The final two days of this ‘mini’ Tour were brutal. The eventual winner Inigo Landaluze had performed superbly and almost without anyone noticing won his first major race, we didn’t even recognise him and I thought he was Iban Mayo, who wasn’t even at the race, he must have got a bit fed up with spectators shouting “Allez Iban!” yes if you’re reading it was me…
Morzine is nestled in the French Alps, a chocolate-box french town with Swiss chalet style architechture and no cafes… so needless to say we didn’t stay long, it’s the sort of place that is buzzing during the winter and pretty much dead for the rest of the year. That said when a race like the Dauphine comes to town all the restaurants are full and the Hotels ‘Complet’. Mountains are like a honey pot for cyclists and the French certainly like to dust down their bikes and ride to the top when the Tour comes to town. Huffing and puffing, pretty much all shapes, sizes and ages have a go at getting to the top, then spend the rest of the day eating, talking and dozing.
Surrounding this Ski Resort are some bloody massive mountains. Col de Joux Plane and Col de Joux Verte are the two with roads up them and so some sick bastard decided to send bike races over them. This mentality is typically French, it’s so they can then stand around watching (staring really), chatting and heckling as cyclists, like me, sweat and weeze their way up.
Lance Armstrong has said that all he’s being doing this week is following wheels. But he picked all the right ones to follow and all his TdF rivals spent their time trying to crack the Texan. OK so he wasn’t attacking the hills in his usual style, but he did look fit and hungry. Speaking of which I went for a ride up the less crowded Joux Verte earlier in the day, mainly because the road is essentially a dead end with the equally dead and bizarre looking ski resort Avoriaz at the top. Bernard Hinault raced up here 26 years ago and set a record of 33 minutes, all I’m saying is it took me 20 to descend it and the best part of an hour to get up again. Then got the hunger knock just as I started the stunningly scenic ascent of the Joux Plane, I wobbled up in about an hour. Hunger and Mountains just don’t mix well.
Armstrong is a bit like a cornered rat and most dangerous when he’s under pressure. I think he quite likes getting a kicking from his rivals, it seemed to grow his resolve as the week progressed. Although there were no surges from him the fact is he looks ready enough for a fight.
Botero is possibly the untidiest rider in the pro peloton. He climbs with his head down and his shoulders slumped over the bars as if he’s about to crack. At 32 he looks to be coming into his best form and this guy can descend like a rocket. Which is what he did today dropping his inal breakaway companion David Moncoutie (who is no slouch on a bike either) on the tight twisty run-in to Morzine.
1. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 4.30.54 (34.33 km/h)
2. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 0.23
3. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 0.53
4. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 0.58
5. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 2.27
6. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 2.50
7. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 2.52
8. David Arroyo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne
9. Jose Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir
10. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
1. Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 25.16.36
2. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.49
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 1.16
4. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 1.37
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 1.40
6. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 2.32
7. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 3.13
8. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.58
9. Christophe Moreau (Fra) Credit Agricole 4.01
10. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 4.07
Most final stages are processions or even a day for the sprinters. Not so at the 2005 Dauphine. Only 78 riders finished the final stage. Says it all really. George Hincapie, who looks in his best condition ever, led a Discovery 1-2-3. It was a Alpine criterium which probably put the fear of God into all the larger riders in the Peloton. Seven ascents of the Côte de Domancy split the field into bits. Hincapie added the victory to the Prologue he won at the start of the race and showed he is more than a pure Rouleur. He stayed away with team mate Yaroslav Popovych for a very hilly 2-up TT.
Landaluze had a weaker team than the big guns at the Dauphine but managed to stay in touch with the front group to hold onto the lead that he had snatched at Grenoble on Stage 5. It was a canny ride on the day that was dominated by Axel Merckx’s attack. Landaluze had stayed in the following group and the leaders seemed to have failed to miss the danger from the man who finished 10th in last year’s race. He climbed Ventoux conservatively and held a good pace at Morzine. Perfect GC riding from the Basque who’s team will only get stronger at the Tour next month. I don’t think the snazzy boys will let him slip into such a dangerous break again.
1. George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 3.07.10 (41.033 km/h)
2. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
3. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.22
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team
5. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems
6. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
7. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 0.24
8. Wim Van Huffel (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto
9. Jose Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 0.45
10. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 0.59
1. Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 28.24.46
2. Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.11
3. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 0.38
4. Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 0.59
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 1.02
6. David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 1.56
7. Jose Gomez Marchante (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir 3.54
8. Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 3.58
9. Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Credit Agricole 5.04
10. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 6.20
So who came out of the race the strongest? Possibly Botero, certainly Vinokourov and as for Armstrong, well remember last year at the Dauphine? He certainly looked more in control this time around, so look out Jan Ullrich.
The highlights for the RCUK travelling team were Axel Merckx’s excellent race winning solo break into Grenoble and Botero’s express train rides at the TT and down the scary fast roller coaster Joux Plane into Morzine. But above all and to use a football cliche ‘Cycling was the winner’ as all the top names made a bid to win this race. They did indeed look like they wanted to race one another, rather than play the usual game of chess that goes on a few weeks before the Tour de France. Great stuff, can’t wait for the 19km ITT at Fromentine on the 2nd of July.
LOADS more pictures in the Gallery. It’s being updated daily so keep an eye on it.