Living up to his reputation, Clemènt
Lhôtellerie (Skil - Shimano) took the initiative in the first kilometres of the race. He put in repeated attacks on the first
two climbs of the day with Duque (Cofidis) and Tschopp (Bouygues Telecom) and with the group including Franck Schleck (CSC),
which were systematically covered.
Voigt in the right breakaway
Then a group of four riders; Jens Voigt (CSC), Sandy Casar (Francaise des Jeux) Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricole) and Mauro Santambrogio
(Lampre) took over at km20 and began to build a lead. As they made their way over the côte
de Blossette, their lead stood at 1’45” over a group of 50 riders. The string of difficulties, and an acceleration
from the Caisse d’Epargne team resulted in a number of riders dropping off the back.
A halt to the action
The four leaders had their breakaway
interrupted by a demonstration that temporarily stopped the race at km 48. The four leaders had to wait some 40 minutes before
they could re-start the race where they increased their pre-demonstration lead of 1’55 to a maximum of 2’20”
at the summit of the Côte de Mellier-Fontaine, (km 56.5), then the Côte du Bois de l’Or (km61).
Mission accomplished for Voigt
Employing a strategy with the overall lead in mind, the Côte du
Mont Malgré Tout provided Voigt the opportunity to stamp his authority. Casar was the first to fall back, then Santambrogio.
At the summit, the defending race champion only had Gerrans at his side. The duo, which never came under threat from a counter-attack,
had 2’20” in hand at the base of the stage’s final difficulty at 3.5 kms from the finish. They continued
to ride in unison on the Côte de la Roche aux 7 Villages. At the arrival, Gerrans left Voigt in the final 300 metres, but
for the German rider it was already mission accomplished as he took the yellow jersey. In the main field, which crossed the
line with a 1’30 deficit, no one looks likely to pose a threat to Voigt in his quest for a fourth title.
Stage winner Simon Gerrans said: "This stage was my only objective in
taking part in the Criterium International. I am not a strong enough rider to hope for much success in the time trial, so
this is the one I had to win. After the interruption of the race it was hard to re-start because we had cooled off, but we
immediately began to ride sufficiently quick enough. To hope of making it to the end, I had to get on with it straight away
and that’s what we did. That is how we managed to maintain our lead to the end."
CSC dominated the stage, several CSC riders were making it a tough race
from the beginning. "Andy and Gustav were in the first break with eight others and Fränk went solo on the second mountain,
where no one was able to keep up with him. However it was too far to go on his own so he had to let himself fall back again
and then Jens attacked in a group of four," explained a happy CSC sports director Kim Andersen on the CSC Team website team-csc.com.
"Obviously Jens is highly motivated but it's also very much thanks to
the team that this worked out the way it did, because we have so many guys looking out for him," continued Kim Andersen.
The plan almost fell to the ground with about 40 kilometer to go, when
the race was interrupted by a demonstration. A local factory has closed down and the demonstrators took to the streets during
"I was getting very worried that the stage was gonna be cancelled so we'd loose it all. The
riders were all freezing out there, but luckily it turned out ok," said the Danish sports director.
After about half
an hour the riders were sent off with the same lead as when the race had been interrupted.