Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) added another sensational win to his palmares with a lengthy solo attack to win stage seven of the Critérium du Dauphiné as Team Sky and Chris Froome secured another overall win.
Cummings went off the front of the breakaway with over 40km to go on the mountainous stage and powered away as the general classification battle raged behind him.
Contador tried his luck from 13km out on the steepest part of the climb of the Col de Noyer. The Spaniard's acceleration saw white jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) distanced, but Froome, Richie Porte (BMC) and Bardet tried to stay with him.
Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) was distanced by the group of four, with the Irishman churning away behind to make up the 100m gap before the top of the climb.
Cummings, meanwhile, hit the descent with more than a three-minute advantage, bombing down to the foot of the final climb to Superdévoluy.
Bardet then turned on the pace to reach the summit ahead of his three companions, with Martin working hard to ensure his gap didn't exceed 20 seconds. He was joined on the descent by Diego Rosa (Astana), Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) and Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida).
Bardet attacked again on a slightly uphill section of the descent, but he was soon neutralised as the Martin group came back into the equation and the foot of the final climb.
Sky trio Sergio Henao, Wout Poels and Mikel Landa sped down the descent to join up with Froome's lead group, giving the British squad by far the most cards to play to defend the yellow jersey.
As soon as the Sky riders hit the front, the pace dropped and allowed Cummings's advantage to stretch back out to over four minutes, all but guaranteeing his remarkable stage win.
The Wirral rider sealed the latest barnstorming win of his season with relative ease in the end, allowing himself a few smiles as he rolled through the final kilometre.
Four minutes later, Martin launched his attack in the final kilometre to pick up six bonus seconds for finishing second, followed over the line by Bardet.
Bardet knocked Porte out of second place in the leaderboard by finishing third as Froome accidentally boxed the Australian in on the barriers and Martin's bonus seconds saw him also leapfrog the BMC rider into third place.
Froome rolled over the line in the same group to seal his third overall win in the space of four years. For Team Sky it is now five wins in the past six years, following Sir Bradley Wiggins's wins in 2011 and 2012.
Polka dot jersey wearer Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) paid the price for his efforts to win stage six, dropping off the back of the peloton as Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) drove an incredibly high pace.
His demise handed Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data) his second successive mountains classification victory at the Dauphiné having got himself into the early breakaway.
Critérium du Dauphiné stage seven, Le Pont-de-Claix - Superdévoluy (151km)
1. Steve Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data, 4-05-06
2. Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx-Quick Step, at 3-58
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, st
4. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, st
5. Adam Yates (GBr), Orica-GreenEdge, st
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step, st
7. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, st
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, at 4-01
9. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC, at 4-05
10. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 4-05
Final general classification
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, 29-59-31
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 12s
3. Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx-Quick Step, at 19s
4. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC, at 21s
5. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff, at 35s
6. Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx-Quick Step, at 51s
7. Adam Yates (GBr), Orica-GreenEdge, at 57s
8. Diego Rosa (Ita) Astana, at 1-13
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre-Merida, at 1-30
10. Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale, at 2-43
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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.