Britain’s Chris Froome of Sky Pro Cycling held on to the maillot jaune in the Criterium du Dauphine after a hotly-contested fifth stage on Thursday.
Froome remains 12 seconds clear of Spaniard Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo, but the day’s main beneficiary was Belkin Pro Cycling’s Wilco Kelderman of the Netherlands, who clawed back nine seconds off his overall time with a second-place finish to move level with Contador.
The 189.5km stage from Sisteron to La Mure saw Slovenia’s Simon Spilak take a second successive stage win for Katusha, following the previous day’s victory by Yury Trofimov of Russia.
Spilak crossed the line alone, well clear of Kelderman and Britain’s Adam Yates, who were both 14 seconds adrift, with the chasing peloton, Froome and Contador among them, three seconds further back.
At one point, Froome looked in danger of losing his lead to his Spanish rival when Contador set off on a breakaway 30km from home on the descent from the Col de la Morte.
Contador moved nearly 30 seconds clear, only for the Sky team to reel him in over the final run-in and Froome finished two places ahead of the Spaniard in a mass dash for the line.
“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 [today] or because, on the contrary, he thinks he can attack wherever he wants to. Either way, he’s a rider I respect greatly,” he said.
“For my part, I didn’t have to exert myself because my teammates did a fantastic job, I just stayed calm and didn’t panic at all,” Froome added.
Spilak, 27, recorded his second success of the season after winning a mountain stage on the Tour de Romandie, where he finished second overall.
Yesterday’s sixth stage took the riders on a 178.5km ride from Grenoble to Poisy, near Annecy, France.
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