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Critérium du Dauphiné: Big Bad Time Trial Tomorrow!

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Daffe_medium Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky won today's stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné. As expected, the stage finished with a bunch sprint. After a picture perfect lead-out from Team Sky, Boasson Hagen outsprinted Gerald Ciolek and Borut Bozič to take the stage victory in La Clayette. Sprinter John Degenkolb missed today's finish after a flat tire took him out of contention.

Bradley Wiggins finished safely in the field to keep his leader's jersey for another day. Wiggins leads Cadel Evans by one second in the general classification. A horde of other riders sit within 30 seconds of the race lead, but they will face a difficult task overtaking Wiggins and Evans.

Tomorrow, the general classification riders go pedal-to-pedal in a long test against the watch. The 53.5 kilometer time trial runs from Villié-Morgon to Bourg-en-Bresse. Villié-Morgon is Beaujolais country, though the riders will not have time for any wine-tasting. The course is mostly flat. Don't let that profile mislead you. Only 60 meters of elevation separate the start and finish. At 53.5 kilometers, this is a race for the specialists.

These long time trials are not all that common in cycling, and this Critérium du Dauphiné stage offers a chance for the Tour favorites to test themselves ahead of July. Unless you've been asleep in a cave - or passed out from too much Beaujolais - you will know that this year's Tour de France favors the time trial riders more than the climbers. There is around 100 kilometers of racing against the clock in this year's Tour de France, and only two mountain top finishes. That sound you hear is the climbers weeping softly in the corner.

Tour de France favorites Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins will meet tomorrow in a preview of their expected July showdown. Wiggins has typically ridden better against the watch than Evans, though Evans does count a Tour de France time trial victory among his results. Both are talented all-arounders who have Tour de France victory in sight.

Tomorrow will also offer the chance to see how riders such as Vincenzo Nibali, Tony Martin, Tejay van Garderen, and Denis Menchov match up. Nibali, with his mad skills on the descents, may well find this year's Tour to his taste if he can master the long time trials. The queen stage of this year's Tour de France, which includes four massive cols in the Pyrénées, has a descending finish. Climb fast, descend faster.

Of course, there is still quite a lot of road to cover before the Tour de France reaches its final time trial deep in the third week of the race. But tomorrow's long time trial can't help but open wide the floodgates of speculation.