Contador avoids pile-up, leads
Saint-Laurent-du-Pont - Alberto Contador avoided a multi-rider crash to finish safely in the pack and retain his lead after the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Monday.
The twice Tour de France champion, winner of Sunday's prologue, avoided the trouble some 12km from the finish.
Spain's Haimar Zubeldia was one of some 50 riders who crashed and was taken to hospital for checks with a suspected broken wrist.
Slovenia's Grega Bole won a sprint to claim the stage victory, the Lampre rider edging out Slovakian Peter Velits and Briton Geraint Thomas.
Spaniard Contador is competing in the demanding one-week race as part of his preparations for next month's Tour de France, while other contenders such as seven-times Tour champion Lance Armstrong and last year's runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxembourg have shunned the event to ride the June 12-20 Tour of Switzerland.
An early five-man breakaway built a maximum gap of almost 10 minutes but they were caught on the ascent of the Cote de Miribel les Echelles, some seven kilometres from the finish, after the Garmin Transitions team increased the pace at the front of the pack.
Contador's Astana team were not called on for maximum effort with the Spaniard, who has a two-second lead over American Tejay Van Garderen, looking to spare his team mates before the Tour de France.
They let a few riders go in the last climb, with Team RadioShack's Janez Brajkovic of Slovenia trying his luck in the descent with five kilometres left.
He was joined by Italian Eros Capecchi but the peloton reined them in inside the final 500m.
Brajkovic, bidding to secure Tour participation in Armstrong's squad, remained third in the overall standings, five seconds behind Contador.
Tuesday's second stage will take the peloton over 177km from Annonay to Bourg St Andeol with four climbs on the menu.
Stage One Results:
1. Grega Bole, Slovenia, Lampre-Farnese, 4 hours, 47 minutes, 24 seconds.
2. Peter Velits, Slovakia, HTC-Columbia, same time.
3. Geraint Thomas, Britain, Sky, same time.
4. Steve Chainel, France, Bouygues Telecom, same time.
5. Christophe Riblon, France, AG2R-La Mondiale, same time.
6. Christian Knees, Germany, Milram, same time.
7. Stephan Denifl, Austria, Cervelo Test, same time.
8. Maxime Bouet, France, AG2R-La Mondiale, same time.
9. Arkaitz Duran Aroca, Spain, Footon-Servetto, same time.
10. Julien El Fares, France, Cofidis, same time.
1. Alberto Contador, Spain, Astana, 4 hours, 55 minutes, 58 seconds.
2. Tejay Van Garderen, United States, HTC-Columbia, 2 seconds behind.
3. Janez Brajkovic, Slovenia, Radioshack, 0:05.
4. Geraint Thomas, Britain, Sky, 0:10.
5. Dario Cataldo, Italy, Quick Step, 0:12.
6. Remi Pauriol, France, Cofidis, same time.
7. Paul Martens, Germany, Rabobank, 0:13.
8. Jerome Coppel, France, Saur-Sojasun, 0:14.
9. Christophe Riblon, France, AG2R-La Mondiale, same time.
10. Gorka Verdugo, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 0:15.