Britain’s Team Sky delivered a master class on the Queen stage of the Criterium du Dauphine and now have four riders in the top 10, with three men in the first four positions.
Bradley Wiggins extended his lead at the top of the standings, and will take a lead of one minute and 20 seconds into tomorrow’s mountainous final stage.
Today’s sixth stage was won by Movistar’s Columbian climber, Nario Quintana, who continued a fine season for his nation after strong rides for Britain’s Team Sky from countrymen, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran, in last month’s Giro d’Italia.
Team Sky took control on today’s ascent of the iconic Col de Joux Plane and placed four men in the elite 10-strong group who crested the summit of the hors catégorie climb first.
Michael Rogers is now second, Chris Froome, runner up in last year’s Vuelta a Espana, is fourth, and Richie Porte, winner of the Volta ao Algarve, is ninth.
Wiggins said: “That was the hardest stage on paper. It was nice to go up the Joux-Plane with such a small group and to still have three team-mates there with me.
“It’s been an ideal situation for us all day today. With the way the break formed, we kept it within three or four minutes and then the guys did their job on the Joux-Plane. It was perfect.”
Significantly, the reigning Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) attacked from the group of favourites to finish second, 16 seconds ahead of the Wiggins group, and moved to third overall.
He said: “I was hoping for a little bit of a chance for the stage. But I also heard Tony Martin was dropped on the Joux-Plane and I wanted to maintain the gap on him.”
Martin is now fourteenth, some four minutes and 15 seconds behind Wiggins.
In another significant development, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) abandoned the race after succumbing to injuries sustained in the stage four time trial.
Speaking after stage five, the Luxembourger, runner up in last year’s Tour de France, said: “I had a lot of problems. I woke up with pain not only on my rear end from the road rash but also a rib. The rib is not broken but it hurts a lot. And the right side of my chest is black and blue. The climbing went well as long as I could stay seated in the saddle but when you have to do a sprint after a corner. I did 90 per cent of the stage in the saddle.”
Tomorrow’s final stage will take the riders over a 126km parcours from Morzine to Chatel that includes five categorised climbs, among them the first category, Col du Corbiere, and a third category summit finish.
Criterium du Dauphine stage six – result
1) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar Team – 4.46.12
2) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing +16”
3) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha +24”
4) Bradley Wiggins (GBR)- Team Sky
5) Pieter Weening (NED) – Orica GreenEDGE
6) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky
7) Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) – Movistar
8) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto Belisol
9) Michael Rogers (AUS) – Team Sky
10) Haimar Zubeldia (SPA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek
1) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky – 23:40:59
2) Michael Rogers (AUS) Team Sky + 1.20
3) Cadel Evans (AUS) – BMC Racing + 1.36
4) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +1.48
5) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto Belisol +2.22
6) Vasil Kiryienka (BLR) – Movistar +2.58
7) Janez Brajkovic (SLO) – Astana Pro + 3.07
8) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Rabobank + 3.26
9) Richie Porte (AUS) – Team Sky +3.44
10) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing + 3.51