Dauphiné 5: Youry Trofimov takes mountain stage

Valverde holds lead, Leipheimer slips

Former mountain bike specialist Youry Trofimov of the Bouyges Telecom team claimed a prestigious alpine victory on the fifth stage of the Dauphiné Libéré stage race into Morzine Friday.

Trofimov, of Russia, hoisted himself up the general classification after breaking free of an earlier breakaway to bring victory home after a tough, second day of racing in the Alps.

"I'm still having trouble getting my head around it," said Trofimov. "It's a surprise. At the start of the breakaway I wasn't thinking about victory.

"But the downhill was an advantage for me, someone who has come from mountain biking," said the Russian, adding that his target was now a top-10 finish.

Spanish ace Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne retained the race lead and now appears to have only one real rival for the yellow jersey in Australia's Cadel Evans.

Evans, of Silence, finished just 15 seconds behind Trofimov to move up to second place overall, but still has a 37-second deficit to Valverde, who finished third on the stage.

"I feel good," said Valverde. "The team worked perfectly and I can only hope it continues like that. I attacked at Joux-Plane to test Evans and (American Levi) Leipheimer.

"Evans followed me, he was really very good," he said. "When he saw Leipheimer losing contact, it was he who did all the work to the finishing line." Gesink did the same thing during Stage 3 of the 2008 Tour of California.

The biggest loser of the day was Leipheimer.

The Astana rider began the day in second overall at 23 seconds behind Valverde but fell victim to the fast pace being set by Dutchman Robert Gesink of Rabobank on the climb over the tough Col de Joux Plane.

As Gesink kept his foot on the gas, Leipheimer slowly dropped off the back as Valverde and Evans stuck on the young Dutchman's wheel.

Leipheimer lost over a minute in time to Evans and Valverde and will be keen to make up for that slip-up during Saturday's big climbing stage from Morzine to La Toussiure.

Valverde heaped praise on Gesink, saying his lead through Joux-Plane was exemplary.

"In the Joux-Plane, Gesink kept up a fast pace," he said. "He exploded the peloton. I think he has a great future ahead of him."

For a complete report with photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2008

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