T-Mobile young gun Bernhard Kohl finished a strong third overall (+2’51),
separated from the second spot by only 1 minute and three seconds. The podium placing is the biggest success to date for the
Austrian magenta rider.
Norwegian Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole) was the fastest in a last minute mass sprint to the
line to take the final 131km trek from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Grenoble stage. The peloton caught early breakaway Stuart
O'Grady only on the final kilometres.
The Frenchman Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R) placed second ahead of Fdjeux’s Philippe
Gilbert from Belgien. Some 60 riders, among them T-Mobile’s Bernhard Kohl (17th) and Oscar Sevilla (36th) battled it
out for the stage win.
Successful dress rehearsal for T-Mobile
The form test three weeks ahead
of the Tour de France ended on a positive note for the magenta team. Sevilla barely missed out on a top ten placing, placing
eleventh on the GC (+ 6’48). Tour candidate Eddy Mazzoleni from Italy also put in good performances in the mountains
in the previous days.
"We did very well here. Today it was tougher than it looked on paper“, said the sporting
director Frans van Looy. The stage was “incredibly fast and aggressive“, according to the Belgian. “I was
very relieved when the race was over and both Bernhard and Oscar had secured their top overall placings“, van Looy quipped.
O'Grady on the offensive
After 60km on flat terrain at a warm-up pace the 133 remaining riders
were faced with another third-category and three four-category climbs. Afdter five km already, Aussie Stuart O'Grady (CSC)
peeled off the main group, joined by Jérome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom).
While Pineau was soon dropped, Guido Trenti
(Quick Step) and Agritubel’s Cédric Coutouly bridged to the leader. Together, the trio managed to build up a 4’30
gap over the peloton.
When things got hilly, first Trenti and then Coutouly fell behind, as O'Grady continued his
mammoth effort alone.
Gripping finale in Grenoble
Valverde’s Caisse d'Epargne was hot in
pursuit, eventually reeling in O’Grady just before the flamme rouge. In the sprint it was Norwegian Thor Hushovd, who
had the fastest legs. The Crédit Agricole rider crossed the line ahead of Samuel Dumoulin, making it his fourth season win.
"Now we attend the winner’s ceremony and then it’s back home again“, van Looy remarked, and once
more emphasized the convincing team performance: “It was fun to watch how everybody weighed in”.
Dauphiné Libéré: final general classification
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
2 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R Prevoyance
3 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) T-Mobile Team
4 Jose Azevedo (Por) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) AG2R Prevoyance
6 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 4.21
Leonardo Piepoli (Ita) Saunier Duval-Prodir
9 Pietro Caucchioli (Ita) Credit Agricole
10 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 6.48