Valverde Wins Stage 1 of Dauphine Libere; Hushovd Takes Race Lead
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) has won Stage 1 of the Dauphine Libere. Valverde took a bunch sprint to snare the rolling, 194-km run from Avignon to Privas in 4:46:36. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) finished second, and Bjorn Schroder (Milram) took third. Hushovd has taken the overall lead from Levi Leipheimer (Astana).
The racing began early. At 15 km, Sebastien Joly (Francaise des Jeux) sallied off of the front. By 23 km, Christian Kux (Milram) and Arnaud Labbe (Bouygues Telecom) had joined him. The trio quickly forged a 3:10 lead over the peloton.
At 29 km, Credit Agricole went to the front and began pegging the lead. The escapees' lead maxed out at 4:40, but the bunch had cut the advantage to 3:20 by 38 km. With 25 km left, High Road joined Credit Agricole at the front. Thirteen km later, the escape was reeled in. The stage came down to a sprint, which Valverde won by charging into the lead with 300 m left.
In the overall, Hushovd leads Valverde by 0:01 and Leipheimer by 0:05. Stage 2 will be a rolling, 184-km ride from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to Vienne. The stage has a rugged finish. A bunch sprint could decide matters, but so could an escape. Which will it be? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!