Live coverage of stage 7 of the Critérium du Dauphiné, 160 kilometres from Ville-la-Grand to Finhaut-Emosson.
There are no fewer than five climbs on the agenda on stage 7, the first instalment of a doubleheader in the high mountains that will decide the outcome of this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. After feeling their way into the day with the category 2 Côte des Gets (10.3km at 4.9%), the peloton faces the Col du Corbier, a category 1 climb 7.5km in length with an average gradient, and the shorter Pas de Morgins (6km at 5.7%) before two successive hors catégorie ascents round off proceedings – the Col de la Forclaz (12.6km at 8.2%) and the haul to the finish at Finhaut-Émosson (10.2km at 8%).
105km remaining from 161km
As we pick up the action after 55 kilometres of racing, there is a 14-man break up the road with 4:20 in hand on the main peloton. The leaders have already digested the climb and descent of Côte des Gets and are now making their way towards the base of the day's second obstacle, the Col du Corbier.
The 14 leaders are: Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol), Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Egor Silin, Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Julian Alaphilippe (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Lars Boom (Belkin), Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp). Westra is the highest-placed member of the break on general classification, just shy of six minutes down on maillot jaune Chris Froome.
Westra, of course, finished second to Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) yesterday, and the Astana man responded to that near miss by sparking this move on the Cote des Gets. He jumped clear after 30 kilometres and was initially joined by Silin, Alaphilippe and Hesjedal. Tony Gallopin and Yuriy Trofimov were among those to bridge across before the summit - indeed, Trofimov claimed the mountain points at the top - and the group then swelled to 14 riders on the way down the other side as the chasers bridged across.
Chris Froome endured a late crash yesterday but recovered quickly enough to maintain his lead of 12 seconds over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin). The top ten on GC was as follows as the stage kicked off this morning:
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 23:12:15
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:12
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
4 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:33
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:00:35
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:50
7 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Trek Factory Racing 0:01:22
8 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
9 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge 0:01:24
10 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:01:35
95km remaining from 161km
Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) won the corresponding stage of the Dauphiné last year when he was the last survivor of the early break on the road to Superdévoluy. He's looking to repeat that feat today, and he has showcased his form by leading the break over the top of the Col du Corbier.
The break's lead is up to 5:40 over the top of the Col du Corbier, as Westra inches closer to becoming overall leader on the road.
The holder of the yellow and blue jersey, Chris Froome, was involved in a crash in the closing kilometres yesterday and while he recovered to finish the stage with the other overall contenders, he picked up some cuts and bruises in the incident and it will be interesting to see if it affects him this afternoon. After the stage, Froome thanked Contador, Kelderman et al for not taking advantage of his accident.
85km remaining from 161km
The 14 escapees have reached the bottom of the descent of the Corbier, where their advantage has been pinned back slightly to 5:30.
Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) abandoned today's stage early on, and we also had four non-starters: Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Jack Bobridge (Belkin) and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) and Yoann Offredo.
Kwiatkowski was one of the stand-out performers in the early part of the season, a spell of form capped by victory at Strade Bianche and podium finishes at Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. This was his first race since the Tour de Romandie in late April, and he was never in the thick of the action, but it will be intriguing to see what he manages to conjure up at the Tour de France next month.
72km remaining from 161km
The escapees are making their way up the category 2 Pas de Morgins (6km at 5.7%), with Alessandro De Marchi again particularly prominent. The Italian knows that he can all but seal the mountains classification this afternoon.
The average speed after the opening two hours of racing was a brisk 39.1kph. Team Sky continue to set the pace in the main peloton, and the break's lead remains stable at around 5:30.
De Marchi duly sweeps up the maximum ten points on offer atop the Pas de Morgins, crossing the summit ahead of Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
65km remaining from 161km
There was no significant movement in the yellow jersey on the Pas de Morgins, where Sky continued to control affairs. 35 kilometres in the valley now follow before the Col de la Forclaz (12.6km at 8.2%) rears into view and the hostilities will begin in earnest.
