Simon Spilak (Katusha) rode to victory in the fifth stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Thursday.
Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) and Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) were both 14 seconds behind and placed second and third in the 190-kilometer stage from Sisteron to La Mure.
Chris Froome remains the overall race leader, holding a 12-second lead over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Kelderman. Contador attacked with 30km left to race, on the descent of the Col de la Morte. He gained nearly a minute on Froome before he was caught 13km from the finish line by Froome and his group of Sky teammates.
“I didn’t expect Contador to go on the attack today,” Froome said. “There are two possible explanations: either he did so because he wasn’t feeling confident before the weekend’s main stage [on Saturday] or because on the contrary, he thinks he can attack wherever he wants to. Either way, he’s a rider I respect greatly.”
Later, Froome commented on the stage via his Twitter account: “Attacks all day out there today. Can’t thank my team mates enough for keeping me in yellow #troopers.”
Contador said his attack hadn’t been planned, but added that, since he views the Dauphiné as a Tour preparation race, he had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
“We are here to train, so we let other teams do the work, especially Sky, and thus perhaps the race leaves the script a bit, everything goes out of control, and the group splits up,” Contador said. “On this stage, I can afford it because I have no pressure to get the win… I saw we were going very slowly, had a companion in front and quickly saw that hole opened up, so I decided to go forward.”
Tinkoff sport director Philippe Mauduit said Contador’s move was a “good sign.”
“Alberto’s attack was a bit of a surprise for the fans, for the field and for us as well. But I think it was a really nice surprise and a good sign of Alberto’s form and will to win,” Mauduit said in a team release. “At the same time, it was a test of Chris Froome and his teammates who had to work hard to bring him back.”
Spilak attacked a breakaway group on the slopes of the Cat. 2 Cote de Laffrey, which peaked with about 16km remaining. He crested the climb first, and then time trailed his way along the remainder of the course. Spilak’s teammate Yuri Trofimov won stage 4, making it two stage wins in two days for Katusha.
Kelderman, meanwhile, was in the second group on the road that contained Froome and some of his lieutenants, along with the rest of the GC leadership. Kelderman attacked with about 5km to go, which prompted Froome, who held a 21-second lead over the Dutch rider entering the stage, to chase him down and keep the leash short.
The group kept Kelderman close but his bonus seconds allowed him to gain time on Froome with three days of racing left.
“Why should I always follow? That way I’ll never win,” said Kelderman, while he was preparing to go on the podium as best young rider for the fourth day in a row. “If the peloton would have hesitated, Yates and I could’ve easily taken 10 extra seconds.”
The race picks up with Friday’s stage 6, a 179km route from Grenoble to Poisy with a hilly profile.