German sprinter John Degenkolb of HTC-Highroad claimed his fifth win in his maiden season as a professional with victory on the challenging second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in Lyon Tuesday. Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov, of Astana, retained the race leader’s yellow and blue jersey with an 11-second lead on Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega-Pharma) and Britain’s Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky.
Tuesday’s 179km stage, which began in Voiron to the south and was hampered by spells of rain throughout, culminated after the 1.4km climb of the Croix-Rousse. But Degenkolb, in his first year among the elite peloton, kept his cool amid waves of attacks on the steady climb to the finish before coming through the final bend to pull ahead of Frenchman Samuel Dumoulin on the false flat and win with ease. Behind diminutive Cofidis sprinter Dumoulin in third was another Frenchman Sebastien Hinault, with Germany’s Paul Martens fourth ahead of Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez of Team Katusha and French champion Thomas Voeckler.
“It was a difficult finale,” said 22-year-old Degenkolb, who won the silver medal behind Australia’s Michael Matthews at the Under-23 men’s road race at the world championships last year. “It was the ideal stage for me, the day before we’d already checked out the finish and ridden up here so we knew what was coming and I knew where I had to be positioned to go for the win.”
He added: “When the Astana team picked up the pace in the final 25 km I made sure I was at the front. On the last climb I made sure to stay on the wheel of the Cofidis guys and (Thomas) Voeckler. Coming out of the final bend I was in a prime position to go for the sprint. False flat inclines are the perfect finishes for me, although that was a bit too much!”
With a finish which almost guaranteed a small bunch finish, Vinokourov had hoped the sprinters’ teams would take on most of the racing responsibility for the stage. However the Kazakh’s Astana team, much to his annoyance, had to take on some of the burden after the field split to pieces in the final 20 km.
“We’d planned to let the sprinters’ teams take on the workload, but because the field split to pieces we had to ride. We were given a hand by AG2R, it’s just a pity some other teams didn’t chip in and help,” said Vinokourov.
Team Sky leader Wiggins meanwhile is among several riders within grasp of the race lead ahead of Wednesday’s third stage, a 42.5 km time trial around Grenoble which will also be raced on the 20th and penultimate stage on the Tour de France. However Vinokourov quietly hopes the brutal end to the second stage has a knock-on effect on some of his rivals.
“Our tactics didn’t work in the end but it gave everyone sore legs,” he added. “The time trial will be a good comparative test for me. I looked over the course on Friday and it appears to suit me. There are two climbs, it’s technical and you will have to have good legs. But I’m confident I’m going into the time trial in the yellow (and blue) jersey and with even more motivation.”
Criterium du Dauphine Stage 2
1. John Degenkolb (GER) HTC-Highroad 4:02:39
2. Samuel Dumoulin (FRA/COF) @ s.t.
3. Sebastien Hinault (FRA/ALM)
4. Paul Martens (GER/RAB)
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT)
6. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC)
7. Jelle Vanendert (BEL/OLO)
8. Grega Bole (SLO/LAM)
9. Nicolas Roche (IRL/ALM)
10. Fabian Wegmann (GER/LEO)
General Classification After Stage 2
1. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ/AST) 7:45:48
2. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/OLO) @ .11
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBR/SKY) @ s.t.
4. Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC) @ .13
5. Nicolas Roche (IRL/ALM) @ .17
6. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) @ .23
7. Janez Brajkovic (SLO/RSH) @ .26
8. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/EUC) @ .27
9. Rob Ruygh (NED/VAC) @ .29
10. Rui Alberto Costa (POR/MOV) @ .34