Thursday 16 June 2011

Critérium du Dauphiné - Wiggo Wins the Wace!

(Originally published Sunday 12th of June)

An excellent day of racing for todays' Critérium du Dauphiné final stage, which saw 21-year-old FDJ rider Thibaut Pinot - who pushed himself to the limit from the word go - pass alone over the summit of the Col de la Croix de Fer, winning himself 20 points and a very well-deserved King of the Mountains title. This rider is going to be one to keep a very careful eye on over the next couple of years, especially if you happen to be a Grand Tour leadership contender at the moment. He climbs like Contador - and he's going to get better!
Contador et al would be wise to keep a very keen eye on this one - he has a big lump of stinky French cheese and he's not afraid to use it. He also climbs Alps like a rat climbs a drainpipe, which is even more worrying from Bertie's point of view.


Vive Wiggo!
Wiggins, who has already proved he's got what is required of a great rider despite a disappointing result in last year's Tour de France, can now rightfully claim to be among the most successful British riders ever and joins Brian Robinson (first British rider ever to complete a Tour de France) and Robert Millar (who, coincidentally, also completed a Tour in fourth place, thus becoming Britain's most successful Tourist until Wiggins achieved the same result) on the Dauphine winner list.. When one looks at some of the other names to have won the Dauphine, it becomes evident that Wiggins really is at the top of the game nowadays - Eddie Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong are the creme de la creme of the pro cycling world. In his own words: "Winning the Tour de France against Andy Schleck and Contador is a big call. The top 10 has always been the goal, but now with the confidence I got at the Dauphiné, the top 6 is the goal."

Meanwhile, Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez was the winner on points, amassing 86 as compared to 37-year-old Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov's 65 and Wiggin's 64. He also becomes the first rider to have won two stages in a row for over a decade. Cadel Evans achieved 45 points, putting him at number seven, but managed second place overall crossing the line 1'26" behind Wiggins and 23 seconds in front of Vino.

Among the young riders, Jérôme Coppel, aged 24, won overall with a time of 26h 48' 04". The Soar-Sojasun rider has already proved his worth in the time trialing world having won numerous French events and placing in the top 3 in international races. While admitting that he didn't feel strong today, he's promising to be better next month - any young rider who turns in a performance such as he did today when not at his best and with a record such as his is very obviously developing into an impressive all-rounder and the French must be hopeful that he'll be the man that lets them once again feel pride in French cycling.

Jérôme Coppel - future Tour de France victor? We hope so.
Rodriguez also won in the climber's competition with 63 of his total points being awarded on the slopes.  Pinot, though winning the King of the Mountains title today, placed 7th with 33 grimpeur points. Interestingly, Wiggins, considered a rouleur but not an especially impressive climber, managed 10th over this highly mountainous course. With this year's Tour de France being more about climbing than usual, he may do very well for himself and we'll perhaps see a return to the form that impressed us all in 2009.

In the team competition, Europcar won with 80h 22' 25", Astana were +10' and AG2R La Mondiale + 10' 19". With the exception of that first ten minute gap and 9' 17" between AG2R and HTC-Highroad, it was an incredibly close-run race among the teams and suggests some gritty battles in the Tour next month.

It's been a superb Dauphine this year. Can we use the results to make predictions for le Tour? From a British point of view, let's hope so. The wise will be paying close attention to Fabian Cancellara and, most importantly of all, Andy Schleck before betting their July pay cheque on a British winner though.

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