Iban Mayo emerges from semi-obscurity to win the Dauphiné’s sixth stage to the La Toussuire ski stat
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Since he won the Dauphin Libr in extremely convincing fashion two years ago, little has gone right in Iban Mayo’s career. But on Saturday he finally gave a performance that suggested he just might be among the contenders at next month’s Tour de France as he won the Dauphin’s toughest stage to the La Toussuire ski station above St Jean de Maurienne. This was a notable stage for Mayo to win because its route was almost exactly the same as stage 16 of the Tour in five weeks’ time. Instead of starting in Bourg d’Oisans as the Tour will next month, the Dauphin stage came up to the Galibier, the first challenge of the day from Brianon. With the Glandon/Croix de Fer, Mollard and the final summit climb ahead, an attack by one of the race’s big names was not expected until well after the Galibier, so it was something of a surprise when ProTour leader Alejandro Valverde went on the offensive after the long drag up the Lauteret pass turned into the tougher ascent over the massive bulk of the Galibier. A large group including race leader Levi Leipheiner had joined Valverde by the summit, and things quietened down for a while thereafter. On the Glandon, though, Valverde went again, attacking behind tema-mate Caisse d’Epargne David Arroyo and in the company of Mayo and Oscar Sevilla (T-Mobile). They joined Arroyo and the four pressed over the Croix de Fer and Mollard. Second-placed Denis Menchov crashed on the very tricky descent of this second-cat hill. Although the Russian remounted, he finished more than five minutes down and right out of contention. On the final climb, Mayo and Valverde went clear together, but the latter paid for his earlier efforts and fell back behind the resurgent Basque with 5km remaining. Mayo eventually finished more than a minute clear in the same mountains that have given him most of his biggest moments in the sport, from victory in the Classique des Alpes in 2001 to his unforgettable Tour success on Alpe d’Huez in 2003. It remains to be seen, though, whether Mayo can carry this form into the Tour and challenge the likes of Dauphin leader Levi Leipheimer, who continues onwards to a very convincing victory. Stage 6, Brianon-La Toussuire 1 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 169km in 5.01.42 2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 1.21 3 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Ag2r 1.37 4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 5 Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval 6 Bernhard Khl (Aut) T-Mobile 2.00 7 Jos Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel 2.37 8 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Ag2r 3.17 9 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) T-Mobile 3.26 10 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Crdit Agricole Overall 1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 24.58.49 2 Moreau 1.48 3 Khl 2.51 4 Azevedo 3.00 5 Mancebo 3.29 6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 4.14 7 Valverde 4.21 8 Piepoli 5.13 9 Caucchioli 5.45 10 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 6.48 – Tom Boonen took his 17th victory of the season when he won the opening stage of the Tour of Switzerland on Saturday, which finished in a bunch sprint. The Belgian came in ahead of Daniele Bennati (Lampre) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank).