Team Sky had set a fast pace over the punishing climbs in the finale of stage seven to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. Most of the big favourites were dropped, including race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).
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Only American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) managed to follow Froome’s attack in the final three kilometres of the race. Van Garderen then limited his losses as Froome accelerated away with one and a half kilometres to go to re-take the overall race lead.
Nibali, however, evidently paid for his efforts the previous day when he took the race lead, losing nearly four minutes to Froome on the stage. He will no doubt be looking for revenge in the Tour de France in July.
Just one stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné remains, a 156.5-kilometre trek from Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc to Modane Valfréjus that once again features a climb to the finish line.
With only 18 seconds now separating race leader van Garderen and second-placed rival Froome, and with a group of highly capable riders also within two minutes, anything could happen on the final day – just as it did last year when Andrew Talansky took a sensational victory over Alberto Contador.