Van den Broeck solo’s to victory in Dauphiné. No Sarkozy in sight.

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Jurgen Van den Broeck won today’s stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné. He attacked at the base of the final Cat 2 climb up to Saint Pierre de Chartreuse and rode to a solo win, the first of his professional career.

It was also his good fortune that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was not standing in his way at the finish line. In what was perhaps the funniest story of the 2010 Tour de France, Van den Broeck nearly ran over Sarkozy at the summit of Tourmalet.

Van den Broeck’s quote at the time was a classic of self-absorption and cluelessness and yet he had a point.  “If he stands in the way I’ll run him over,” he said at the time. “If he comes to the race he should step aside for the riders.”

A fair observation but the French President and cycling fan was in Paris attending to his affairs (and those of his wife Carla Bruni) and was in no position to impede the young Belgian or Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) or Cadel Evans (BMC) who finished second and third respectively.

I was ‘a bloc’ but when the peloton came up to us, I said to myself that it was now all or nothing, said Van den Broeck. “They were a bloc too and so I managed to stay away.”

With two Cat 4 climbs and a deceptively steep 7.4 drag up to the finish, the stage from Albertville to Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse was tailor-made for a breakaway. A small group of riders did give it their all for the possible TV coverage but the only meaningful moves were late in the game.

HTC-Highroad’s Kanstantsin Sivtsov bolted with about 8k left and then Van den Broeck bridged up. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) joined shortly after because he is the favorite of all French housewives. Only the Belgian managed to stay away, motoring up the montee to Saint Pierre de Chartreuse.

“It’s good for my moral because I’ve been away from home for five weeks training in the big mountains for the Tour de France,” he said. “My legs didn’t feel super but I felt strong when I attacked.”

The day belonged to Van Den Broeck, 5th in last year’s Tour de France, and Astana’s Alexander Vinokourov. Thanks to his second place in the prologue, Vino now takes the leader’s jersey.

The president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev, was not at the finish line. He knows better than to get in Vinokourov’s way.

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