Post Stage Analysis

9 Big Photos from Stage 8sirotti

First Win for Clement
Clement wins from three-up break, Valverde wins overall for second straight year

June 14 update: Alejandro Valverde sealed his second straight victory in the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré today. The Spanish rider held off the determined attacks of Cadel Evans on the final climb of the day, the Col de Saint-Bernard du Touvet. Stef Clement of Rabobank celebrated the stage victory after he attacked from an early breakaway. Clement won a three-up sprint against Sébastien Joly of Français de Jeux and Timothy Duggan of Garmin-Sllpstream, and achieved his first professional road race win.

A series of breakaways tried their chances in the early kilometers of the day's stage. Just before the first climb of the day, the Col de Leschaux, a break of 28 riders formed and with nearly all the team represented, the group soon built up a solid gap over the yellow jersey group. Stef Clement was the highest placed rider in the general classification, 15th at 9:40. Over the top of the Col de Leschaux, the break had 2:00 in hand.

In the flat roads through the Chartreuse valley, Bert Grabsch, the World Champion in the time trial, attacked from the break. Over the Col de Frêne, Grabsch held 1:22 over the break and 3:30 over the main field. As the final climb of the day, the Saint-Bernard-du-Touvet, approached, Grabsch steadily increased his lead to 2:30 over the break and more than 5:00 over the main field. In the yellow jersey group, Caisse d'Épargne began to ride on the front in defense of Alejandro Valverde's race lead.

At the base of the Col de Saint-Bernard-du-Touvet, the break recaptured Grabsch. On the climb, the break began to shatter, thanks in part to a hard tempo set by Frantisek Rabon of Columbia-High Road, who worked to set up his team-mate Adam Hansen. Hansen attacked hard on the early slopes of the col, and opened up a gap over the break. Timothy Duggan of Garmin-Slipstream saw an opportunity in Hanen's attack and bridged across. Clearly on a good day, Duggan soon dropped Hansen and continued on alone. Stef Clement of Rabobank, meanwhile, set off in pursuit from the break. Just short of the summit, Clement caught Duggan, and the two began to work together. At the summit of the Col de Saint-Bernard du Touvet, they held an advantage of 1:10 over the remains of the early break.

Behind, Silence-Lotto took over the pace-making in the yellow jersey group. Matthew Lloyd of Silence-Lotto, who has shown good form this week, forced the pace, and the yellow jersey group began to shrink. The first attack came from David Moncoutié, stretching his legs in view of the Tour de France. Evans countered Moncoutié, and it was all back together. Cadel Evans, who hoped to crack leader Alejandro Valverde, then launched a series of attacks in the hope of bettering his second place in the general classification. Despite his determined efforts, Evans could not shake Valverde or his BFF Alberto Contador of Astana. As in previous days, Contador did much of the work of controlling the Evans attacks. As the yellow jersey group reached the summit of the col, the big three remained locked together. Passing over the top of the climb, Valverde reached over and gave Contador a pat on the back. Thanks, bro.

On the descent, Sébastian Joly attacked from the break and began to bridge across to the two leaders, Clement and Duggan. With 6 kilometers to race, Joly caught the leaders and the three worked together to hold their advantage in the flat run-in. Under the red kite, Joly attacked hard in the hope of anticipating the sprint. Clement, who had guaged his efforts carefully in the run-in, drew on his talents in the time trial and steadily pulled even with the Frenchman. Duggan clung to the wheel of Clement, but had no legs left to sprint. Stef Clement won the stage, with Timothy Duggan second and Sébastien Joly third. The remains of the break came in behind them, with Adam Hansen of Columbia-High Road winning the sprint for fourth. The general classification riders finished together 2:05 behind the stage winner Clement.

Today marked the first professional road victory for Stef Clement. The 26 year old Dutch rider has achieved all his previous successes against the watch. He is a former Dutch national champion in the crono and in 2007, finished third at the World Championship in Stuttgart. The stage win in Grenoble is his first victory of this season. Clement confided after the stage, "I was jealous of the victory of my compatriot Niki Terpstra. I wanted to win a stage too." He said he felt an "indescribable joy" after winning his first road stage. "I have waited a long time to win a road race, me, who has never won except in the time trial," he explained.

Here is the final 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

Pierrick Fédigo won the mountains classification, after taking the points on the Col d'Izoard and the Col de la Croix-de-Fer. David Moncoutié of Cofidis, who won yesterday's stage on the Col de Madeleine, finished second. Cadel Evans takes home the green jersey of points leader, which he won by a large margin over Alberto Contador. Not the jersey he wanted, but a nice prize all the same.

With his overall victory at the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré, Alejandro Valverde celebrates his sixth win of the season. The Spanish rider has proven almost unbeatable in the week-long stage races and this season won both the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. He also won the Spanish one-day race, Klasika Primavera. Valverde today became the first rider since Lance Armstrong in 2002-2003 to win the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré two years running. All this fun could come to an end soon, because the Italian anti-doping authorities have banned Valverde from racing in Italy. The UCI is set to review the evidence assembled by the Italians over the course of this coming week, and will decide whether to extend the two year ban beyond Italy. UCI rules offer relatively little leeway in these cases and declare that a ban by one national federation must be recognized by all. We shall see how the story turns out later this week.

