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Critérium du Dauphiné prologue: Boom blasts his way into the lead

Prologue: Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 5.4km individual time trial

Rabobank’s time trial specialist and former world cyclo-cross champion Lars Boom won the rain-affected 5.4km prologue of the eight-day Critérium du Dauphiné, one of the key warm-up events for next month’s Tour de France. It was the Dutch rider’s second victory of 2011, having previously won the prologue at the Tour of Qatar in February. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins had to settle for third after suffering a mechanical problem.

The technical, stop-start race route took the riders around the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, which sits near the foot of the monstrous Col de la Croix de Fer (which the race will revisit on its final stage next Sunday). It combined an early 800-metre, 5% climb with a relatively straight middle section before a final couple of kilometres which required the riders to negotiate a series of roundabouts and tight corners before the finish.

Overnight rain meant the early starters had to contend with damp conditions, with Saur-Sojasun‘s Cyril Lemoine setting the benchmark with a time of 6:28. Aided by a brief shower, Lemoine watched as over a hundred more riders failed to knock him off the top of the timesheets. Not until AG2R La Mondiale‘s Blel Kadri recorded a 6:26 – ultimately good enough for fifth-best time – was Lemoine’s time bettered.

Boom claimed his second prologue victory of 2011

Kadri retained the lead until the big favourites left the start-house. Sky‘s Wiggins then shaved two seconds off the fastest time despite minor mechanical issues, but he was soon pushed off top spot by Boom, who set off visibly more aggressively than any other rider and registered a time of 6:18 which would ultimately prove the quickest of the day.

BMC‘s Cadel Evans notched a decent 6:27 to take seventh, while HTC-Highroad‘s burly sprinter John Degenkolb produced an outstanding effort to slot in just behind Wiggins. Penultimate rider Alexandre Vinokorov (Astana) then sped round in 6:20, just two seconds off Boom’s time, knocking Wiggins down to third. Finally, last year’s winner Janez Brajkovič (RadioShack) could only manage 17th-fastest with 6:33.

Among the other major contenders for overall victory, Omega Pharma-Lotto‘s Jurgen van den Broeck was 15th, 14 seconds down, Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was 24th, Boom’s Rabobank teammate Robert Gesink 29th and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) a lowly and disappointing 102nd. He already trails by 34 seconds.

This was Boom’s third notable prologue win in two years, having won at Paris-Nice in 2010 and the Tour of Qatar earlier this year. Having suffered a knee problem at the recent Tour of California, he was surprised how well he went:

Apart from the hill at the start of the race, it went really well for me. I felt comfortable in the corners, where my cyclo-cross experience probably helped. Now I’d like to keep the jersey for another day although I know tomorrow’s stage finishes on an uphill.

Vinokourov pronounced himself pleased with second:

I’ve got great legs. I trained hard in the lead up to the Dauphine, and this is my reward. I’m delighted.

Monday’s first stage covers 144km from Albertville to Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, culminating in a 7.4km, 4.8% second category climb to the finish. It should present a gentle introductory test for the general classification contenders to stretch their legs. It definitely will not be a day for the sprinters.

Stage 1 profile

Prologue result:

1. Lars Boom (Rabobank) 6:18

2. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) +0:02

3. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +0:05

4. John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad) +0:06

5. Blel Kadri (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:08

6. Joost Posthuma (Leopard-Trek) +0:09

7. Cadel Evans (BMC) +0:09

8. Christophe Riblon (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:09

9. Cyril Lemoine (Saur-Sojasun) +0:10

10. Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) +0:11

Links: Critérium du Dauphiné official website, Steephill.tv

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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