Chris Froome (Team Sky) extended his overall lead in the Critérium du Dauphiné on the queen stage to Méribel, as Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) took the stage win from the breakaway ahead of Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale).
The main action of the day begun on the hors categorie Col de la Madeleine which began around 50km into the stage, with a large breakaway group managing to pull away from the peloton behind.
It took some time for that group to settle down, but eventually ten men, including Pinot, Bardet and two of the latter’s Ag2r teammates, were able to work together to reach the final category one climb to Méribel with 2-50 in hand on the Sky led peloton.
That gap however, meant Bardet was virtual leader on the road before the last climb, meaning Sky were forced to chase with Wout Poels, Mikel Landa and Sergio Henao to keep the gap at a minimum.
The gap between the two groups gradually came down, but it wasn’t aided in Sky’s favour as Bardet attacked with 9.9km to go. Pinot was unable to follow immediately but eventually joined his compatriot with just over 8km to go as the other breakaway riders, including George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff), fell away.
25-year-old Bardet looked by far the strongest of French duo out front, and made numerous attempts to attack on the steeper sections of the 12.3km climb. But he was unable to shake Pinot, and eventually they both entered the flatter run-in to the finish together, with Bardet the first to launch his sprint in front of Pinot.
The FDJ man was quick to respond though, and shortly passed Bardet to finish just ahead and take a hard earned victory. It’ll be consolation for Pinot, who suffered in GC over the week at the Dauphiné, while Bardet will be pleased to find himself into the top three overall with one stage remaining.
Behind the GC battle began to heat up, but there was never room for attacks early on from the likes of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC) as Sky held a ferocious pace, increasing it with 6km to go.
Landa and Henao both led on the front for huge amount of time, but as they faded and Froome was forced to move to the front, it was Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) who was able to make a move within the last 1km or so.
Froome was able to follow, but wasn’t able to take the third place time bonus as Martin finished ahead, however was still able to gain valuable seconds on both Contador and Porte.
The two-time winner of the race will only have one more stage to hold onto his lead, with a 151km race from Le Pont-de-Claix to a category three finish in Superdévoluy on Sunday.
Critérium du Dauphiné 2016 stage six, La Rochette to Méribel (141km)
1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, in 4-24-16
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, st
3. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-Quick Step, at 1-04
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 1-07
5. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, at 1-15
6. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, st
7. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, at 1-17
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge, at 1-17
9. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step, at 1-21
10. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC, st
Critérium du Dauphiné 2016, overall standings after stage six
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 25-50-22
2. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC, at 21s
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, st
4. Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx-Quick Step, at 30s
5. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, at 35s
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step, at 56s
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge, at 1-02
8. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, at 1-18
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, 1-35
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, 2-12