The script for this year’s Criterium du Dauphine appeared to have been written after the first stage. Chris Froome (Sky) won the individual time trial, taking the maillot jaune, and it seemed as if he would carry that lead all the way to the finish of the eight-stage race. And when Froome beat Contador on the summit finish at Col du Beal on stage 2, showing he was the strongest climber in the race, back-to-back victories in the Tour de France warm-up race seemed all but assured. But things are rarely so certain in bike racing.

Froome held steady on stage 3 when Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) took the bunch sprint and went into stage 4 still with 12 seconds over Contador. And on that stage he finished on the same time as Contador, 2:10 behind solo winner Yury Trofimov (Katusha), again preserving his overall lead.

He faced stiffer opposition on stage 5 when Contador attacked from the peloton on a descent inside the final 30km. The hard work of Froome’s teammates saw the Spaniard reeled in before the finale, however, and the pair finished in the chase group 17 seconds behind stage winner Simon Spilak (who made it two from two for Katusha).

But it was on stage 6, won by Jan Bakelants (OPQS), that the race really changed. Froome crashed heavily, losing more than a little skin, and while the peloton waited and Froome didn’t lose any time to his rivals as a result of the crash, the crash seemingly hampered Froome in the remaining two stages.

With two kilometres remaining in the climb to the summit finish of stage 7 Alberto Contador attacked and Froome wasn’t able to respond. The Spaniard finished 20 seconds clear of Froome (and 1:33 behind stage winner and stage 6 runner-up Lieuwe Westra), enough to pull the maillot jaune off Froome’s shoulders for the first time in the race.

And so Alberto Contador went into the final stage wearing the leader’s jersey, eight seconds clear of Chris Froome. But despite all eyes being on those two for the whole eight days of the race, neither of them would win the race overall. Andrew Talansky got in a group of heavy-hitters who got away from the peloton after the first climb of the final stage. And despite the best efforts of Contador, the group stayed clear and Talansky’s fourth on the stage was enough to take the overall win.

Mikel Nieve won the stage while his team leader Chris Froome, clearly feeling the effects of his crash, faded out of contention and eventually finished the race 12th overall.

There were no stage wins for Andrew Talansky, and no podium placing throughout the race either. Instead he was there when it counted, climbing with the best and ensuring he minimised his losses whenever necessary. He put himself in contention with a great fourth place in the first stage ITT and improved from there before making the most of a decisive break on the final day.

Not only was the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine a fascinating race in its own right, it also sets the scene for a fascinating Tour de France. Was Chris Froome only suffering from the effects of his stage 6 crash? Who is the stronger climber out of he and Alberto Contador? Do we need to look beyond those two (as we did at the Dauphine) to find a winner of this year’s Tour? A lot can happen in three weeks of bike racing.

Until then, check out the gallery below for some great photos from this year’s Criterium du Dauphine.

Final Classification: > - Stage Result

Sunday 15th June 2014

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