Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) soloed to a stunning victory on stage five of the Criterium du Dauphine, as Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) claimed the race lead.
Bardet attacked on the descent of the Col d’Allos on a stage which mirrors entirely stage 17 of this year’s Tour de France before climbing to victory alone in Pra Loup.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) also showed his strength as the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) popped on the final ascent.
Van Garderen, meanwhile, claimed the yellow jersey as he caught and passed Froome close to the finish line to claim second on the day and keep the jersey in the team.
A strong break went clear early on, including King of the Mountains Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), fresh from his late attacks on stage four.
Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep), Romain Sicard (Team Europcar), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin) and Arnaud Courteille (FDJ) also went clear.
Their lead stretched to more than five minutes, but discord hampered their efforts as attacks by Timmer and then Serry cut their numbers.
Serry’s attack split the break, with Wellens, Sicard and then Timmer joining him but there was worse news for Serry’s team-mate in the bunch, as Julian Alaphilippe was distanced.
BMC Racing’s pace leading into the lower slopes of the category-one Col d’Allos was also sufficient to drop Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) but the American team also quickly paid for their pace.
Sensing their rivals tiring, Team Sky hit the front and big efforts from Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and a final huge shift from Ian Boswell put their rivals into the hurt locker.
Race leader Rohan Dennis was dropped, and team-mate Tejay van Garderen became isolated as BMC Racing paid for burning their riders out.
Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) was another rider dropped as the peloton was shredded on the first big climb of this year’s race.
The break were unable to hold out to the summit of the climb, as Boswell led the way over the top, before Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) burst off the front on the descent.
Bardet rode incredibly aggressively on the descent, happy to take risks into the corners to eke out a small advantage – the gap going out to 30 seconds and beyond.
The young Frenchman had more than a minute by the time he started climbing the final ascent in Pra-Loup with Boswell – visibly expending every last sinew of energy – putting in another huge dig for Sky, but the gap continued to grow.
Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) were among the riders dropped on the final climb, before Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) also blew up with 2.3km to go.
Little more than 15 riders remained in the front group when Nicolas Roche, Froome’s final team-mate, hit the front in the big ring with 1500m remaining.
Froome wasted little time to attack, in typical fashion – a huge cadence which cut the advantage to Riblon to less than a minute again.
Only van Garderen and Benat Intxausti (Movistar) could follow, although they did so from a distance, while the tiring Bardet pushed on at the front.
Still he led, however, his efforts on the descent and the lower slopes enough to grant him the stage win.
Van Garderen dropped Intxausti further back, catching and passing Froome in the bid for time bonuses at the finish – his effort keeping him in the race lead.
Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) bagged an impressive fifth further back, but it was his fellow young rider Bardet whom the day belonged to.
Criterium du Dauphine 2015: stage five – result
1) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale – 4.31.22hrs
2) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +36”
3) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +40”
4) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar +42”
5) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +50”
6) Louis Meintjes (RSA) – MTN-Qhubeka – ST
7) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Cannondale-Garmin +55”
8) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Astana +57”
9) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Europcar – ST
10) Matthias Frank (SUI) – IAM Cycling
1) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing – 18.03.22hrs
2) Benat Intxausti (ESP) – Movistar +17”
3) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +20”
4) Michele Scarponi (ITA) – Astana +31”
5) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +41”
6) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +43”
7) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Cannondale-Garmin +1.08
8) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Cannondale-Garmin +1.16
9) Mathias Frank (SUI) – IAM Cycling +1.17
10) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Tinkoff-Saxo +1.25