Leipheimer Wins Dauphine Libere Prologue
Levi Leipheimer (Astana) has won the Dauphine Libere's prologue. The American blitzed over the flat, 5.6-km course from Le Pontet to Avignon in 6:10. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) finished second at 0:01, and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took third at 0:06.
Leipheimer, who raced the Giro d'Italia on just one week's notice, says that he is not entirely sure how the Dauphine Libere will go for him but that the Giro provided him with good training. Because of Astana's exclusion from the Tour de France, Leipheimer can ride the race to win. For Hushovd, Valverde, and Cadel Evans (Silence), however, the Dauphine Libere will be a barometer of their preparedness for the Tour de France, which takes place next month.
Hushovd was happy with his performance. As Norway's thunder god said, "I didn't specifically prepare for this time trial because I have a few more things to think about at the Dauphine, like sprinting and finishing the race as a preparation for the mountains in the Tour de France."
Valverde echoed Hushovd's sentiments. "I knew that my time on the finish line would be a good one," declared the Spaniard, "but I did not think I would be so close behind specialists like Leipheimer and Hushovd. My result is evidence that I am already in very good condition and I hope that I will achieve a good result here even if it is not the main goal. The Dauphine is the best preparation for the Tour de France and also the best way to see our rivals' level. But if it is also possible to win a stage, even better!"
After having battled tendonitis, Evans was concerned about his form. The Australian finished sixth at 0:13 and was satisfied. "I had a good ride, apparently," Evans said. "I felt good from the start. It was a good test to see how the other riders went also. I'm happy for now. It looks like I haven't been affected by my interruption in my lead-up to the Tour. I came to the Dauphine with no big expectations. It's still a long way to go in this race until I draw any conclusions."
In the overall, Leipheimer leads Hushovd by 0:01 and Valverde by 0:06. Stage 1 will be challenging. The rolling, 194-km run from Avignon to Privas will end with an uphill finish. A climbing sprinter or a sprinting climber could win the day. Who will it be? Will the race leadership change? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!