What's Cool In Road Cycling

Dauphine ’06 St4: The Giant Awakes

Today’s Ventoux mountain stage at the Dauphine was more than just the first big mountain stage of the race, it was also the first climbing test for the TDF hopefuls looking to check form before July. Our crystal ball has been wrong before, but when it comes to who’s got form, the Giant of Provence never lies.

It’s a classic test in the June run-up to Tour de France, the 8 stage Dauphine Libere race around southern France serves up some warm days, many of the same roads, and the last key kms of racing for Tour contenders. Dave Zabriskie looked super in yesterday’s TT, and that’s usually a sign of things to come, but after losing 8:10 today, it’s pretty clear today’s incline was Dave’s decline.

With a climb this tough, you don’t need anything but flat to get there.
1909 m, 7.7% average grade.

The big story was Levi Leipheimer, driving the pace on the lower slopes and then shredding what was left of the group as he left the trees for the lunar-scape of the top of the huge climb. Riding a hard but steady tempo, he looked poised to win the stage, but had to settle for the race leader’s jersey when his passengers – Denis Menchov of Rabobank, and Chrisophe Moreau of Ag2r jumped away with 300 meters to go. But is Ventoux a peak too early for Levi’s July plans? Stay tuned for that answer.

Denis Menchov was probably happy he went as early as he did, because Christophe Moreau was coming on REALLY fast on the line.

Discovery Channel’s George Hincapie looked great after yesterday’s TT, landing himself in 5th on gc at today’s start. Word out of Greenville was that George’s training has gone very well since the Roubaix accident, his ride yesterday was proof of that, so there was much baited breath at the bottom of the Ventoux to see how George’s legs would take the change in gradient. He hung in on the lower slopes, but wasn’t up to the pace set by Levi, but rode solid tempo to come in 3:03 down for the day. You can bet no one’s worried at the team hotel tonite though, as no one knows better than Disco how ‘good’ form in the Dauphine becomes ‘great’ in July.

Three riders separated themselves today, but many of the contenders did not appear to be going ‘a bloc.’ Will Landis, Z, Hincapie, Vino, et al, give it some stick in the coming days?

Floyd Landis was expected by many to make a run for the cup today, being placed in 3rd on gc this morning, and a better climber than the Phillipe Gilbert and Zabriskie ahead of him. But when Floyd stepped up, the Giant stepped on… him. From the front group at the bottom, he ended up riding in tempo and losing 9:30 in the final kms. He’s clearly still training for July.

What about the rest of the notables?
• Alexandre Vinokourov: 13:10 lost – I guess shouts of ‘venga venga venga’ don’t have the same effect through a barred window…
• Alejandro Valverde: The Spanish Tour hope looked good on the Ventoux, riding with confidence and finishing 18th with Hincapie at 3:13 down.
• Wim Van Huffel – The Belgian from Davitamon Lotto was a climbing sensation in the ’05 Giro and has clearly been pegged for the Tour this year. He lost 5:12 for 33rd place today, but he’s one to watch.
• Oscar Sevilla made a big show of attacking the lead group on the low slopes, no doubt in defiance of his team’s delay in putting him on the Tour squad. He looked good for a few kms before blowing up, but still got 11th on the day. Take that T-Mobile mgmt!
• Thomas Voeckler – the 2004 maillot jaune hero is a worthy mention for sure as he’s been present in so many breaks this year – the plucky Frenchman seems on a one-man mission to save the face of French cyclists by racing like… well, an Italian.

Tomorrow’s stage is another tough day scaling the Col d’Izoard before the nasty short but nut-busting climb into Briancon. Catch the action live on Cycling.tv.

Results: Dauphine Libere Stage 4
1 MENCHOV Denis 121 RAB (RUS) 4:50:37 :00
2 MOREAU Christophe 107 A2R (FRA) ” ”
3 LEIPHEIMER Levi 21 GST (USA) 4:50:52 :15
4 AZEVEDO Jose 32 DSC (POR) 4:51:06 :29
5 CHAVANEL Sylvain 51 COF (FRA) 4:51:31 :54
6 KOHL Bernhard 114 TMO (AUT) ” ”
7 MANCEBO Francisco 101 A2R (ESP) 4:51:41 1:04
8 PAULINHO Sergio 46 LSW (POR) 4:51:52 1:15
9 CAUCCHIOLI Pietro 71 C.A (ITA) 4:51:56 1:19
10 IGLINSKIY Maxim 194 MRM (KAZ) 4:52:07 1:30
11 SEVILLA Oscar 111 TMO (ESP) 4:52:46 2:09

GC After Stage 4
1 LEIPHEIMER Levi 21 GST (USA) 15:47:53 :00
2 MENCHOV Denis 121 RAB (RUS) 15:48:21 :28
3 GILBERT Philippe 131 FDJ (BEL) 15:49:01 1:08
4 AZEVEDO Jose 32 DSC (POR) 15:49:40 1:47
5 MOREAU Christophe 107 A2R (FRA) 15:49:41 1:48
6 CHAVANEL Sylvain 51 COF (FRA) 15:50:01 2:08
7 MANCEBO Francisco 101 A2R (ESP) 15:50:03 2:10
8 KOHL Bernhard 114 TMO (AUT) 15:50:18 2:25
9 PAULINHO Sergio 46 LSW (POR) 15:50:53 3:00
10 HINCAPIE George 36 DSC (USA) 15:50:55 3:02
11 VALVERDE Alejandro 81 CEI (ESP) 15:51:29 3:36

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