Tour de France champion Cadel Evans of Australia won a sprint finish to claim the first stage of the Dauphine Libere race here on Monday, as Britain’s Bradley Wiggins took the overall leader’s jersey. BMC rider Evans, 35, outsprinted France’s Jerome Coppel and Kazakh Andrey Kashechkin over the final 4km in the 187km stage, with Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck falling off on the final climb to finish three minutes off the pace.
“I’m arriving at the Dauphine after a long period of training,” said Evans. “It’s a bit of a surprise to win so soon but it’s obviously a good surprise. It’s good for me and for the team. We come to the Dauphine every year for a test, to work together and get into the rhythm of competition.
“Can I win it? Of course, I’ll do it. In the prologue yesterday (Sunday), I wasn’t bad only six seconds behind the specialists.”
Spain’s 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez sustained a heavy fall but was able to continue riding, in what is a key warm-up race for the Tour de France. The 34-year-old, who was on Friday named in the Spanish team for the London Olympics, came down in a mass crash 47km into the first stage from Seyssins. Sky’s Wiggins leads Evans by one second in the overall standings in the race, which saw Australia’s Luke Durbridge prevail in Sunday’s prologue.
“I’ve got the (leader’s) jersey but it wasn’t the objective today,” said Wiggins. “If I wasn’t the yellow jersey, they’d say that I was rubbish, and if I get it, they say that it’s too early. It doesn’t matter. “It’s difficult not to race for victory. I like doing the race when I’m here, and the general classification comes afterwards. The others? I’m not surprised that Cadel’s in front. Andy (Schleck)? He’ll be (in contention) at the Tour, as he often is. “No disrespect to the Dauphine, but it’s just the Dauphine. We’re still a long way away from the Tour.”
Tuesday’s second stage covers 160km from Lamastre to Saint-Felicien in the Ardennes.