Criterium du Dauphine 7: Brajkovic holds firm

Boasson Hagen wins final stage

Slovenia's Janez Brajkovic secured the biggest stage race win of his career Sunday when he beat Spain's Alberto Contador into second place at the Dauphine Criterium.

Brajkovic, who races for Lance Armstrong's RadioShack team, finished the week-long race with a lead of 1min 41sec on two-time Tour de France champion Contador.

The race was missing a host of star names who will be competing at the Tour de France on July 3-25, but for Brajkovic the presence of two-time champion Contador was enough.

"Actually, I don't care (who is here)," said the Slovenian, who is only beginning to display the kind of potential he showed when he won the world under-23 time trial title in 2004.

"This is the Dauphine and whether there's the world's top 20 riders here or not makes no difference. To have raced against Contador and won is enough.

"He's the best rider in the world, and although he is not on top form right now he can win just about any race he wants to."

Contador, Brajkovic and Van Garderen - top three overall

Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen, of Team Sky, won the final stage held over 148km between Allevard-les-Bains and Sallanches after dominating a circuit on which French legend Bernard Hinault won the world title 30 years ago, in 1980.

The win came only hours after his team sports director Sean Yates said the Norwegian, who has recently suffered an Achilles tendon problem, had proven his form ahead of a likely Tour de France selection.

Boasson Hagen said he has yet to be given the nod officially, but in the meantime the 22-year-old from Lillehammer was just happy to bury the Achilles tendon injury woes that hampered his early season campaign.

"It's really great to be back after my injury problems," he said. "We had a plan this morning and that was to try and win the stage and the team worked really hard in bringing back the breakaway."

An eight man breakaway formed as soon as Frenchman Samuel Dumoulin attacked at the one kilometre mark and they went on to build a lead of three and a half minutes inside the first 20 km.

But with several teams not represented at the front, Boasson Hagen helped drive the chasing peloton hard and as the leaders reached the 50km mark to begin the 11.2km climb over the category two Cote des Rafforts their lead had evaporated to just 40sec.

Eventually they were reeled in and a 17-man lead group came into Sallanches with a lead of just over 1:30. But with the steep 2.4km Domancy climb to negotiate five times on a wet and slippery circuit they were far from safety.

An acceleration by Garmin's David Millar with 39 km remaining only served to prompt Boasson Hagen to counter, and when the Norwegian flew past it was game over for the big Scot.

Boasson Hagen was joined by four counter-attackers, but on the approach to the final climb at Domancy he pulled away again, keeping a fast cadence despite the climb's 9.2 percent average gradient to leave everyone in his wake.

He made it look easy, but admitted: "I had to work really hard and when I attacked for the last time on the climb I was going full gas, and then some.

"It was all worth it. It's really nice to come back to racing and get a win this week."

This week both Brajkovic and Boasson Hagen will be waiting anxiously by the telephone, and although the former may not get the nod for the Tour de France because of his heavy race programme so far this season he was all smiles.

"It's the end of a perfect week," added Brajkovic. "I feel really happy for me, and for the rest of the team."

© AFP 2010

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