SAINT-GERVAIS, France (AFP) — Another mountain stage has seen another major shakeup at the top of the Critérium du Dauphiné leaderboard. Chris Froome (Sky) left the rest of the climbers behind on the ascent to the finish of stage 7, taking the stage victory. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) pedaled in behind for second place on the stage, and his efforts put him back into the race lead when all was said and done, as Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who had wrestled the yellow jersey off of van Garderen’s back on stage 6, finished the stage well behind the leaders.
Froome and van Garderen broke away from the rest of the GC contenders on the final climb of the stage. They collaborated well together to distance their rivals, and to mop up the remnants of a 26-rider early breakaway, before Froome powered clear of van Garderen in the final two kilometers. While the Sky rider was able to open up a gap, his pursuer in the red and black of BMC was able to keep the gap from growing too large. Van Garderen crossed the line 17 seconds behind Froome. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) was the next to finish, 41 seconds back, with Beñat Intxausti (Movistar) right behind and on the same time.
Vincenzo Nibali, who took the GC lead from van Garderen on Friday, gave the top spot in the general classification right back to the American on Saturday. He, along with other big names like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), struggled to hold onto a furious Sky pace on the final slopes of stage 7 before Froome and van Garderen even launched their move. Nibali finished the stage 3:58 behind Froome.
Van Garderen goes into Sunday’s final stage with a slender overall lead of 18 seconds over Froome and 45 seconds over third-placed Intxausti.
“My tactic was just to mark Froome and when he went, there was no way I could follow him,” admitted van Garderen after the race. “But I’m very happy with the yellow jersey.”
Sunday’s stage 8 closes out with a summit finish at Frejus, an 8.4km climb at a 5.7% gradient that will again put the yellow jersey contenders to the test.