Unheralded Frenchman Arthur Vichot broke away to take the fifth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine in Rumilly, France, on Friday, as Britain’s Bradley Wiggins held on to the overall lead.
The 23-year-old FDJ-BigMat rider was part of an eight-man early breakaway, and then raced clear of his fellow escapees 7km from the finish line to take the biggest victory of his career so far.
Spain’s Egoi Martinez came home in second place, 26 seconds behind Vichot.
“It was today or never for us with a hilly stage, the type that our team likes,” Vichot said. “Luck favors the brave. I have shown everyone that I am capable of progressing to the next level. To win a major stage on the Dauphine is encouraging for the future.”
Team Sky rider Wiggins’ hold on the leader’s yellow jersey appeared under threat when last year’s Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali attacked on the descent of the unclassified Grand-Colombier, which will feature in next month’s Tour for the first time.
However, Wiggins battled back with the help of his Sky teammates and rejoined Evans 45km from the finish to ensure that his 38-second lead over Germany’s Tony Martin remains intact.
“We did what we had to do and once again we’ve defended the jersey,” the relieved triple Olympic champion said at the end.
“There was a bit of bluffing going on from some of the local guys as we approached the top of the Colombier, which caught us out a bit, but that was about it. They warned us that it was a dangerous descent, but then went full gas and caused the bunch to split,” Wiggans said. “Cadel and three of his guys managed to stay in that group and it was a bit of an error on our part. We rallied though and the team did an amazing job to close things down.”
“Once we’d got them in sight, I was feeling good, so I finished the job off to ease some of the pressure on the rest of the boys. There were no problems in the end and it was a straightforward finish.”
Evans’ sporting director at BMC, John Lelangue, said the attack had not been planned: “The move in the downhill was not planned, but it was a beautiful opportunity.”
“We wanted to be in front for that descent to avoid problems. When we saw that some of the leaders were a little far behind, we tried our luck. It was a nice move, even if it was a bit far from the finish,” Lelangue said.
Evans, whose move moved him up one place in the overall, hinted there could be more skirmishes to come in yesterday’s 167.5km stage, which includes six categorized climbs from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine.
“Sometimes you have to take those opportunities when they come your way,” Evans said. “In the end, it was reasonably successful because it moved me up one place on GC [general classification] and it has the possibility of helping me at least get on the podium in the future.”