Romain Bardet wins 5th stage of Criterium du Dauphine
PRA-LOUP, France (AP) French rider Romain Bardet won the fifth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine after an impressive solo attack on Thursday, while American Tejay van Garderen finished second to take the overall lead.
The relatively short but steep 161-kilometer (100-mile) stage - a replica of the 17th stage of this year's Tour de France - featured two category-2 climbs either side of a sharp ascent up Col d'Allos.
Bardet, who finished sixth on last year's Tour, attacked near the top of col d'Allos and extended his lead in the descent.
''I'm struggling to believe what just happened,'' a jubilant Bardet said after his first stage win of the season. ''I told myself that I was going to attack, and when I saw that there was no one behind me, I tried to open up the gap. ''
Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali and Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde cracked on the last climb up Pra-Loup.
Van Garderen finished 36 seconds behind Bardet, while 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome was 40 seconds back in third place.
The 24-year-old Bardet showed his attacking instinct, timing his move near the top of col d'Allos to put maximum pressure on his rivals and then riding solo to victory for 22 kilometers (14 miles).
Froome, a fearsome climber, was the first to go after him but started to ease off when he realized that Bardet had the legs to go all the way. Van Garderen, fifth on last year's Tour, then overtook Froome in the last climb up to the ski resort of Pra-Loup.
''It's incredible to win in a mountain stage of this importance in front of the Tour favorites,'' Bardet said. ''I think it's a good sign for the rest of my career. It's by far my greatest win and now that I know I'm capable of winning such stages, I can raise the bar even higher.''
Van Garderen is 17 seconds ahead of Spanish rider Benat Intxausti Ellorriaga - who finished the stage in fourth place - in the overall standings, with Bardet 20 seconds behind in third.
Froome is 41 seconds back in fifth heading into Friday's mountainous penultimate sixth stage.
Froome, who crashed out early into last year's Tour, will try and reclaim his title from Nibali next month.