In front of the ski jumping stadium of Courchevel, Mikel Nieve has saved the honor for Team Sky in a bad day for Chris Froome as he lost all his hopes to come back into the lead. But in another eventful stage in the mountains, it was Andrew Talansky who dethroned Alberto Contador and went for an epic ride to win the 66th Critérium du Dauphiné. For the defeated Spaniard, this race is however a springboard to the Tour de France.
23 riders ahead, including TalanskyFollowing an early attack by Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) in pursuit of the first French victory at this Critérium du Dauphiné, 23 riders rode away after the côte de Domancy on their way up to Megève where they had taken the start: David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Richie Porte (Sky), Tanel Kangert, Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Dani Navarro, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Adam Yates (Orica), Igor Anton, John Gadret (Movistar), Romain Bardet, Alexis Gougeard, Jean-Christoph Péraud (AG2R), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jurgen Van den Broeck, Tony Gallopin (Lotto), Kristjan Koren (Cannondale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal, Andrew Talansky (Garmin), Elia Favilli (Lampre), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp). The presence of four riders from the top ten overall, Talansky (3rd at 0.39), Van den Broeck, Bardet and Yates, made it an unusual and interesting move!Contador alone vs team Sky almost completePorte and Westra dropped down as Team Sky launched a counter-attack in the ascent to col des Saisies. A group of 18 riders was formed with Chris Froome, Vassil Kiryienka, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas (Sky), Vincenzo Nibali, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Luis Maté (Cofidis), Mikaël Chérel, Ben Gastauer (AG2R), Sébastien Reichenbach (IAM), Darwin Atapuma (BMC), Dani Moreno (Katusha), Jan Bakelants (OPQS), Wilco Kelderman, Martijn Keizer (Belkin) and Leo König (NetApp). Contador was left with no team-mate, so his Tinkoff-Saxo team was in charge of pacing the main peloton until they gave up after passing through Albertville 50km before the finish in front of the ski jumping stadium at Courchevel.Talansky dethrones ContadorThe chasing group looked like coming across to the first one in the Tarentaise valley leading to the two final climbs but Froome and Contador eventually looked at each other and let Nibali go in a smart counter-attack. However, AG2R-La Mondiale and Garmin-Sharp, namely Jean-Christophe Péraud and Ryder Hesjedal, continued pacing hard at the front at the service of Bardet and Talansky respectively. At the bottom of the côte de Montagny with 24km to go, Contador attacked and showed his superiority to Froome and his team-mates as he rode by himself at the pursuit of virtual leader Talansky. He was going to miss the overall win by 27 seconds to the American from Garmin-Sharp but he got another positive sign ahead of the Tour de France as he overtook Nibali before the finish line while Froome was struggling four minutes behind his arch-rival and closed the Dauphiné with a disappointing twelfth place overall after leading the race for five days and crashing in stage 6.Nieve on his own to the stage victoryTalansky did most of the work in the final uphill to Courchevel-Le Praz, taking over from Hesjedal, but as he focused on his time in the overall classification exclusively, Nieve on the other hand was fresh for contesting the stage victory. The Basque rider from Team Sky attacked with 3.3km to go and maintained a small advance of three seconds over Bardet who was the other rider awarded for his offensive spirit as he moved up to the final top 5. This made a thrilling finale for a race contested at a very competitive level by most of the protagonists of the coming Tour de France.
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