Three times Olympic track champion Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky is 24 hours away from the biggest road win of his career, tightening his grip on the general classification in the Critérium du Dauphiné on a day when Katusha's Joaquin Rodriguez got the stage win. The Team Sky rider's closest challenger, BMC Racing's Cadel Evans, was dropped on the day's final climb, the Hors Categorie Le Collet d’Allevard. This morning's third placed rider overall, defending champion Janez Brajkovic of RadioShack, had already been distanced.
Rodriguez pointed skywards as he crossed the line in memory of Movistar's Xavi Tondo, killed last month in an accident when he was trapped between his car and garage door. Behind him, Rabobank's Robert Gesink finished second, crossing the line 31 seconds after the Spaniard, with Omega Pharma Lotto's Jurgen Van Den Borek third.
The Katusha rider had gone off the front of a select leading group around 5km from the end of today's final climb following an attack from Astana's Alexander Vinokourov, the Kazakh finding no response when Rodriguez rasied the tempo shortly afterwards.
Behind them, Evans, who had started the morning 1 minute 11 seconds down on Wiggins, was looking uncomfortable and in danger of getting dropped by the group containing the race leader. After managing to get back on a couple of times, the former world champion finally lost contact, giving the Team Sky rider a further 15 seconds' cushion ahead of tomorrow's final stage.
On the early part of today's final climb, after the remnants of a 16-man escape group had been caught, Edvald Boasson Hagen had put in a massive effort on his team leader's behalf at the front of the main general classification group but peeled off, spent, with around seven kilometres left to ride.
After his last remaining team mate had left him, Wiggins rode his own tempo, and the Briton came home in sixth place, 54 seconds down on Rodriguez. More importantly, while bulding his lead over Eavans to nearly one and a half minutes, he ceded only four seconds to Vinokourov, who rises to third overall.
Earlier there was drama with around 20km to go when three apparently pregnant heifers that seemed to have been spooked by the passing race ran onto the road, causing a crash. Last year, the Tour de France peloton had to pick its way around a flock of sheep on the slopes of the Tourmalet, but today a nimber of riders seemed to have been brought down in the incident, although all got back on their bikes.
Tomorrow's 117.5km final stage from Pontcharra sees another summit finish at onthe Category 1 La Toussuire and is preceded by the Hors Category Col du Glandon. It will take something special now to displace Wiggins from the top of the overall standings, but even if that did happen, it's already clear that he is in much better shape for the Tour de France than he was 12 months ago.
Criterium du Dauphiné Stage 6 Result
1 RODRIGUEZ Joaquim KATUSHA 5h 12' 47"
2 GESINK Robert RABOBANK + 00' 31"
3 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 00' 39"
4 KERN Christophe EUROPCAR + 00' 41"
5 VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 00' 50"
6 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 54"
7 SORENSEN Chris SAXO BANK SUNGARD + 01' 00"
8 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 01' 06"
9 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING + 01' 09"
10 VOECKLER Thomas EUROPCAR + 01' 58"
11 MONCOUTIE David COFIDIS + 02' 16"
12 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC - HIGHROAD + 02' 16"
13 ZAUGG Oliver LEOPARD-TREK + 02' 44"
14 COPPEL Jérôme SAUR-SOJASUN + 02' 48"
15 SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI + 03' 10"
16 BRAJKOVIC Janez RADIOSHACK + 03' 55"
17 DI GREGORIO Rémy ASTANA + 03' 55"
18 RIBLON Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 03' 55"
19 ZEITS Andrey ASTANA + 03' 58"
20 PIRES Bruno LEOPARD-TREK + 04' 04"
Criterium du Dauphiné Overall Standings after Stage 6
1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 23h 16' 11"
2 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING + 01' 26"
3 VINOKOUROV Alexandre ASTANA + 01' 52"
4 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO + 02' 13"
5 KERN Christophe EUROPCAR + 02' 52"
6 RODRIGUEZ Joaquim KATUSHA + 03' 01"
7 PERAUD Jean-Christophe AG2R LA MONDIALE + 03' 30"
8 SIVTSOV Kanstantsin HTC - HIGHROAD + 04' 14"
9 BRAJKOVIC Janez RADIOSHACK + 04' 22"
10 VOECKLER Thomas EUROPCAR + 04' 27"
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