Gutierrez Wins Stage 2 of Dauphine Libere; Leads Race
Jose Gutierrez (Phonak) has won Stage 2 of the Dauphine Libere. The Spaniard jumped away from the peloton on the day's last climb and held on to win in 4:36:04. Cyril Dessel, Gutierrez's teammate, pipped Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) for second at 0:07. Gutierrez is the new overall leader.
The racing began early. Just a few km into the stage, Guillaume Auger (RAGT) attacked, and Anthony Geslin (Brioches La Boulangere), Andy Flickinger (Ag2r), and Erik Dekker and Karsten Kroon (both from Rabobank) joined him. By 70 km, the five led by 4:20, and they increased their advantage to 5:00 by the midway point of the stage.
Euskaltel began to chase. At the base of the day's last climb, the Col de la Croix de Chaubouret, the bunch caught the break. Geslin tried a solo attack but was reeled in. A similar move by Ludovic Martin (Credit Agricole) was unsuccessful.
Two km from the top of the climb, Gutierrez attacked. He dropped team captain Tyler Hamilton and forged a 20-second lead on the descent. A 40-rider chase group formed, but the Spaniard was not to be caught. He finished seven seconds clear of the pursuit.
In the overall, Gutierrez leads Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) by 0:08 and Hamilton by 0:09. Stage 3 will have more climbing, but will not be a standing shaker. The 180-km ride from St. Etienne to Aubenas will feature two Category 3 and two Category 2 ascents. The last climb will be the Category 2 Col de Mezilhac at 144 km. Look for a small group to escape and fight out the finish.
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