Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) won stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Friday.
The 143-kilometer route from La Léchère to Grenoble ended in a four-man finish, as four riders that survived an earlier eight-man breakaway were able to stave off the peloton.
Voeckler surged past Egor Silin (Astana) in the final few hundred meters and easily cruised to the victory. In second was Jose Herrada (Movistar), while Kevin Seeldraeyers (Astana) placed third.
“That feels really good!” Voeckler told AFP after his win.
It was his first triumph of the season, having crashed out of the Amstel Gold Race on April 14 with a broken collarbone. Upon his return to racing, Voeckler fell on the opening stage at the Tour of Belgium before finishing the five-stage race.
“Nearly everyone tells me that it makes a bad thing good, that I’ll have extra freshness for the Tour de France, Voeckler said. “It’s possible. But what is certain is that I missed some big races.”
Chris Froome (Sky) retained his overall race lead. His teammate Richie Porte is 54 seconds back in second, while Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) is two ticks behind Porte in third.
“An easy stage? No, that’s not the right word for it,” said Froome of the course, which featured four categorized climbs in the middle and several other hills that were not rated. “The aim was to control the race and keep the leader’s jersey, but we’re expecting people to attack in the mountains.”
Cat and mouse game
The four breakaway survivors rode the final 20km together, a stretch that was mostly downhill until the flat finish. In the last few kilometers, none of the riders wanted to take charge of the group.
Silin would jump out of the saddle and test his breakaway mates. Voeckler would follow. Seeldraeyers used the same tactic. The only rider who stayed relatively quiet was Herrada.
When Silin made his final attack in the finishing straight, Voeckler was right there on his wheel and easily pulled around him and surged past for the victory.
The race resumes Saturday with a 188km stage that has five categorized climbs, and concludes Sunday with another mountain stage.