On the evidence of the Col du Beal on Monday, Alberto Contador is the man most likely to put Froome under pressure this afternoon, but the Spaniard was coy about his prospects of landing overall victory yesterday afternoon. Although he said he would "try" to attack, Contador
Meanwhile, fresh from the Giro d'Italia and with a free July ahead of him, third-placed Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) is at the Dauphine to land a major result. The Dutch youngster was hugely impressive on the Col du Beal and showed invention to slip away in the finale on Thursday. Kelderman announced himself at WorldTour level with a fine showing in the Bourg-en-Bresse time trial at the Dauphine two years ago. His stock is continuing to rise after his 7th place finish at the Giro, and Orica-GreenEdge is among the teams interested in securing his services for 2015.
59km remaining from 161km
The break's lead extends to six minutes, and so Westra becomes - temporarily at least - the virtual overall leader.
The pace in the peloton drops significantly either side of the feed zone at Massongex and the break's lead shoots out to 7:45.
42km remaining from 161km
After the break extends its lead, the Tinkoff-Saxo team of Alberto Contador comes to the front of the peloton and takes up responsibility for the chase.
Tinkoff-Saxo's forcing has strung the peloton out into one long line on the approach to the foot of the Col de la Forclaz. There are two hors categorie climbs shoehorned into the final 30 kilometres of this stage, and it promises to be an explosive finale.
33km remaining from 161km
Tinkoff-Saxo's work on the front has also begun to chip away at the break's advantage. The 14 leaders have 6:50 in hand as they head towards the Forclaz.
30km remaining from 161km
The fourteen leaders are on the lower slopes of the Col de la Forclaz and for now, at least, they are continuing to collaborate smoothly. As the pass progresses, however, we can expect the group to fragment under the impetus of the stronger climbers.
29km remaining from 161km
Indeed, when Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) comes to the front of the break, his forcing puts Brandle, Schorn and - surprisingly - De Marchi in difficulty. Back in the main peloton, meanwhile, Sky have taken over the reins once again as they hit the climb.
27km remaining from 161km
Behind, Sky's pressing is forcing a selection in the main peloton and the man in black have also sheared the break's lead back to within 5:40.
25km remaining from 161km
Vasi Kiriyienka sets the pace at the head of the main peloton in support of Chris Froome. There are about 50 riders or so still in there, and they're currently 5:20 down on the escapees.
The break has lost much of its cohesion on the Forclaz. 9 of the 14 riders are still together at the front, but they are beginning to attack one another. Giovanni Visconti tries to force the issue but pays immediately for his effort, before Yuriy Trofimov slips away alone. They are still some five kilometres from the summit of the Forclaz.
Tony Gallopin and Ryder Hesjedal are steadily forging their way across to Trofimov. Each injection of pace like this sees another rider shaken lose from this front group.
22km remaining from 161km
Back in the main peloton, Thomas Voeckler is among the riders who has been dropped under Sky's impetus. The break's lead, meanwhile, is down to 5:05.
Froome still has five Sky teammates for company at the head of the peloton, although Alberto Contador and a phalanx of Tinkoff-Saxo riders are lined up just behind the maillot jaune.
22km remaining from 161km
There are now five riders at the head of the race, 5:05 up on the peloton - Katusha duo Yuriy Trofimov and Egor Silin, Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol).
21km remaining from 161km
Chris Froome is wearing gauze on his left arm but has looked comfortable so far on this climb. Vincenzo Nibal (Astana) and Alberto Contador are both pedalling very smoothly just behind him.
21km remaining from 161km
Yuriy Trofimov has attacked once again, and is now clear alone at the head of the race, 5:17 up on the Sky-led peloton.
Vincenzo Nibali has Tanel Kangert for company towards the front of the yellow jersey group. The Estonian was hugely impressive in support of Nibali at last year's Giro and will aim to repeat that feat at the Tour de France.
