Froome Wins Criterium du Dauphine Libere; De Marchi Takes Last Stage
The hostilities began early. At two km, Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol) attacked, and Francesco Gavazzi and Andriy Grivko (both from Astana), Yannick Eijssen and Manuel Quinziato (both from BMC), Juan Manuel Garate and Marc Goos (Blanco), Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Leopard), Travis Meyer (GreenEdge), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Rudy Molard (Cofidis), Mikel Astarloza and Egoi Martinez (both from Euskaltel-Euskadi), Anthony Geslin (Francaise des Jeux), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), De Marchi and Jose Sarmiento (both from Cannondale), Jonathan Castroviejo and Imanol Erviti (both from Movistar), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), William Clarke and Thomas Damuseau (both from Argos-Shimano), and Sebastien Duret (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) followed. At 52.5 km, the break led the bunch by 3:25 on the Category 3 Col de la Breole.
On the Category 1 Col de Vars, Wellens and De Marchi dropped their companions, only to see Meyer catch and drop them. With 38 km left, De Marchi caught Meyer, and Wellens and Losada rejoined them on the descent. Behind, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) crashed, but he rejoined the bunch quickly.
At the base of the Category 1 climb to Risoul, Wellens attacked with 13.9 km left. The Sky-led peloton was at 2:35. Six km later, Wellens's led the De Marchi group by 0:35, but the Cannondale man caught and dropped him with five km remaining.
Sky was accelerating the peloton's pace, and Michael Rogers (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) was dropped. Contador dropped back to assist the Australian, whilc Sky man Geraint Thomas paced the yellow jersey group. With 2.5 km to go, De Marchi led the yellow jersey group by 1:13 and Rogers and Contador by 1:35.
Froome paced Porte into the final two km, as the Briton attempted to set up the Australian for the win. In the final km, they closed to within 0:30 of De Marchi, who was tiring. Porte was tiring as well, however, and De Marchi stayed clear for his first professional victory. He crossed himself as he reached the finish line.
De Marchi was elated. "This victory is a beautiful emotion," he said, "and it's the result of a great physical and mental effort. The last five km were the hardest of my life. My legs were tired, and I feared the pursuit group would catch me. When the DS informed me that the lead was increasing, I began to worry about attacks from the leaders. The closer I got to the finish, the more I worried about the gap. I knew I just had to concentrate to maintain a constant rhythm. If I had forced, I risked blowing up. The 500 m card was a good riddance. I felt like crying. I launched into a break many times in my career, and finally I found the right one."
For his part, Froome was happy about his victory and Team Sky's performance. "This win is a massive achievement for me," he said. "I was using the Dauphine as a buildup to the Tour de France, but to have come away with the victory here, I couldn't have asked for any more, and to have my best friend in second place is the perfect scenario.
"It would have been great to win the stage, but we have already won two of those this week, and it just proved impossible to reel in De Marchi at the end."
Froome's victory cements his status as the favorite to win the Tour de France, which begins on June 29. It also cements Sky's status as the strongest team in the race. Will any rider or team be able to match Froome and Sky at La Grande Boucle? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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