AFP - Controversial Spaniard Alejandro Valverde on Sunday won his second successive Dauphine Libere cycling race after the eighth and final stage was won here by Dutchman Stef Clement.
Australia's Cadel Evans finished second in the general classification for the third year running, with Spain's 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador third.
Despite not having won a stage in the race, as he did en route to victory in the 2008 Dauphine, Caisse d'Epargne rider Valverde dominated proceedings after taking the lead from Evans on Thursday.
The 29-year-old benefited from Contador's efforts to neutralise Evans in the mountains in a bid to demonstrate his dominance over the Australian prior to the start of this year's Tour de France on July 4.
At the summit of the last climb on Sunday, Valverde rested his hand on Contador's shoulder as if to thank him for his support, after Evans had made several vain attempts to accelerate away during the ascent.
Valverde faces a worldwide two-year ban if cycling's world ruling body the UCI acts upon evidence yet to be delivered by the Italian sporting authorities about his alleged involvement in the Operation Puerto doping affair.
Italy's Olympic Committee (CONI) has already banned him from racing on Italian soil, ruling him out of the Tour de France, which passes through Italy's Val D'Aosta region on July 21.
In Sunday's 146km final stage, German time-trial world champion Bert Grabsch enjoyed a long spell as leader before being reeled in 37km from the finish.
Clement, who rides for Rabobank, and America's Timothy Duggan took to the front and were joined by France's Sebastien Joly, all three having been members of an initial 28-man breakaway.
Joly sought to sprint free from his two fellow front-runners with 1500 metres to go, only for the 26-year-old Clement to prevail in the dash to the line.