Nairo Quintana of Movistar won stage six of the Criterium du Dauphine in Morzine today, but the story of the day was Team Sky decimating the field on the Col de Joux Plane, exerting a level of control not seen in years.
At the bottom of the 12km Jeux Plane, the final climb of the day, BMC, Lotto-Belisol and Team Sky were all near the front, but it was the British team that took control. When they did, it was complete.
Edvald Boasson Hagen, who looked strong yesterday when bringing back the Evans group, ramped the pace up as one by one the favourites were dropped.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) was the first big name to be dropped, going out the back of the shrinking peloton with Denis Menchov who has been invisible so far in this race. Second placed Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was next to go, and by the summit four of the nine-man group were in Sky jerseys.
After Boasson Hagen had swung off, Richie Porte kept the pace high as Chris Froome and Michael Rogers sat behind him patiently awaiting their turn. In the middle, Wiggins sat and span a gear that made his riding look effortless.
Over the summit, Quintana had just a 15 second gap, and only Cadel Evans (BMC), Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack) and Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) were with the phenomenally strong Sky train.
Quintana, a former winner of the Tour d l’Aviner, pushed on down the fast descent that winds through picturesque Alpine meadows. With Sky only interested in keeping Wiggins safe, his gap crept up.
Evans, fed up of waiting, attacked. Sniffing another stage win he sprinted out of the hairpins and, with his inside knee pushed out as far as it would go, ran the corners wide in pursuit.
But Quintana was safe, and rode in to Morzine with a 15 second gap over the Australian. Sky kept their cool, knowing Evans would only gain a handful of seconds, and came in ten seconds later with Wiggins looking untroubled as he crossed the line in fourth place.
Wiggins has so far shown that his is the best time trailer, and looks comfortable on the climbs (he has not been tested yet). He looks every inch the Tour winner elect. With his team mates looking almost as good as their leader – they have three in the top four overall – it’s hard to see who can challenge him.
Andy Schleck today abandoned the race as he continues to suffer from the injuries picked up when he crashed in the time trial earlier in the week. The RadioShack rider looked out of sorts even before the time trial and has just three weeks to turn his fortunes round before the start of the Tour de France.
His brother Frank, who abandoned the Giro d’Italia with a shoulder injury rides the Tour de Suisse that starts today. Fabian Cancellara also returns to racing after breaking his collarbone at the Tour of Flanders in April.
Criterium du Dauphiné 2012, stage 6: Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine, 167.5km
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar 4-46-12
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 16 seconds
3. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 24 seconds
4. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky
5. Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
7. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
9. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Sky
10. Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) RadioShack
41. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Barracuda at 5-14
64. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Barracuda at 9-14
General classification after stage six
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky 23-40-59hrs
2. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Sky at 1-20
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 1-36
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-48
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 2-22
6. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Movistar 2-58
7. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 3-07
8. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Rabobank 3-26
9. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 3-44
10. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing 3-51
64. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Barracuda at 22-47
131. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Barracuda at 47-03
Andy Schleck abandons the race
Col de la Colombière
Richie Porte leads Bradley Wiggins
Wiggins: in control
Nairo Quintana strikes out alone
Quintana takes the stage win
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Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Stage reports
Stage five: Wiggins maintains lead as Vichot wins stage
Stage four: Wiggins blitzes time trial
Stage three: Boasson Hagen blasts to stage win
Stage two: Moreno wins second stage in Dauphiné hill-top sprint
Stage one: Evans wins as Wiggins takes lead
Prologue: Wiggins second behind Durbridge
Critérium du Dauphiné 2012: Photo galleries
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one photo gallery
Prologue photo gallery