Richie Porte (BMC Racing) carried his strong form from the individual into stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné to finish second behind Jakob Fuglsang but edge ahead into the general classification lead. Porte broke away with Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Fuglsang on the Mont du Chat before catching lone breakaway rider Fabio Aru (Astana) on the descent. The foursome worked together on the run-in to the line with Fuglsang proving the freshest, although Porte was initially closed out by Froome with 100 metres to go.
Despite missing out on the win, Porte wears yellow with two days to go and has a 39-second lead over former teammate Froome. Porte looked impressive on the major climb of the day ahead of the critical descent to the line, using his team on the lower slopes before managing a group of favourites as one-by-one they cracked.
At his post-race press conference, the attention, as it almost always has for Porte this season, turned to Froome, who has looked vulnerable at various points this season.
"If he could have pulled he would have pulled. We discussed this morning with my DS that we don't look behind today, we just go. Obviously I heard in the radio that Valverde and Contador weren't with us any longer and it was smart to try and take as much time as possible and that's what we did," he said.
On the technical descent towards the line it was Froome who stretched the lead group with a proficient display of downhill racing.
"Froome cops a lot of flak from people who say that he can't descend but he showed today that he went full gas on the descent. I knew just to keep my cool and it wasn't at the point where I had to panic. We did a fast but safe descent."
At the line the pair were at the front when the sprint opened up. Four non-sprinters nudging towards the line is always a fascinating sight. No one seems to know when to open up or who to follow, while those at the roadside have little clue as to who will come out on top. As they approached the line, Froome moved to his right, and Porte was briefly forced to ease back. At the line the two exchanged words but Porte quickly put him behind him, although he must have thought about last year's final stage in the Dauphiné when Froome's teammates swung off and cost the Australian his podium spot.
"I just asked him if he was looking at his stem. I don't think he intentionally tried to cut me up. That's just racing but in the heat of the moment I asked him what's going on. I think that's the end of the story. There's nothing in it. It's just a racing incident. It's not everyday that us four would come to the finish so I don't think any of us knew what was going on."
The pair are separated by 39 seconds and although Porte holds the advantage he and few others would write off Froome's chances. The Team Sky leader has won this race three times already and is starting to find his feet after losing his footing in the time trial on stage 4. With two difficult days in the mountains to come this year's Dauphine is far from over.
"With Froome he's won the Tour de France three times so it's not a surprise that he's up there. You have to give him some respect. He did not have the best time trial but in the mountains he's not going to be an easy guy to crack but we'll try."
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