Simon Spilak (Katusha) soloed to victory on stage five of the Criterium du Dauphine as the Russian team celebrated their second win in two days.
Meanwhile Chris Froome (Team Sky), who was beaten by Spilak to a stage win in Romandie, finished safely in the bunch – despite the best efforts of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to cut his lead on the undulating course.
A large crash just 14 kilometres into the race caused problems for several teams, with Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Jack Bobridge (Belkin), Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Movistar) and Jerome Pineau (IAM Cycling) all being brought down.
Geraint Thomas and Danny Pate (Team Sky) were both caught up in the incident too, while Hayden Roulston (Trek Factory Racing) and Pineau were forced to abandon.
It prompted the bunch to slow the pace down to allow them to rejoin, but hostilities were quickly resumed as several riders sought to earn a gap.
At the back, the pace proved too much for Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Kevin Reza (Team Europcar) among others, both of whom were dropped.
A large, strong break eventually went clear with Alessandro de Marchi (Cannondale), Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) all up the road again.
French champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr), Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE), Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) and Tour de Romandie runner-up Simon Spilak (Katusha) all added to the calibre of the group meanwhile – which once Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) bridged across numbered 17 riders.
With such firepower up the road, the break was dangerous enough to prompt a strong chase from the peloton, keeping the gap at around four minutes.
De Marchi racked up the climbing points, overhauling Reza’s King of the Mountains lead in the process, but it was not until the penultimate descent that the action truly kicked off.
With riders including Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) and Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) attacking the bunch up the road, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) spotted his opportunity and attacked on the descent of the Col de la Morte.
Team-mate Nicki Sorensen crashed heavily on the descent, but Contador continued to push hard on the front.
He soon bridged to some of the original breakaway riders, with his lead over the bunch more than a minute at one stage.
Sky organised the chase well, however, Froome being led by the resurgent Richie Porte and Mikel Nieve, while Astana – with Vincenzo Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang – and Andrew Talanksy (Garmin-Sharp) lent a hand at the front.
At the front, Spilak attacked to earn a solo lead while Contador continued to eke out an advantage further back.
Porte rode hard on the front of the bunch however and, as soon as the roads levelled out, Contador’s lead was quickly eaten into.
He was eventually caught with 17 kilometres to go, though Sky’s work was by no means over as the attacks and counter-attacks started around them.
Each time, however, any attempt at an escape was countered by Porte and Nieve who buried themselves for Froome.
Question marks over Porte’s fitness were certainly answered, before he eventually peeled off to leave Froome to finish the job off.
Up the road, Spilak continued to hold his lead – looking as comfortable as he did riding alongside Froome in Romandie.
Back in the bunch, one final attack – by Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) – saw them earn a slender lead over the remaining GC contenders.
Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) set about disrupting the chase, angrily waving away a motorbike whom he felt was aiding Froome and Contador’s chase.
At the front, Spilak was not to be caught though – taking the time to savour Katusha’s second consecutive victory.
Behind him Froome chased hard to keep the group in check, but he could not prevent Kelderman crossing in second to earn sufficient bonus points to pull him level with Contador in second overall.
Criterium du Dauphine 2014: stage five – result
1) Simon Spilak (SVN) – Team Katusha – 4.51.24hrs
2) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling +14”
3) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE – ST
4) Daryl Impey (SAF) – Orica-GreenEDGE +17”
5) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – ST
6) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Team Katusha
7) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana
8) Damiano Caruso (ITA) – Cannondale
9) Arthur Vichot (FRA) – FDJ.fr
10) Leopold Konig (CZE) – Team NetApp-Endura
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 19.01.00hrs
2) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +12”
3) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Belkin Pro Cycling – ST
4) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +33”
5) Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) – Lotto-Belisol +35”
6) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +50”
7) Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) – Trek Factory Racing +1.22
8) Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) – Astana – ST
9) Adam Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +1.24
10) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana +1.35