The climb to Pra Loup may have undone Alejandro Valverde on stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné as the WorldTour leader conceeded 1:50 minutes to stage winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) but Movistar can judge the day success as Beñat Intxausti finished fourth and moved into second place overall.
Intxausti's ride confirmed his stage winning Giro d'Italia form where he impressed in the high mountains, finishing 29th overall.
"I went to this race after the Giro, looking forward to profit from the good form I had at the end. It was harder for me to get by body going on day one, but once you focus on the racing itself and forget about previous efforts, it's like any other one. Since we did physically well all over the Giro, it's been a bit easier. I'm getting stronger day by day and I hope to keep it going until Sunday," Intxausti said.
When Chris Froome attacked from a select group on the slopes of Pra Loup with less than 2km to race, Intxausti was the only rider to respond and try and bridge across to the 2013 Tour de France winner, explaining he had the 'ok' from team leader Valverde who was having an off day.
"Sky set a strong pace already from the Allos climb, a very demanding ascent with its summit over 2,200m and impressive rhythm. The downhill where Bardet went also required some skills, wasn't easy at all. Sky drilled back from the foot of Pra Loup, pushing with three, four riders before Froome attacked," he said.
"I tried to follow him and pushed with all I had. Before the start, we had already talked with the team about Alejandro and myself sharing leading duties, and Bala came to me during the Allos climb to tell me he wasn't really strong. He got back to me in Pra Loup to tell me he wasn't feeling great and I took advantage from our good position in the GC, following the TTT, which we now have to conserve."
With three stage to come, including two category 1 summit finishes at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, Le Bettex and Modane Valfréjus, Intxausti is aiming to fight for an overall podium finish.
"We got really well through this first hard day and we'll spend everything that's left into the tank in the three stages left. Tomorrow's finishing climb is not as long as today's: Villard-de-Lans is shorter and steeper, and we'll have to react otherwise," he said. "Still, we're really confident, the team is responding well, I've got full support from them and having Alejandro by my side is a massive boost. We'll try to keep this second place, but should first be available, we'll fight for it."