June 04, 2012

SAINT-VALLIER, France (AP) -- Tour de France champion Cadel Evans won the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphine race Monday, a hilly 116-mile ride from Seyssins to Saint-Vallier in the French Alps.

The Australian attacked in the final miles, holding off a late surge by France's Jerome Coppel and Kazhak rider Andrey Kashechkin to finish in 4 hours, 36 minutes and 21 seconds.

Defending Dauphine winner Bradley Wiggins of Britain took the yellow jersey of overall race leader, finishing 4 seconds behind Evans in a large group that also included two of Evans' American teammates, veteran George Hincapie and rising star Tejay Van Garderen. Wiggins now leads Evans by 1 second in combined time from the first stage and Sunday's prologue.

The week-long Criterium du Dauphine is seen as a key preparation for the Tour de France, which begins June 30 in Liege, Belgium.

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