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Valverde holds on to retain Dauphine Libere

  • Story Highlights
  • Alejando Valverde holds off rival Cadel Evans to retain his Dauphine Libere title
  • Valverde wins Tour de France warm-up race for a second year in succession
  • The eighth and final stage of the race won in three-man sprint by Stef Clement
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(CNN) -- Alejandro Valverde held off another day of repeated attacks from chief rival Cadel Evans to retain his Dauphine Libere title for a second successive year.

Cadel Evans (right) congratulates Alejandro Valverde on retaining his Dauphine Libere title.

Cadel Evans (right) congratulates Alejandro Valverde on retaining his Dauphine Libere title.

Controversial Spaniard Valverde, who is not being allowed to compete in the Tour de France because the race goes through Italy, who have banned him for his alleged involvement in the Operation Puerto doping scandal, remained on Evans' wheel throughout the mountainous 146km eighth and final stage from Faverges to Grenoble.

The pair, along with third-placed Alberto Contador, finished together, meaning Caisse d'Epargne rider Valverde maintained his slender 16-second lead over Australian Evans -- who was finishing in second place for a third year in a row.

Contador, the winner of the 2007 Tour de France, showed he is in fine form for next month's Tour by finishing third overall, one minute and 18 seconds behind fellow-Spaniard Valverde.

Valverde faces a worldwide two-year ban if cycling's governing body UCI acts upon evidence yet to be delivered by the Italian sporting authorities about his alleged involvement in Operation Puerto.

Meanwhile, Sunday's stage was won by Rabobank's Dutchman Stef Clement, who held off American Tim Duggan and Frenchman Sebastien Joly in a sprint finish.

The trio went clear after being part of an initial 28-man breakaway and Joly then appeared to catch his rivals cold when launching his spint with a full 1.5km to go.

However, he was caught on the run to the line and 26-year-old Clement prevailed in a desparate finish.

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