Menchov wins fourth stage of Dauphine Libere

Updated: June 8, 2006, 1:43 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LE MONT VENTOUX, France -- Russian Denis Menchov won the fourth stage of the Dauphine Libere race on Thursday, while American cyclist Levi Leipheimer took the overall lead.

Menchov, who rides for the Rabobank team, beat France's Christophe Moreau of the AG2R squad with a sprint on the summit of the fabled Mont Ventoux. They finished in the same time of 4 hours, 50 minutes, 37 seconds on the 115-mile stage that started in Tain L'Hermitage.

"It was a tough duel with Moreau but I just managed it," said Menchov, the 2005 Tour of Spain winner.

"The Ventoux always motivates me, that's why I found the extra energy that mattered.

"This year my two goals are the Tour [de France] and the Vuelta, so I have started working harder later in the year."

Menchov also won the climb in 2002.

"I messed up tactically by letting Menchov open a gap that close to the line, but I almost caught him again," Moreau said.

Gerolsteiner's Leipheimer finished 15 seconds back to give him the overall lead. Menchov vaulted to second place overall, trailing Leipheimer by 28 seconds.

After overnight leader Phillipe Gilbert of Belgium cracked on the lower slopes, prolonged accelerations by Leipheimer and Moreau shredded the main bunch to just three riders.

The trio swept up lone Portuguese attacker Jose Azevedo less than 4 miles from the line before Menchov delivered an all-out attack from the line.

"I've learned to respect this mountain and wait and wait and wait," said Leipheimer, third in the Dauphine last year.

"But in any case, the most important thing is taking the lead, not getting the stage.

"I want to win this race, it'd make me very confident for the Tour, and I let it slip through my fingers in 2005."

Friday's 96-mile fifth stage runs from Sisteron to Briancon in the Alps.

The Dauphine Libere ends Sunday in Grenoble.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

ALSO SEE