road during this 157 kilometer stage. The climbers will enjoy this one, for sure.

The stage starts off climbing right away toward the summit of the Col du Galibier. The Dauphiné races the “easy” side of the Galibier, by way of the Col du Lautaret. The course also does not climb to the true summit of the Galibier, instead passing through the tunnel at 2556 meters. The route from Southeast dates from 1947, and a monument to Henri Desgranges stands near the summit. From Briançon, it is 34 kilometers to the tunnel.

The climb begins easily enough with 14 kilometers of false flat climbing. The average gradient for this stretch of road between Briançon and Le Monêtier de Bains is a friendly 3%. The next four kilometers continue similarly, with an average in the 2.5% range. At kilometer 18, the gradient tilts up to 5%, and continues between 4.5% and 5% to the summit of the Col de Lautaret at 2057 meters above sea level. The final 7 kilometers of the climb to the Galibier tunnel are the most difficult, with several sections averaging 7.7%. The riders enter the tunnel at 2556 meters above sea level, and miss out on the final 1.5 kilometers of the Galibier, which include a section of 12%. Lucky. From the Galibier tunnel, there remains 127 kilometers - and two more climbs - to the finish.

The descent from the Galibier lasts 35.5 kilometers and drops 1841 meters to the town of Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne. There are 5 kilometers of false-flat climbing in the middle of the descent, as the riders pass over the summit of the Col de la Télégraphe. Waiter, waiter, there’s a climb in my descent. From Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, there is additional 11 kilometers of descending to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne at kilometer 78.5.

Then, the climbing begins again, this time to the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer, the second hors catègorie climb of the day. The Tour de France has visited the Col de la Croix de Fer on 15 occasions since 1947. Until 1986, it received a category one ranking, but since 1989, it has been designated hors catègorie. This Col is lengthy at 30 kilometers, but it has several sections of lighter gradients, which offer some space for recovery.

The Col de la Croix de Fer is a stair-stepping climb that alternates steep sections with easier gradients. The first three kilometer are a rude 8.0, 7.3 and 8.6 percents. Nothing like getting right down to business. After a kilometer at 5.8%, the climb plateaus, and kilometers 4-7 are nearly flat. Then, it’s back to business as kilometers 7-12 tilt up to an average gradient of 8.8%. At kilometer 11, the riders will pass through a tunnel, which comes at 1151 meters above sea level. Another four kilometers of considerably easier road follows the tunnel with gradients in the 2.5 to 3.0 range.

At kilometer 16, a long drag to the summit begins. It gets a little ugly here, as the gradient increases as the summit grows closer. Between kilometer 16 and Les Chambon at kilometer 20, the gradient is in the reasonable range, between 4.5% and 5.5%. After passing through St. Sorlin at 1474 meters, the road tilts upward, and the final 7 kilometers to the summit average 8.0%. The maximum gradient is 9.6% and appears between kilometers 24 and 25. The summit tops out at 2068 meters above sea level. From the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer, there remains 48 kilometers of racing.

The course descends by way of the Col de Glandon. The descent is fast and technical and drops 1577 meters in 23 kilometers to the town of Saint-Etienne-de-Cuines. From there, the course continues to descend, but more slowly, until the riders reach Saint-Rèmy-de-Maurienne. Then, a gradual climb begins, gaining about 100 meters over 5 kilometers.

The final climb of the day, the Saint-François-Longchamp, begins in La Chambre at kilometer 142.5. The stage uses the first 14 kilometers of the hors catégorie Col de la Madeleine. The first three kilometers of the climb roll at an average gradient of 6.5%. At Martin sur la Chambre, the road tilts up to 8.8%, followed by a kilometer at over 9%. The remainder of the climb to Saint-François-Longchamp has gradients in the 8-9% range. Just past L'Épaud, there is a kilometer of relative relaxation, just 5.7%. Otherwise, this climb is all steep, all the time. The final half kilometer is a 9%. After three successive high mountain passes, a climber should win here. Between the Mont Ventoux and the this stage finish on the Madeleine, this Dauphiné should give the climbers plenty to smile about.


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