Daniel Moreno of Katusha won Stage 2 of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné in Saint-Felicien this afternoon, outsprinting a select bunch contesting a tough finish with a 2.5 kilometre final climb, with Julien Simon of Saur-Sojasun second and RadioShack-Nissan's Tony Gallopin third. Defending champion and race leader Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky finished ninth in the same time as the winner, and remains top of the general classification by one second from BMC Racing's Cadel Evans. Meanwhile, Biel Kadri of AG2R-La Mondiale, a member of the four-man break that led the race over the day's six categorised climbs, picked up sufficient points to take the polka dot jersey from Giovanni Bernaudau of Europcar.
Kadri was the final member of that quartet to be caught by the main bunch, together with FDJ-BigMat’s Anthony Roux who had fought hard to bridge across after attacking from the bunch on the day’s penultimate climb, although his efforts would prove to be in vain as the group came back together shortly after.
With George Hincapie leading the peloton up the early part of that final ascent to the finish on a day when the race visited some of the same roads that feature in l’ Ardéchoise, Cadel Evans looked well placed to challenge for a second consecutive stage win, although he was being shadowed by Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali.
Under the flamme rouge, however, it was Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Tony Martin who attacked first from the group which was by now strung out back down the hillside as a result of the high pace, but he was brought back and instead it was the 30-year-old Moreno, winner of a stage in last year’s Vuelta, who timed his burst to perfection to win by a bike length.
After his victory, Moreno, who worked tirelessly througout last month's Giro d'Italia for team leader Joaquin Rodriguez, said: "Considering the finale, it was a good stage for me today. Maybe I wasn’t considered a favourite by everyone but I made myself a favourite and I wanted to win. With last year’s stage of the Vuelta and the Giro di Piemonte, this is one of my three best victories I collected. The end of the stage was very nervous before the final climb.”
Following yesterday's stage in which he moved into the overall lead, Wiggins had expressed regret that if he held onto the yellow jersey until Wedesday, he wouldn't be able to wear his team skinsuit in the followiing day's time trial, but there was no question of his letting go of the race lead today.
"Everyone knew the race went straight uphill right away and our objective was to make it hard from the start," he said afterwards, quoted on the Team Sky website. "Once again the team were incredible, they were fantastic throughout the day and they made my job a lot easier.
"When the four-man break eventually went clear it was a lot more straightforward, albeit still a hard day. It was all about respecting the jersey by defending it and also staying safe. It was also a hectic finish so it’s good to have got through it all okay and that’s another day down."
Sports Director Sean Yates added: "It was a very hard stage - full on from the start - and the best place to be was at the front which is exactly where we were.
"The guys are working together superbly again and it's great to see," he continued.
"Tomorrow is the only real sprinters' stage so you would imagine a couple of other teams will be looking to help us to a certain extent."
As yesterday, Andy Schleck of RadioShack-Nissan trailled in well behind the winner, crossing the line in a group the best part of two minutes down, and while there may be a question mark over his fitness it increasingly seems as though the explanation for his apparent lack of interest in the race is a breakdown in his relationship, and that of brother Frank, with team manager Johan Bruyneel.
The racing today was fast and furious from the start, with a number of attacks early on as riders looked to get away, including one from a very dangerous group including Wiggins and Team Sky colleagues Edvald Boasson Hagen and Mick Rogers, as well as Sylvain Chavanel of Omega Pharma-Quick Step and BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert.
Unsurprisingly, with riders of that calibre off the front, the peloton responded quickly to bring them back, with French champion Chavanel the last to be caught after trying to go it alone.
It was not until nearly a quarter of the way into the 160-kilometre stage from Lamastre that the four riders who would constitute the day’s break managed to detach themselves from the main group.
Besides Kadri, that group contained Christophe Kern of Europcar, winner of Stage 5 of last year’s Dauphiné, Liquigas Cannondale’s José Sarmiento and David Moncoutié of Cofidis, but with Team Sky setting the pace at the front of the main group, they were never allowed to build a lead of more than four minutes.
Samuel Sanchez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, who hurt his ribs in a crash during yesterday’s Stage 1, battled on to complete today’s stage, but Pierrick Fedrigo of FDJ-BigMat, who damaged his right kneecap in the same incident, was forced to abandon early on during today’s stage. Other riders to pull out of the race today were Dutch national champion Pim Lighart of Vacansoleil-DCM and Saxo Bank's Argentine sprinter, Juan Jose Haedo.
Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 2 result 1 MORENO Daniel KATUSHA TEAM 4h 02' 38" 2 SIMON Julien SAUR-SOJASUN All at same time 3 GALLOPIN Tony RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 4 NOCENTINI Rinaldo AG2R LA MONDIALE 5 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 6 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 7 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM 8 BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM 9 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 10 VOECKLER Thomas TEAM EUROPCAR 11 MARTIN Tony OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP 12 BARREDO Carlos RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 13 PORTE Richie SKY PROCYCLING 14 NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 15 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING 16 MILLAR David GARMIN-BARRACUDA 17 ROGERS Michael SKY PROCYCLING 18 KASHECHKIN Andrey ASTANA PRO TEAM 19 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE 20 LANDA MEANA Mikel EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI Overall Standings after Stage 2 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 8h 45' 42" 2 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 01" 3 GRIVKO Andriy ASTANA PRO TEAM + 00' 02" 4 BARREDO Carlos RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 00' 02" 5 MARTIN Tony OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 04" 6 MARTENS Paul RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 00' 04" 7 CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 05" 8 COPPEL Jérôme SAUR-SOJASUN + 00' 06" 9 AMADOR Andrey MOVISTAR TEAM + 00' 06" 10 PORTE Richie SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 07"
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.