Mikel Nieve saved the day for Sky Team, winning the final stage of the Criterium du Dauphine atop Courchevel on a day that saw the race explode with a thrilling finale. Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) used his participation in a break group to win the overall title, holding off a last-ditch attack from Alberto Contador, while former leader Chris Froome cracked and slipped out of the top ten.
Second on the stage was Romain Bardet (AG2R) with Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) in third. Talansky finished fourth, and burst into tears upon hearing that the time gap was enough to give him the victory.
Alberto Contador, who led the race coming into the final stage, was forced to ride without teammates for most of the stage, and fought valiantly to defend his jersey. In the end he finished 1:15 after Nieve and 1:06 behind Talansky.
The final GC saw Talansky win the over Contador by 27 seconds with Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), at 35 seconds.
A break to the end
As expected the race exploded into live at the very start on the decisive stage. A large group broke away shortly after the day’s first climb with David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Richie Porte (Sky), Tanel Kangert, Lieuwe Westra (Astana), Dani Navarro, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Adam Yates (Orica GreenEdge), Igor Anton, John Gadret (Movistar), Romain Bardet, Alexis Gougeard, Jean-Christoph Péraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Jurgen Van den Broeck, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol), Kristjan Koren (Cannondale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Yuriy Trofimov (Katusha), Ryder Hesjedal, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura).
Talansky was the biggest threat, as he came into the stage third overall, only 31 seconds behind second-placed Chris Froome (Sky) and 39 seconds down on leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
A gap of 3:20 put the American in the virtual yellow jersey – which was naturally not to the liking of Tinkoff-Saxo and Sky, who teamed together to lead the chase.
Froome was determined to reclaim the jersey, which he had given up the day before and attacked out of the peloton on the second ascent, the cat. 1 Col de Saisies, taking three teammates with him. Contador immediately followed, but without teammates.
The favourites’ group ballooned to 17 riders, including Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and fourth-placed Wilco Kelderman (Belkin). Up ahead, Porte and Westra sat up in the escape group, waiting for their captains. The lead group topped the second climb with a 2:35 gap on the Contador group, with the peloton one minute further back.
By the time the 50km to go marker was passed, the gap between Talansky and Contador was down to under two minutes, and with 33km to go, it was just one minute. And there were two cat. 1 mountains to come, including a finish atop the Courchevel.
Hesjedal moved up to the head of the break group, putting up a high pace to help his teammate Talansky not only stay on the podium, but possibly win the race.
Nibali seized his moment and moved clear of the Contador and Froome group, with the two main rivals intent on watching each other, with the gap to Talansky’s group moving back out to two minutes.
Heavy rain started coming down on the ascent of the penultimate climb – and Contador attacked. And once more, Froome remained seated on his bike, on Thomas’ rear wheel, watching as his rival pulled away.
With 20km (and the final two climbs) still to go, Contador was alone and 2:10 behind the Talansky group. Nibali and Kelderman were between, at 1:09, and Froome behind at 2:34.
Contador bulled his way through the remnants of the early break, quickly building up the lead to a minute over Froome.
The lead group flew down the penultimate mountain, with Talansky going all out to secure the overall title. With 10km to go, Contador was still 1:11 down, with Froome nearly forgotten at 2:54.
Talansky lead a group of eight – including Van Den Broeck, who had his eye on the podium as well – onto the final climb, but Nibali and Kelderman were not far behind. With 4km still ahead of them, Contador had managed to cut the gap to 56 seconds.
Nieve jumped from the lead group, hoping to at least salvage a stage win for Sky. Kelderman moved up in chase of the lead group, as Nibali faded and fell back.
Nieve led the way into the final kilometre, as Talansky and Van den Broeck remained together.
Visibly exhausted, Contador moved out of the saddle and sprinted for the finish line, but he had lost time and finished 1:14 behind Nieve, and 1:06 after Talansky, dropping him to second. Meanwhile, further behind – much further behind – Froome came in 5:05 down.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky||3:20:29|
|2||Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:00:03|
|3||Adam Yates (GBr) Orica GreenEdge||0:00:05|
|4||Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp||0:00:09|
|5||Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol|
|6||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team||0:00:15|
|7||Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:00:32|
|8||John Gadret (Fra) Movistar||0:00:36|
|9||Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits.||0:00:41|
|10||Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Tinkoff-Saxo||0:01:15|
|11||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team|
|12||Kristjan Koren (Slo) Cannondale||0:01:44|
|13||Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha|
|14||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team|
|15||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura||0:01:51|
|16||Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Team Europcar||0:02:10|
|17||Jan Bakelants (Bel) Omega Pharma Quick Step Cycling Team||0:02:38|