The final stage of this year's Dauphiné Libéré belonged to Dutch time trial specialist Stef Clement who won the first road race of his career when he outsprinted his two fellow escapees Sébastien Joly and Timothy Duggan. The race though belonged to Alejandro Valverde who made it two Dauphinés in a row, and two Pro-Tour races in a row in the process moving to the top of the UCI rankings.
The Spaniard again spent the day countering any threat from Cadel Evans, three of his team mates Oscar Pereiro, José Gutierrez and Javier Zandio got into the day's big break, and it was big – 27 riders, which attacked 10Km from the start. That was a help, but so was the fact that when Evans did attack on the main climb of the day Saint-Bernard-de-Touvet, he found his every move matched by Alberto Contador (Astana) who came across every time with Valverde stuck to his wheel. Valverde's reading of this afterwards was that Contador made his move to ensure he held on to his place on the GC. David Millar had a good day riding himself into 9th place overall.
While the leaders on the GC spent the day marking Evans out of the game further up the road a number of attacks went off the front of the break including Timothy Duggan (Garmin Slipstream) who was joined a few kilometres down the road by Clement and with 8Km to go Joly. The latter attacked 1.5Km from the line but couldn't hold and was caught by Clement who then outsprinted Duggan for the line. The Dutchman's win may have made him happy, but sport's reporters across Europe will have been gnashing their teeth as the were deprived of two possible fairy tale endings – Timothy Duggan underwent brain surgery last year, and Sébastien Joly has returned to cycling after surviving cancer.
No fairy-tale ending for the UCI either, the organisation now finds itself in the situation of having to make good on its threat to turn Valverde's Italian ban into a worldwide one. If the UCI thinks the evidence on with the Italian federation convicted him stands up – and if it ever arrives – Valverde's time as world No.1 will be short indeed.
In the meantime Valverde is loudly protesting his innocence. While the likelihood is that the ban will be extended and the Dauphiné will be the Spaniard's last race for two years it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the UCI will throw out the Italian federation's evidence and order his reinstatement which would open the way for Valverde to ride this year's Tour.
It will be interesting to see whether the Spaniard is amongst the list of rider's the UCI will be contacting tomorrow (Monday) regarding suspected anomalies in their biological passports. A scenario where some of the season's big race winners are amongst those named would make even the Valverde case amount to little more than an embarrassing side show for the UCI. Although the potential pitfalls of the Valverde situation are plenty embarrassing enough if for instance the Italian evidence proves good enought to justify a world wide ban and yet the UCI found nothing amiss with his biological passport… it's never easy being in charge of cycling.
Top 10 Dauphiné Libéré stage 8 1) Stef Clement (Rabobank) 3.30.17 (41.658 km/h) 2) Timothy Duggan (Garmin - Slipstream) 3) Sébastien Joly (Française Des Jeux) 0.02 4) Adam Hansen (Team Columbia - High Road) 1.31 5) Aliaksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) 6) Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel - Euskadi) 1.33 7) David Moncoutié (Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne) 1.56 8) Daniele Righi (Lampre - N.G.C) 9) Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) 1.58 10) Maarten Wynants (Quick Step) 2.05 Final Top 10 General Classification 1) Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Caisse d'Epargne) 26.33.15 2) Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto) 0.16 3) Alberto Contador Velasco (Astana) 1.18 4) Robert Gesink (Rabobank) 2.41 5) Mikel Astarloza Charreau (Euskaltel - Euskadi) 3.40 6) Jacob Fuglsang (Team Saxo Bank) 4.08 7) Vicenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 4.21 8) Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Astana) 5.05 9) David Millar (Garmin - Slipstream) 5.28 10) Christophe Le Mével (Française Des Jeux) 6.19
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.