Controversial Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde stayed on course to win the Dauphine Libere race after Frenchman David Moncoutie won the seventh and penultimate stage of the race on Saturday.
Moncoutie beat home Dutch cyclist Robert Gesink by around 40 seconds while former yellow jersey wearer Cadel Evans was third.
Valverde, who faces a worldwide two-year doping ban if cycling's world ruling body the UCI acts upon evidence yet to be delivered by the Italian sporting authorities, finished alongside Evans and some 15 seconds ahead of his compatriot and 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.
"The stage was very difficult," said Valverde. "My team did a fantastic job. Evans must have attacked about 15 times during the last climb. I expected it. He is very strong. It was the most important stage."
Cadel Evans tries to crack Valverde and Contador
Evans - a two-time Tour de France runner-up - had tried to break away from Valverde on several occasions but every time the Spaniard found the resources to get back on his wheel.
"I have nothing to regret, I did everything," said the Australian. "Maybe I'll finish second again. I only hope that it'll work out differently in the Tour de France."
For Moncoutie, who has two Tour de France stage wins to his name, it was his second win of the season after a stage win in the Tour of the Mediterranean.
"This was a really prestigious stage win, with the climbs of Galibier, the Croix-de-Fer and the finish at Saint-François-Longchamp," said Moncoutie.
"It was a difficult stage but I like it when it's difficult."
Sunday's final stage is a 146km ride from Faverges to Grenoble.
© AFP 2009
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