Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has snatched the leader’s yellow jersey from Team Sky’s Chris Froome after launching an unanswerable attack in the closing kilometres of a brutally hard seventh stage of the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné, won by the Dutchman, Lieuwe Westra (Astana).
Westra climbed from his bike a second after crossing the line and staggered on unsteady legs into the crowd barriers, having launched his own attack two kilometres from home to catch and pass the Katusha pairing of Yury Trofimov and Egor Silin within sight of the line. The victory was sweet revenge for Westra, who had missed out on the stage win a day earlier by the narrowest of margins.
On another occasion, Westra’s ride would undoubtedly have been the most committed of the day, but Contador’s assault to wrench the leader’s jersey from Froome’s shoulders on a brutal haute categorie ascent to a summit finish at Finhaut-Emosson provided further evidence that the Spaniard is among the most tenacious riders in the peloton.
“I didn’t get the stage win today, since we had given the breakaway a big advantage. But I managed to take 20 seconds on Froome and even more time on some of my other rivals, which means that I’ll be in the yellow jersey with just one stage to go,” Contador said.
“Even more important, I saw that I am getting better every day and that I’m progressing ahead of the Tour. Sky set a hard tempo in the finale but I had great support from my teammates until the last climb, where I was strong enough to make a decisive move on my own.”
Having danced on his pedals behind an ever-diminishing Sky train, Contador broke clear with 2km remaining and gritted his teeth to finish 20 seconds ahead of the man in yellow in a performance that might serve as a dictionary definition of ‘determination’.
Froome responded with 1.5km remaining after each of his Sky support riders had been expended like matches in their effort to limit the advantage of Trofimov and Silin. Geraint Thomas, David Lopez, and Mikel Nieve were among the riders who put in huge shifts for their leader before pulling aside when exhaustion struck.
The Tour de France champion showed again that, despite his gigantic abilities, he is prepared to roll up his sleeves when required, but his pursuit of Contador can be characterised as too little, too late, and the Spaniard now leads the Briton by eight seconds. To add further insult, Froome was passed as the line approached by the Garmin-Sharp pairing of Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal.
The battle for overall victory will resume on tomorrow’s final stage from Megève
to Courchevel. With three first category climbs and a summit finish at 1,267m still to contest, the fate of this 66th edition of the Critérium du Dauphiné is far from decided.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2014: stage seven – result
1) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Astana – 4.32.51
2) Yury Trofimov (RUS) – Katusha +7″
3) Egor Silin (RUS) – Katusha +16″
4) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.33
5) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +1.51
6) Ryder Hesjedeal (CAN) – Garmin-Sharp +1.53
7) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
8) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +2.11
9) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.16
10) Sebastian Reichenbach (SUI) – IAM Cycling +2.19
1) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +27.46.51
2) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +8″
3) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +39″
4) WIlco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin +59″
5) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +1.14
6) Vincenzo Niabli (ITA) – Astana +1.16
7) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.11
8) Sebastian Reichenbach (SUI) – IAM Cycling +2.14
9) Leopold Konig (CZE) – NetApp-Endura +3.00
10) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Astana +4.04