In Grenoble, Valverde said after the stage, "This was a difficult last stage, and I was attacked by Evans again." The Australian has tried repeatedly without success to dislodge Valverde during the climbing stages of this Dauphiné Libéré. Valverde withstood the pressure from Evans, thanks in part to friends he found on the road. During today's stage, Valverde benefitted from team-mates in the early break and Alberto Contador. "Happily, I reconnected with my team-mates along the way, and they helped me," he explained. "I could have lost, if I had been on a bad day," he said of today's stage.

Cadel Evans has now finished second in the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré for three years straight. The Australian attacked this race hard, plainly seeking the victory that has eluded him in the past two seasons. Evans won the opening time trial, but on Mont Ventoux, he lost the race lead to Alejandro Valverde and never could find the 16 seconds he needed to win in Grenoble. Evans rode an attacking race in the effort to shake his Spanish shadows, Valverde and Contador. It was an impressive ride from the Australian, for all that he fell short of the win.

Third-placed Alberto Contador said in his pre-race comments that he did not intend to race for the overall win at the Dauphiné Libéré. The Astana rider made good on his word and rarely expended any extra energy in this race. The former Tour de France winner is plainly on good form and should arrive at his July appointment well-prepared. In a post-race comment in Grenoble, Contador promised, "I will be ready on 4 July for a beautiful spectacle." Contador's passivity plainly infuriated Cadel Evans, especially because Contador's tactics so often benefited Valverde's interests. Though the Spanish collaboration may have been unplanned, it proved decisive for the outcome of the Dauphiné this year. Valverde's gesture of thanks on the Col de Saint-Bernard du Touvet said it all.

The Dauphiné Libéré often offers a glimpse of the future, as many teams will send young riders to the race for experience and for a first look at the Tour de France climbs. Jacob Fuglsang of Saxo Bank is riding his first season as a professional with Saxo Bank and will not ride the Tour de France this year. But his sixth place finish at this year's Dauphiné Libéré hints at his future promise. The former U23 world champion on the mountain bike attacked on Mont Ventoux and the Col de Madeleine and looks on track to become a formidable climber and stage racer. He will ride the Tour of Denmark, and if all goes well, the Vuelta a España later this season.

Though we are already acquainted with Robert Gesink, the Rabobank climber is another young rider who has shown well at this year's Dauphiné Libéré. Unlike Fuglsang, Gesink will ride the Tour de France this year and looks set to have a good race in the mountains. His long time trial did not place him among the favorites, but is showing signs of improvement. Gesink showed an attacking style in the mountains, which gained him fourth place overall in Grenoble and should serve him well come July. — Gavia

That's all for the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré. Watch for Tour de France stage previews here at soon!

Course Preview

Stage 8: Faverges — Grenoble 146 km

Stage 8 includes three climbs, but they are less severe than the previous mountain stages. The stage begins in Faverges. The course passes over the 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. Then, the riders will descend to a flat finish in Grenoble. Grenoble is the old capital of the Dauphiné region and so provides a fitting host for the final stage finish of the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré.

The stage heads north from Faverges. After 17 mostly flat kilometers, the course passes through Sévrier, which sits on the west bank of the Lac d’Annecy. The first climb of the day, the Col des Leschaux begins in Sévrier. The category 3 Col des Leschaux lasts 12 kilometers, but is not especially steep. The maximum gradient is 5.5% and comes between kilometers 1.5 and 2.0. For much of the Col des Leschaux, the gradients hover around 3.5%. Between kilometers 8 and 9, the road steepens to 5.2%, but compared with the previous HC climbs in this Dauphiné Libéré, the Col des Leschaux will feel relatively easy. From the summit at 897 meters above sea level, there remains 116.5 kilometers to race.

After a quick descent, the climbing begins again, with an uphill false flat to École. The Col de Frêne begins in École and lasts 8 kilometers. The first 6 kilometers climb imperceptibly, with gradients ranging from 0.7% to 3.2%. The real climbing begins at kilometer 6 and the road tilts up to 6%. The final two kilometers to the summit climb steadily at 6%. The summit of the Col de Frêne sits at 950 meters above sea level. The course is now heading South toward the town of Pontcharra, and the finish in Grenoble, which lies 89 kilometers distant.

After 15 kilometers of descending, the course passes through Chamousset. The course follows mostly flat terrain for approximately 40 kilometers. The course passes through Pontcharra, before arriving at La Terrasse. From La Terrasse, there remains 35 kilometers and one climb to go to the finish.

The Montée de Saint-Bernard-du-Touvet is only 8 kilometers in length, but is rated a category 1. It gains 690 meters and has an average gradient of 8.6%. The summit lies at 940 meters above sea level and comes at kilometer 119. There is a brief descent before the road tilts up again for another 5 kilometers to Saint-Pacrasse at 1020 meters above sea level. The descent is steep and fast, and passes through at least one tunnel. The road drops 675 meters in 10 kilometers.

The course passes through Saint-Nazaire-les-Eymes. Then the final ten kilometers of the course descend gradually into the city of Grenoble. Inside the final 3 kilometers, the road levels out for a flat finish. The Critérium Dauphiné Libéré concludes on the Boulevard Jean-Pain in front of the city hall of Grenoble. — Gavia

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