Following a 10.4-km individual time trial that gave an impression of his superiority, Chris Froome won his first real duel of the year against Alberto Contador as he outsprinted him atop the col de Béal in a spectacular and popular finale. A flawless defending champion has already put his mark on the 66th Dauphiné and spread interesting signals of his good shape one month ahead of the Tour de France.
Reza, first man in action
Kevin Reza (Europcar) triggered the war as he attacked from the gun but as he passed the first climb of the day, the second category côte de St-Marcel-L'Eclairé (km 5.5), in first position, four riders were very close behind him: Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling), Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) and Thomas Damuseau (Giant-Shimano). They formed a leading quintet for most of the stage. However, as Team Sky was determined to contest the victory atop the col de Béal, the escapees weren't granted more of an advantage than five minutes after km 34 where local rider Damuseau had his house almost in sight.
Reza's odyssey for the polka dot jersey
Not only did Reza take the maximum of points for the King of the Mountains competition in the first of the six categorized climbs of the day, the Frenchman also won the five-man sprint at the top of the four following climbs. Therefore, he took the polka dot jersey over from Vincenzo Nibali. So he made the most of the long lasting breakaway. De Marchi tried to repeat his exploit from last year when he won the last stage of the Dauphiné in Risoul but he was eventually reeled in with 7km to go as there was nothing to do against Team Sky riding strongly at the head of the peloton.
Chris Froome initiated the battle with two accelerations near the five kilometers to go mark but on both occasions, Alberto Contador was able to keep his pace at the difference of Vincenzo Nibali, so the yellow jersey wearer slowed down and favoured the composition of a six-man group to contest the stage victory. On the other hand, pre-race challengers Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS), Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) showed their limits and got dropped. Froome didn't let anyone go despite attempts by Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) while Nibali struggled and eventually lost half a minute when Froome put the hammer down for his final effort to win the stage. Contador kept pressure on him but was forced to admit the Brit's superiority. Froome scored his second stage victory in only two days of racing and enjoys 12 seconds lead over his arch rival and 21 seconds over the new best young rider Kelderman while Nibali looks like the main loser of the day as he stands in sixth position overall at 50 seconds.