Sylvester Szmyd today took the honours in the Queen stage of the Dauphiné Libéré, atop the iconic Mont Ventoux, whilst Alejandro Valverde moved into the yellow jersey.
In a bizarre sequence of events, Szmyd surged past Valverde coming out of the final hairpin to snatch the win.
Valverde instigated an attack earlier down the mountain; perhaps enraged by the news over the radio that CONI had proven his involvement to Operacion Puerto and facing an imminent worldwide ban, he quickly distanced the rest of the favourites.
Szmyd joined him and the duo soon eked out an advantage of over two minutes on the rest of the contenders.
With Valverde just 1-54 down on Evans’ lead at the start of the stage, he was seen talking to Szmyd apparently striking a deal with the Pole that would see the two work together; Valverde to take the jersey: Szmyd to take the stage.
However, coming into the final kilometre, Valverde surged away from Szmyd apparently reneging their agreement. He then slowed to an almost complete standstill in the final, agonisingly steep hairpin, looked over his shoulder and allowed Szmyd to come past, seeming to have rethought his duplicity.
Further down the mountain, it was Evans who was forced to do the chasing to defend his yellow jersey, the effort clearly taking its toll on the Australian.
Within the final kilometre, Haimar Zubeldia (Astana), Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) attacked Evans leaving him isolated, but he held on to take sixth on the stage and even distanced Contador slightly in the final grind to the line, who did not look entirely comfortable on the climb.
The Spaniard continues to insist that he is not targetting this race overall, simply to improve his Tour de France form. “It would be stupid to take risks so close to the Tour,” he said before the start.
Britain’s David Millar (Garmin) put in another sterling performance, remaining with the favourites on the climb and moving up a place to fourth overall.
With news breaking during the stage that Valverde’s involvement with the Puerto doping affair had been proven, it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to continue in the race and it gives the organisers a particularly difficult situation to deal with especially now he was taken the race lead.
Stage five: Valence-Le Mont Ventoux, 154km
1. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas in 4-05-04
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at same time
3. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Astana at 1-14
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 1-50
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Saxo Bank at 1-59
6. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 2-10
7. David Moncoutié (Fra) Cofidis at 2-13
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at same time
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 2-16
10. Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) ag2r at 2-20
11. David Millar (GB) Garmin at 2-28
General classification after stage five
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne in 15-23-17
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 16sec
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-04
4. David Millar (GB) Garmin at 1-43
5. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Astana at 2-21
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 2-34
7. Vicenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at same time
8. Mikel Astarloza Charreau (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 2-44
9. Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Liquigas at 3-05
10. Jacob Fuglsang (Den) Team Saxo Bank at 3-35
Cadel Evans, Alberto Contador and David Millar on Mont Ventoux
Sylvester Szmyd leads Alejandro Valverde on Ventoux
Alejandro Valverde took the yellow jersey from Cadel Evans