Landaluze rises to the occasion
I¤igo Landaluze retained the yellow jersey on Saturday at the Dauphiné Libéré after holding off Tour
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM I¤igo Landaluze started the five-climb trek that was Saturday’s sixth stage of the Dauphin Libr capped by the fearsome Joux-Plane nursing a 2.51 lead to Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner). By the time the dust settled in Morzine, Santiago Botero (Phonak) had won the stage and trimmed the margin to a slender 49 seconds. But the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider was just strong enough to hold off the likes of Lance Armstrong, Alexandre Vinokourov, Leipheimer and Floyd Landis – all riders who will be front-line candidates for the Tour in a month’s time. “These big climbs are not my speciality, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow the climbers when they attacked,” he said after finishing 13th at 4.17 back. “I had to find my own rhythm and I was feeling pretty good as the climb went along,” he said. “When I crossed the summit still with enough time to hold the jersey, I knew I could keep it. I was hearing the splits the entire way up the climb.” Landaluze might not be a rider who wins much in his career. Most of the time, he’s one of the quiet workers for the likes of Iban Mayo and Haimar Zubeldia, a duty he’ll resume next month at the Tour. “People say that I never believe in myself, but if I can win a prestigious race like this one, maybe I’ll start listening to them more,” he said. “The final stage is better for me because it’s a short climb, just like the ones I race on in the Basque Country.” Speaking of which, a group of his friends and family made the overnight drive from Spain to be on-hand to watch their favourite son in action in the yellow jersey. Knowing that there will be some rowdy Basque fans on hand for Sunday’s finale only feeds his ambition. “I am going to give it everything to win,” he said. “After all, they have to attack me. All I have to do is defend.” After Saturday’s demonstration, it’s pretty obvious that he can do that very well indeed.