On paper, stage five of the Critérium du Dauphiné looked to be a relatively easy day for the overall contenders but with less than 30km until the finish in La Mure and with a breakaway looking to succeed, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) on the final part of the late climb and then pushed out his lead on the descent.
Along with teammate Sergio Paulinho, Contador quickly gained up to a minute on the Team Sky-led field but the British team put up a fierce pace and gradually roped the Spaniard back in but the attacks on Froome by his GC rivals continued to the line.
At the end of the stage, Froome's lead over Contador remained at 12 seconds although Wilco Kelderman's (Belkin) late attack saw him draw equal with the Spaniard's time in third place.
Asked if his attack was initiated from seeing a weakness in Sky and Froome on the climb, Contador responded; "No, I didn't see anything. I only saw that it was a tough day for everyone, also for Sky that controlled the race, so I decided to try and see. When there is some movement among the favorites, everything is also more interesting.
"We are here to train, so we want the other teams to use energy, especially Sky," Contador said after the stage finish. "Today I could afford to attack because I have no pressure to get the win."
Contador explained that it would have been difficult to see his impromptu attack succeed but his move may be a sign of his tactics at the Tour de France next month as he looks to win a third maillot jaune.
"I noticed that we were going very slowly, I had a team mate in front and quickly saw that a gap opened up when I increased the tempo, so I decided to keep the pressure on. I knew it was going to be hard to hold the gap to the favorites group. There were 20 flat kilometers to go and I saw that the escapees were far away and I probably would reach them before the finish line."
While the attack didn't result in a stage win or the leader's yellow jersey, Contador's move was a reminder that he can very quickly demicate the peloton and place his rivals under immense pressure and that more than anything, he is genuinely enjoying racing his bike.
"I had fun, the stage was interesting and that's good for everyone. We started the descent, where I attacked in the front part of the peloton, we saw that many precautions were taken, nor were we going fast, so I told Sergio Paulinho to go forward and I also decided to go."
While Contador's attack could be construed as him testing his biggest rival in July, defending champion Froome, he insisted that the Dauphiné is only a prelude to La Grand Boucle and not the main even."
"What's important now is to recover for the weekend. I've said I'm going day by day. My goal is in 22 days. Here at Dauphiné, I'll do what I can to improve and train hard."
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