Britain’s Bradley Wiggins tightened his grip on the Criterium du Dauphine after Colombia’s Nairo Quintana won the sixth and penultimate stage in Morzine, France, on Saturday.
Wiggins went into this mountainous 167.5km run leading the general classification by 38 seconds from Germany’s Tony Martin.
However, after crossing the line in fourth behind Quintana, Cadel Evans and Daniel Moreno, the Team Sky star extended his lead going into yesterday’s final stage with a 1 minute, 20 second cushion over his teammate, Australian Michael Rogers.
Evans, the defending Tour de France champion, attacked twice in a bid to close his gap: the first time over the the top of the Col de Joux-Plane, the sixth and last climb, and then again at the finish to finish second on the stage behind Quintana.
He is now third overall at 1:36, but had been hoping for more.
“I was hoping for a little bit of a chance for the stage [win],” said Evans, who won the opening stage on Monday last week from a three-man sprint. “But I also heard Tony Martin was dropped on the Joux-Plane and I wanted to maintain the gap on him.”
The 22-year-old Quintana made his decisive move 5km from the summit finish, reeling in leader Brice Feillu 2km from the line.
Of the stage winner, Movistar’s sporting director Yvon Ledanois said: “He’s a pure climber, but he also knows how to do other things.”
Wiggins, ably aided by his teammates, now looks poised to defend his Dauphine title.
“When Cadel attacked, he took a small lead, but I didn’t want to take any risks. It’s not a problem to give him 25 or 30 seconds,” the Olympic track champion said.
Yesterday’s closing seventh stage is a 124.5km ride between here and Chatel.
With yesterday’s closing stage less difficult than the sixth stage, the feeling is that Evans — a four-time runner-up — has lost his chance.
“It’s a short stage, but it can be nervous with an arrival at the top, but not as long of a climb as the final one today,” BMC sports director John Lelangue said.