Kern lays down marker ahead of Tour
Christophe Kern underlined his return to form with an excellent breakaway ride in stage two of the Criterium du Dauphine on Tuesday.
Team leader Thomas Voeckler also capped a fine day with a strong 10th place after a punchy uphill finish in Saint-Felicien.
Kern has finally come full circle after a 2011 season heavily disrupted by injury. The Alsatian rider notched just 39 days of competitive action last year but his performances so far this week in the Dauphine seem to prove that Kern is seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
Inspired by Giovanni Bernaudeau's breakaway on Monday, 31-year-old Kern forced his way into a four-man break on Tuesday during the 160-kilometre stage from Lemastre where he rode for the majority of the stage until the peloton combined to reel in the escapees.
"It was a good day's racing for us," said team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau. "In my opinion, Christophe will be in top condition for the Tour (de France) – that's pretty much certain."
Despite Kern's troubled season last term, the Frenchman did secure a second national time trial title – and also picked up a stage in the Dauphine, a feat he's clearly trying to repeat this year.
The only blemish on an otherwise strong day in the saddle for Team Europcar was the loss of Giovanni Bernaudeau's polka dot jersey.
"The attack during the ascent of the Cote de Lalouvesc disrupted our plans. While the polka dot jersey is not part of our overall objectives we will do our best to win it back," said Jean-Rene, Giovanni's father and team manager.
Although Kern combined well with his three breakaway companions, the leaders were not able to hold on to the end of the stage, which was won with a powerful uphill surge by the Spanish climber Dani Moreno of Team Katusha ahead of Frenchmen Julien Simon (Saur Sojasun) and Tony Gallopin (RadioShack Nissan).
"Such a scenario is not the end of the world and we must deal with the realities of racing. When you ride against factories such as Sky, it's a given. We hope that if we keep on plugging away we will eventually be rewarded and it will allow us to have a more interesting second half of the race in terms of results," said Bernaudeau.
Ninth on the stage (and one place ahead of a resilient Voeckler), defending champion Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) remains the overall leader of the Dauphine, with Australian stage one winner Cadel Evans (BMC) in second and Astana's Andriy Grivko of the Ukraine in third.
Wednesday's hilly 167km stage three from Givors to La Clayette should provide an attacking Team Europcar another chance at firing up the race.
"It's an undulating route which is very conducive to a breakaway. We hope that we'll be present in any break and that it will pay off for us," said a bullish Bernaudeau.