Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) lost his race lead at the Criterum du Dauphine to his main Tour de France rival Chris Froome (Team Sky), but the Spaniard stressed that one battle, and one defeat, would not define his summer campaign.
On the climb to Vaujany Contador was distanced by Froome and Richie Porte (BMC Racing), after being unable to hold a relentless pace set by the Sky and BMC tandem. He had responded to an earlier attack led by Dan Martin but that effort pushed the 2015 Giro d’Italia winner to his maximum.
When Froome attacked with 2.5 kilometres to go Contador was on his wheel, and even managed to match the Sky rider for a few pedal strokes. However he could not match Froome’s velocity and when Porte swept into the gap created by Contador's sudden collapse the Tinkoff leader was left to minimise his losses.
The Spaniard crossed the line some 21 seconds down on Froome and now sits 27 seconds in arrears overall.
"In the final I tried to follow Chris and Richie. I need more speed in my legs, I know. I've said that before the race. I'm happy because the time gap wasn't big and day-by-day we'll go better. Tomorrow is another day."
Contador has stressed throughout the Dauphine that he is here to simply concentrate on his Tour de France preparation, and the pressure of leading the Dauphine has almost appeared as a hindrance in some regards. However, the defeat to Froome will sting.
"We will look with what happens tomorrow," he said optimistically as he looked towards Saturday's queen stage to Meribel.
"Each day I'm sure that I'll go better. The objective is the Tour de France. I've said that every day. That's our objective and it's 100 per cent."
Contador added that he would put the finishing touches to his training only after the Dauphine's conclusion.
"I'll get speed in my legs here and then go and do motor-pacing after. I didn't do that for this race because the last week of the Tour de France is very hard and the most important thing is to recover for tomorrow."