Evans springs a surprise in Saint Vallier

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A valiant show of defiance from defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC) denied a sprint-hungry peloton at the Criterium du Dauphine, pulling off a crafty move on the final descent of the day to take a confidence-boosting victory in Saint Vallier.

It was a bit of a technical descent, quite narrow. Sometimes you see these opportunities on days like these and I took advantage of it.

Frenchman Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) ran second, with Astana's Andrey Kashechkin in third.

It was clear from early in the day that BMC had something planned for the finish, with Evans marshalling his men to join the main chase with yellow jersey Luke Durbridge's Orica-GreenEDGE to bring back the six breakaway riders, Giovanni Bernadeau (Europcar), Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Nissan), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda), Maarten Tjallingii (Rabobank), and Yukihiro Doi (Argos-Shimano).

But onto the final climb of the day, the Category 3 Côte de la Sizeranne, it was Omega Pharma-QuickStep, not BMC, that set an infernal tempo to splinter the peloton and set up its man, Gerald Ciolek.

Surprisingly, along with a host of sprinters, 2010 Tour de France winner Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) also disappeared off the back of the main group in the Omega Pharma onslaught, further fuelling concerns over his readiness for this year's Grand Boucle.

The hard pace did play into the hands of the real hard man at the front however, and pulling out the old one-two punch, BMC pulled off its coup de grace.

First Philippe Gilbert, then Evans went in moves, with the latter's sticking with only 6km to go.

Jerome Coppel and Andrey Kaschekin joined the Australian and seemed happy to work together to form what would be a decisive advantage. Despite never holding a gap of more than a few seconds it was enough to deny the chase behind.

Evans led out the sprint seemingly intent on gaining time alone, but neither Coppel, nor Kascheckin had the speed to get past him, and Evans took the stage by a bike-length.

The Australian admitted that the stage hadn't been the goal at the start of the day, but when the opportunity presented itself, he took full advantage.

"I'm a racer, I like to race. My objective wasn't to go out and 'win or nothing', but you just make the best of the situation, and that's what I did today."

He added that while the victory was a boost for both himself and the team, there was still along way to go before the Criterium du Dauphine is decided, not to mention the Tour de France.

"Every thing is going really well, the team is going well, but we still have a bit to go before July.

"I'm arriving at the Dauphine after a long period of training. It's a bit of a surprise to win so soon but it's obviously a good surprise. It's good for me and for the team. We come to the Dauphine every year for a test, to work together and get into the rhythm of competition.

"Can I win it? Of course, I'll do it. In the prologue yesterday, I wasn't bad, only six seconds behind the specialists."

Spain's 2008 Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez sustained a heavy fall but was able to continue riding, in what is a key warm-up race for the Tour de France.

The 34-year-old, who was on Friday named in the Spanish team for the London 2012 Olympic Games, came down in a mass crash 47km into the first stage from Seyssins.

Behind, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) finished with the chase and, courtesy of Durbridge losing contact on the descent, took the yellow jersey.

Evans took the green points jersey, while breakaway animator Giovanni Bernadeau donned the polka dot jersey.

Wiggins leads Evans by one second in the overall standings in the race, which saw Australia's Durbridge prevail in the prologue.

"I've got the (leader's) jersey but it wasn't the objective today," said Wiggins.

"If I wasn't the yellow jersey, they'd say that I was rubbish, and if I get it, they say that it's too early. It doesn't matter.

"It's difficult not to race for victory. I like doing the race when I'm here, and the general classification comes afterwards.

"The others? I'm not surprised that Cadel's in front. Andy (Schleck)? He'll be (in contention) at the Tour, as he often is.

"No disrespect to the Dauphine, but it's just the Dauphine. We're still a long way away from the Tour."

Tonight’s second stage covers 160km from Lamastre to Saint-Felicien in the Ardennes.

Stage 1: 187km, Saint-Vallier
1 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC 4hr 36min 21sec
2 Jerome Coppel (FRA) Saur-Sojasun
3 Andrey Kashechkin (KAZ) Astana
4 Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) FDJ-BigMAT +4
5 Tony Gallopin (FRA) RadioShack-Nissan
6 Borut Bozic (SLO) Astana
7 Gerald Ciolek (GER) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
8 Julien Simon (FRA) Saur-Sojasun
9 Daniele Ratto (ITA) Liquigas-Cannondale)
10 Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) Sky

General Classification after Stage 1
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky 4hr 43min 04sec
2 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC +1
3 Andriy Grivko (UKR) Astana +2
4 Carlos Barredo (ESP) Rabobank +2
5 Tony Martin (GER) Omega Pharam-QuickStep +4
6 Paul Martens (GER) Rabobank +4
7 Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) Omega Pharma-QuickStep  +5
8 Jerome Coppel (FRA) Saur-Sojasun +6
9 Andrey Amador (CRC) Movistar +6
10 Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) Sky +6

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