PRA LOUP, France (AFP) — Frenchman Romain Bardet powered to victory in the fifth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Thursday while American Tejay Van Garderen became the new overall leader.
The Ag2r La Mondiale rider was all alone over the final 22km as he took victory by 36 seconds. BMC’s Van Garderen came home in second to take the leader’s yellow jersey, with 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) of Britain finishing third on the day.
“At first, I did not want to follow [Froome] out of fear I would go into the red,” van Garderen said. “So I kept him at a reasonable distance and stayed within myself. It looked like he kind of died at the end, so I was able to get the jump on him. It kind of surprised me. I thought he was going to start riding away.”
The route was a mountainous, 161km trek from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup in the French Alps, over five categorized climbs, and Bardet’s performance will stand him in good stead ahead of next month, with the stage set to be replicated in the Tour de France’s stage 17.
The 24-year-old attacked near the top of the Col d’Allos — which peaked at 7,382 feet — and stretched his advantage on the descent.
He held a 1:25 lead at the foot of the final climb — six kilometers from the finish — before fading slightly as the other GC leaders closed the gap.
Bardet, who finished sixth in the general classification at last year’s Tour de France, had enough stamina to hang on for his first victory of the season ahead of Van Garderen, who overtook Froome in the final two kilometers.
Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and former Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) were among those dropped on the final ascent.
Van Garderen — fifth in the Tour de France last year — now leads Movistar’s Benat Intxausti of Spain by 18 seconds with Bardet’s stage win taking him up to third overall at 20 seconds.
“I think everyone kind of wants to strut their stuff a little bit before July and I think I showed I am right up there with them,” van Garderen continued. “Everyone has their different methods. You can never read too much into the Dauphiné as far as what their form is going to be in the Tour. But I definitely take some satisfaction and confidence out of today.”
Italian Michele Scarponi (Astana) lies fourth at 31 seconds, with Froome completing the top five at 41 seconds.
Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), Pieter Serry (Etixx-Quick-Step), Romain Sicard (Europcar), Arnaud Courteille (FDJ), Albert Timmer (Giant-Alpecin), and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) were in the early breakaway. Although their advantage stretched to 5:05 at one point, BMC Racing and Team Sky chased them down ahead of the ascent of the Col d’Allos.
Friday’s stage 6 is another mountainous route, 183km from Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur to Villard-de-Lans.