Critérium du Dauphiné (st. 6)
Spaniard completes brilliant ride en route to Villard-de-Lans into winning break; Nibali (AST) takes yellow as Costa (LAM) succeeds. Movistar riders now in teams' classification lead, with five within the top 21 for the day
What looked as the least difficult of the three mountain stages remaining in the Critérium du Dauphiné -183km with only a Cat-1 ascent, the Col du Rousset, far from the finish in Villard-de-Lans- eventually offered real fireworks thanks to foul weather and the riders' attitude, which the Movistar Team played a huge role in making enjoyable. Alejandro Valverde finished in 3rd place and bounced back after suffering yesterday into the final climb of Pra Loup; the Spaniard gave everything he'd got into a breakaway which started almost 100km away from the end, following a flurry of early attacks which involved Blues Rory Sutherland, Jonathan Castroviejo and Gorka Izagirre.
Joined by Gallopin (LTS), Nibali (AST), Tony Martin (EQS) and Rui Costa (LAM), Valverde went aboard a group which ammassed a huge four minutes over the bunch of race leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC), pulled by AG2R and Tinkoff-Saxo as well as his team-mates, and which the Movistar Team kept five riders in with Herrada, Castroviejo, Izagirre, Gadret or Beñat Intxausti. The Basque, 2nd overall, stayed calm as his team-mate Valverde was ahead.
It wasn't until the final 5km when harmony broke into the escape. With Martin dropped back, Gallopin jumped away as Nibali and Costa looked to each other and left full responsibility to Valverde. The Spaniard used his final energies to unsuccessfully approach the Frenchman; Nibali ultimately attacked to take the yellow jersey, while Costa, progressing over the climb, reached him down and took the stage. Alejandro crossed the line 38" after the duo.
Behind, John Gadret responded to a move by Daniel Martin (TCG) to try and keep his team-mate's big gap alive, and finished in 7th place. Just at his back, an excellent Intxausti even got a gap over Van Garderen and Froome, the three getting together for the final kilometer as Beñat concluded his effort in 10th spot, 2'12" adrift.
With Castroviejo and Izagirre into the day's top-21, the Movistar Team builds a strong gap in the lead of the teams' classification in the Dauphiné, also setting up two of its riders in the indidividual top-ten in the process -Valverde 3rd, 30" behind Nibali; Intxausti now 6th, at 57"-. Saturday should change things again as five Cat-1 climbs are tackled before Saint-Gervais' finish (155km.)