Valverde Wins Stage 3 of Dauphine Libere; Takes Yellow Jersey
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) has won Stage 3 of the Dauphine Libere. Valverde powered through the rain over the rolling 31-km time trial course that began and ended at Saint-Paul-en-Jarez, winning in 44:59. Levi Leipheimer (Astana), one of the favorites to win the stage, took second at 0:19, edging another favorite, Cadel Evans (Silence), by 0:01. Valverde is the new yellow jersey.
Valverde is known as a climber but not as a time trialist unless the time trial is uphill. The first half of the course was uphill, which suited Valverde, but he also excelled on the second half, which was downhill. Valverde attributed part of his success to the fact that the downhill half of the course was technical, which negated the advantage that riders such as Valverde and Leipheimer would ordinarily have had. As the Spaniard put it, "The downhill was very technical, and it was more to my advantage than to a pure time trialist."
Leipheimer was 0:36 behind Valverde at the end of the uphill half of the course, but he gained 0:17 on the descent. Evans rode conservatively to avoid crashing and getting injured before the Tour de France. He was satisfied with his performance, saying, "The form is there."
Valverde's victory has changed his ambitions for the Dauphine Libere. He entered the race to test his form and to see how his competitors fared. His goals, however, are no longer so modest. "Now we have the yellow jersey, and we'll defend it until the end," the Caisse d'Epargne man said. "The coming stages suit me best. I'm not worried about keeping my good form until the Tour de France."
In the overall, Valverde leads Leipheimer by 0:23 and Evans by 0:37. Stage 4 will be Valverde's first test as race leader. The rugged, 193-km ride from Vienne to Annemasse will take the riders over a Category 3 and a Category 4 ascent before they face the Category 1 Le Saleve. After the descent, the field will face a short but uphill finish that should suit a climber who can sprinter like Valverde. How will he fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!