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Dolphin Crit Stage 5 Preview

Another interesting stage on tap for Friday, though not as obvious a plot as we saw on the Ventoux. The simple reasons are (1) after the Ventoux and the ITT, it's not clear how many guys can go all out, and (2) the stage profile shows only the smallest of uphill finishes... after an endless descent of the Col d'Izoard, which naturally comes after a brutally long climb.

No doubt time gaps will open up on the Izoard, but among the contenders the final separations should be small, barring anyone displaying Savoldelliesque descending skills. There simply isn't much to be gained before Saturday, which (since I probably won't see it) is undoubtedly the queen stage, crossing the Galibier, Croix de Fer and finishing at La Touissure -- a Tour finish that Basso is out reconnoitering as I type.

As for the age-old question of who's here to win, Leipheimer certainly answered in the affirmative today, for good or ill. Of course, Levi worked hard here last year, was OK at the Tour, and extended his peak two more weeks to win the Deutschland Rundfahrt over Ullrich. So perhaps he can hold his fitness easily through July. As for Landis, Hincapie and others, Levi thought they were joyriding.... maybe, maybe not. You can't win the Tour at the Dauphine, but as far as Landis and co. go, you certainly can't lose it here either.