18km remaining from 161km
Katusha's surprsingly strong Dauphine continues apace. After Trofimov and Simon Spilak's stage wins earlier in the race, the Russian team have the two leaders on the road today. Trofimov leads alone over the summit of the Forclaz, and his teammate Egor Silin - also alone - is the second man to reach the top. The two will surely seek to combine on the descent.
The dwindling peloton is still two kilometres from the summit of the Forclaz. Kiryienka is still the man banging the drum for Team Sky, although he is not keeping time with the rhythm laid down by Trofimov out in front. The gap is back out to six minutes.
14km remaining from 161km
It's a smooth, wide and sweeping descent off the Forclaz, and Trofimov has shown no signs of waiting for Silin. The Russian is veritably thundering down the mountainside.
Kiryienka leads the peloton over the top of the Forclaz, but as soon as they crest the summit, Contador moves up into second position to attack the descent.
Silin has caught up to Trofimov on the descent, and the Katusha pairing have six minutes in hand on the peloton.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) comes to the front of the yellow jersey on the way down and gains a couple of lengths. The Sicilian is looking to put Froome under pressure on this descent, and Contador, wise to the danger, is trying to come across.
It's not an especially technical descent, mind, and it will be hard to make a difference. Froome does not seem overly perturbed, and follows in the slipstream of five Sky teammates.
10km remaining from 161km
Silin and Trofimov have started the final climb to Finhaut-Émosson with six minutes in hand on the yellow jersey group. Ten kilometres of climbing at 8% lie ahead of them.
Sky have regained control of the yellow jersey group on the descent, meanwhile. Froome, Contador, Kelderman, Nibali et al seem set to begin the final climb together.
8km remaining from 161km
Silin and Trofimov continue to ride together at the head of the race, although the final climb has yet to bite in earnest.
Gallopin, Hesjedal and Westra are reportedly 35 seconds behind the Katusha tandem, caught in the no-man's land between the front of the race and the main peloton.
Froome still has five teammates for company in the peloton as he begins the final climb. Contador, by contrast, appears to have just one teammate alongside him, Jesus Hernandez.
Kiryienka has put in an enormous shift in support of Froome today and he finally swings off a kilometre into the final climb. Geraint Thomas takes over as the gradient stiffens through the village of Finhaut.
The gradient reaches 17% at this point, and Thomas' forcing has divested the yellow jersey group of a number of riders, including Tanel Kangert and Kenny Elissonde. There are five Sky riders at the front of the race, with Contador dancing in the slipstream of Froome.
The yellow jersey group is down to 20 riders or so. Vincenzo Nibali is still there and looks relatively comfortable on the wheel of Contador. Andrew Talansky, Wilco Kelderman and Jurgen Van Den Broeck are also all present and correct.
5km remaining from 161km
Silin and Trofimov tap out the tempo in front, with 4:22 of their advantage still intact.
Thomas and David Lopez are on the front for Sky, then Richie Porte and Mikel Nieve. Their forcing is whittling down this yellow jersey group, but Nibali, Contador, Talansky, Van Den Broeck, Kelderman and Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) are among thise still in touch.
5km remaining from 161km
The Katusha duo enter the final five kilometres with four minutes in hand on the peloton, which is picking off the remnants of the early break. Lars Boom (Belkin) is the latest to be reeled in.
Every bend sees another rider dislodged from the yellow jersey group under Sky's impetus. John Gadret (Movistar) is the next man to be shaken loose from the group, but Contador, Kelderman and Nibali remain implacable.
David Lopez swings over, his job done for the day. Thomas takes over once again, with Nieve, Porte and Froome lined up on his wheel. The other GC contenders are happy simply to follow Sky's pace-setting for now.
4km remaining from 161km
Trofimov and Silin are managing their advantage surprisingly well. With 4 kilometres remaining, their lead is still 3:48. They lost less than 15 seconds of their buffer in the past kilometre and remain on course for stage victory.
Inside the final five kilometres for the Froome group. He has just two teammates left with him now - Nieve and Porte. Contador is lined up with intent on Froome's wheel.
There's been an injection from pace from Nieve and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) slips out the back of the group of favourites.
