Rohan Dennis and his Garmin-Sharp team put in a valiant defence of the yellow jersey on stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, but the Australian was powerless to stop the top climbers in the race and eventually lost his race lead to stage winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the slopes of Montée de Valmorel.
Garmin controlled the peloton through the early section of the stage, helping to limit the gap to a 15-man break. At the approach to the summit finish of Montée de Valmorel the American team positioned Dennis on Chris Froome's wheel and with under five kilometres to go it looked as though the 24-year-old would be able to cling to his eight-second race lead.
However, with the two-kilometre to go banner in sight, Dennis lost contact with the lead group, eventually finishing 14th on the stage, 59 seconds down on Froome but still holding onto third place overall.
"That was tough. There was pressure from the get go with 15 guys up the road but the team did a great job in delivering me to the foot of the climb right on the back of Sky. I just tried to do what I could, but Chris Froome and Richie Porte are just a little bit too strong I think," he told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"I just couldn't hold on. I started drifting and I knew that the last two or three kilometres eased up a bit, and I was hoping it would come a little bit quicker and that I could hold on for a little bit longer, but they really turned on the gas."
Dennis was surprise leader of the race after pulling out an impressive ride in Wednesday's individual time trial. He finished second on the stage and earned a maillot jaune in his first season as a road professional.
"It was an awesome experience. It was great to be able to ride around with Froome, Richie and Contador, guys like them on climbs and in such a big race," he said.
"It was a lot easier to stay at the front. There was a lot more respect in the bunch. Tomorrow is now going to be a bit different, but I think my teammates will do a great job again of trying to keep me out of trouble and near the front."
Despite losing the race lead Dennis extended his advantage in the race for the white jersey with his closest rival Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finishing 38 seconds down on the stage.
"I'll do what I can but it would be a huge bonus to even come second to Kwiatkowski," Dennis added before making his way to the podium.