A day of high drama capped the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné, with Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) winning the final stage and Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky unexpectedly claiming overall victory.
But defending champion, Chris Froome (Team Sky), suffered a disastrous day, crossing the line more than five minutes after his stage-winning team-mate, and slipping from second to twelfth on the final general classification.
The summit finish in Courchevel at the end of today’s 130.5km stage from Megève hosted emotional scenes as Talansky, who crossed the line nine seconds after Nieve, watched anxiously for the appearance of the men who had started ahead of him on GC – the race leader, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Froome.
“Did I get? Did I get it?” Talanksy asked, ignoring the imprecations of team handlers and race organisers to leave the course. When he realised he had won the race, he burst into tears.
“I’ve been second so many times,” Talansky said afterwards. “I was second at Paris-Nice, I was second at Romandie. To finally win one is a completely different feeing. At the finish line, all that emotion came out.”
Contrasting emotions typified the response of the men he had vanquished to claim the biggest win of his career. Contador, who had produced another courageous ride after his late attack to claim yesterday’s seventh stage, was stoic in defeat, perhaps accepting that he had done all he could.
Froome, however, was downcast at the post-race presentations, where he accepted the green jersey of points winner: scant consolation for a man who arrived as defending champion and had won the opening two stages.
A dangerous breakaway went clear as early as the first climb of the day, the Côte de Domancy, a brutally hard 809m climb, ascended more than 20 times in the 1980 world road race championships, won by Bernard Hinault.
Today, it was used as a spring board for attack by 23 riders, including Talansky and team-mate, Ryder Hesjedal, Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), who finished third overall, and Britain’s supremely talented Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE), the 21-year-old neo pro who last month won the Tour of Turkey. Yates finished third on today’s stage, just five seconds after Nieve.
Froome launched a counter attack on the first category Col des Saisies, but was unable to shake Contador, and by then, just 47km into the stage, Talansky had already established a lead of 3.20 and was race leader on the road.
When Contador attacked on the first category Côte de Montagny, 20km from home, Froome had no answer. The Spaniard swiftly disappeared into the rain-soaked ether while Froome remained stoically on the wheel of team-mate, Geraint Thomas.
Froome blamed injuries sustained in a crash on stage six, and said with three stage victories and the team prize, Sky’s Dauphiné campaign had been a success. His expression as he awaited his presentation as points winner told a different story, however.
With both Froome and chief lieutenant, Richie Porte, unable to maintain peak form throughout the Dauphiné, much will need to change in the following three weeks if the Kenyan-born Brit is to retain his Tour de France title.
Contador, who twice this week displayed an ability to attack successfully from a group laden with Sky riders is likely to have taken greater satisfaction from his week’s work than Froome.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2014: stage eight – result
1) Mikel Nieve (ESP) – Team Sky – 3.20.29
2) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3″
3) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +5″
4) Andrew Talanksy (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +9″
5) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol – ST
6) Tejay Van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +15″
7) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin +32″
8) John Gadret (FRA) – Movistar +36″
9) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis +41″
10) Alberto Contador (ESP)- Tinkoff-Saxo +1.15
1) Andrew Talanksy (USA) – Garmin-Sharp – 31.08.08
2) Alberto Contador (ESP)- Tinkoff-Saxo +27″
3) Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +35″
4) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin +43
5) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +1.20
6) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +2.05
7) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +2.12
8) Mikel Nieve (ESP) – Team Sky +2.59
9) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis +3.04
10) Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) – Astana +3.17