Jakob Fuglsang, Adam Yates and Daniel Navarro have also been jettisoned out the pace of a group that is down to just ten riders or so thanks to Nieve's pressing.
3km remaining from 161km
Trofimov and Silin, meanwhile, have entered the final 3 kilometres with 3:20 in hand on the dwindling Froome group.
Romain Bardet and Leopold Konig are still in this elite group of favourites, along with Contador, Froome, Nibali, Porte, Kelderman, Talansky, Van Den Broeck and Nieve, who continues to force the pace.
2km remaining from 161km
As Trofimov and Silin enter the final two kilometres, the Froome group hits the 3km to go banner.
Leopold Konig is the next man burnt off by Nieve's startling pace-setting. The Spaniard's pace is such that nobody has deigned to attack Froome's yellow jersey.
1km remaining from 161km
Up ahead, Lieuwe Westra (Astana) has hauled himself back up to within sight of the two leaders, Trofimov and Silin. The Dutchman is desperately trying to summon up the strength to make it across.
Nieve finally swings over and now it's Richie Porte who takes over the pace-setting at the head of his elite yellow jersey group with a shade over 2 kilometres remaining.
Kelderman is beginning to struggle at the rear of the Froome group and looks set to lose contact.
Alberto Contador attacks with 1.7km remaining and opens a small gap over the rest of the group.
Contador opens a lead of 50 metres. Porte climbs out of the saddle but he can't make any inroads into the gap.
Contador is just 12 seconds down overall, of course, and he has already taken a fair chunk of that time back. Porte can't match his pace but for now, Froome is happy to let the Tasmanian continue setting the pace.
Contador is 18 seconds clear of the Froome group as he approaches the final kilometre. He is in the provisional overall lead.
1km remaining from 161km
Contador is dancing out of the saddle and continuing to build his lead. With a kilometre to go, Froome launches a searing, seated acceleration in a bid to close the gap.
Nibali is dropped instantly, and only Talansky and Hesjedal - who was only recently caught by the Froome group - can match Froome's pace.
Trofimov and Silin enter the final 300 metres and turn out around. A figure is emerging from the gloom behind. It's Westra, it's Lieuwe Westra...
Westra - remarkably - catches and passes Silin and Trofimov within sight of the finish line.
Lieuwe Westra (Astana) wins the stage and puts his foot to the ground exhausted immediately on crossing the line.
Contador crosses the finish line in fourth place on the stage and he looks set to move into the overall lead.
Froome enters the finishing straight but he's not going to limit his losses sufficiently.
Froome suffers in the finishing straight, and Talansky jumps around him to take fifth on the stage.
Froome loses 20 seconds to Contador, who is the new overall leader of the Dauphine. We believe the Spaniard will carry an 8-second lead over Froome into the final stage.
Andrew Talansky, meanwhile, moves up to third place overall, 39 seconds down on Contador. Kelderman slips to 4th place, 59 seconds down.
1 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana 04:32:51
2 Yuriy Trofimov (Rus) Katusha 00:00:07
3 Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha 00:00:16
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 00:01:33
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 00:01:51
6 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp 00:01:53
7 Chris Froome (GBr) Sky
8 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana 00:02:11
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale 00:02:16
10 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 00:02:19
1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 27:46:51
2 Chris Froome (GBr) Sky 00:00:08
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 00:00:39
4 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin 00:00:59
5 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol 00:01:14
6 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana 00:01:16
7 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale 00:02:11
8 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) IAM Cycling 00:02:14
9 Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura 00:03:00
10 Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Astana 00:04:04
“Everybody went to the limit but you don't know what you've got until the end,” Contador said before mounting the podium. “It was an incredible battle but it's not over yet. Still, it’s great to be able to measure myself against those around me.”
Thanks for joining us for our live coverage of the Dauphine this afternoon. The race is poised on a knife edge ahead of tomorrow's finale at Courchevel, and you can follow the action as it happens on Cyclingnews.
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