Bradley Wiggins claimed the biggest victory of his road career by successfully defending the yellow jersey on the final stage to win the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné – less than three weeks before the start of the Tour de France.
Wiggins rode into yellow on stage three, when the 31-year-old, fourth in the 2009 Tour de France, finished second behind HTC-Highroad’s Tony Martin on the 44.5km time trial.
And Wiggins, who joins Brian Robinson and Robert Millar as the only Brits to win the presitigious seven-stage race, maintained his advantage through the Alps, finishing tenth on the final stage – with Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez’s registering the win – to top the overall standings, one minute, 26 seconds ahead of BMC’s Cadel Evans.
The Dauphiné is a key indicator of form ahead of the Tour, which starts on July 2, and Team Sky rider Wiggins will line-up at the Grand Depart in Vendée as a marked man after a supreme performance.
With the two key mountain stages saved for the final two day’s of the race, Wiggins, who could only finish 24th in last year’s Tour, set about proving his climbing ability, with Evans, twice a Tour runner-up, lurking intently in second place.
But in fact it was Wiggins who put time into his Evans on stage six, topping the hors-categorie Le Collet d’Allevard 15 seconds ahead of his Australian rival.
And former Garmin-Slipstream man Wiggins put in another world class performance on the final stage, finishing ten seconds behind points classification leader Rodriguez, who exploded from the front 500m before the line to take his second successive stage win.
Stage seven result
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ – 8 seconds
3. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank – same time
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto – same time
5. Alexandre Vinkourov (Kaz) Astana – same time
6. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank – 11 seconds
7. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing – same time
8. Kantstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad – same time
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack – same time
10. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky – same time
1. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Sky – 23 hours, 33 minutes, 24 seconds
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing – 1m26s
3. Alexandre Vinkourov (Kaz) Astana – 1m49s
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto – 2m10s
5. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha – 2m50s
6. Christophe Kern (Fra) Europcar – 3m05s
7. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale – 3m30s
8. Kantstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad 4m14s
9. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Radioshack – 4m22s
10. Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar – 4m30s