Chris Froome retained his firm grip on the Critérium du Dauphiné yellow jersey yesterday while Frenchman Thomas Voeckler won a sprint finish to claim stage six.
Froome came home safely in the peloton alongside Team Sky team-mate Richie Porte to keep the two at the front of the general classification standings. Froome leads the Tasmanian by 52 seconds with two stages left to go. It was another strong all-round performance from Sky as they kept a breakaway in check to pace their leader home, to the delight of Froome.
“It’s really encouraging to see,” he said. “There were a few guys I think who came into the Dauphiné not sure where their form was and a bit apprehensive in that regard. It’s really been good to see the guys stepping up and everyone seems to be getting stronger and stronger each day. The fact that we’re in yellow now gives everyone motivation. It’s great to see everyone coming up like that.
“Today was supposed to be one of the easier days but it turned out to be one of the hardest stages we’ve done in the Dauphiné so far. It was one of those medium mountain days that a lot of guys could get over and a lot of people thought they could win. It was hard throughout the day. The guys did a great job this morning, controlling the break and making sure that the right guys went and then looking after me again into the final.”
Europcar rider Voeckler pipped Movistar’s Jose Herrada and Astana pair Kevin Seeldraeyers and Egor Silin to the line as the remnants of the day’s breakaway took stage honours, while 46 seconds further back another Sky man, Edvald Boasson Hagen, sprinted to the line to take fifth.
Astana’s Assan Bazayev, Juan Antonio Flecha of Vacansoleil-DCM and NetApp-Endura’s Bartosz Huzarski led a break early in the 143km run from La Léchère to Grenoble but were caught by the 50km mark.
As the riders went up the day’s first major climb, the category one Col du Barioz, another eight-man break formed, led by Voeckler as he set out his stall for victory. Although their lead was never huge, they did enough to stay away on the rolling roads before beginning to splinter around 50km from the line, with only Voeckler, Seeldraeyers, Silin and Herrada remaining 30km from home.
With several sprinters hoping for the stage victory, the peloton tried to fight back but the quartet held firm out in front to ensure one of their number would take the honours. As they came towards the line, Seeldraeyers made a move 400m from out but Voeckler responded to take the victory.
The overall standings were unaffected up front, with Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis in third, 54 seconds behind Froome, while Team Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador is down in 13th, 2 min 49 sec off the pace following his disappointing time trial on stage four.
Overall standings: After stage six
1. C Froome (GB) Team Sky19:33:43
2. R Porte (Aus) Team Sky +52
3. R Dennis (Aus) Garmin +54
4. M Rogers (Aus) Saxo +1:37
5. D Moreno (Sp) Katusha +1:47
6. D Navarro (Sp) Cofidis +1:49
7. R Taaramaee (Est) Cofidis +1:52
8. M K’kowski (Pol) Omega +1:58
9. L Konig (Cz R) NetApp +2:16
10. J Fuglsang (Den) Astana +2:20