Geraint Thomas survived a late scare to win the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday as Adam Yates won the final stage to consolidate second place.
Team Sky’s Thomas suffered two punctures during the 136-kilometre stage from Moutiers to St Gervais Mont Blanc, but took a wheel from a team-mate on the second occasion and was paced back to the peloton by Michal Kwiatkowski and Dylan van Baarle.
The 32-year-old Welshman eventually finished fifth, 19 seconds behind Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) whose 10-second time bonus for winning the stage reduced his overall deficit to Thomas to one minute exactly.
“It’s amazing to win such a prestigious race,” Thomas said in quotes reported on the race’s official website.
“It’s incredible. I didn’t let myself think so far ahead. I was always thinking of the next day or the next day. Now I realise I’ve won a massive race.
“Punctures today didn’t really help. I had to chase back on. The guys rode really well for me. On the last climb, I just knew I had about 1’20” to lose on Yatesy.
“Each kilometre I was more confident and happier. Finally, at 200 (metres) to go, when they started sprinting for the win, I was relieved. I can rest a little bit and wait for July. This is a confidence booster for the Tour (de France).”
Spain’s Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) had looked set to win the stage until Yates launched a late attack from the chasing group and caught Navarro on the final bend.
France’s Romain Bardet finished third on the stage and in the general classification, with Ireland’s Dan Martin 48 seconds behind in fourth.
An aggressive UAE Team Emirates took on the gruelling Criterium du Dauphine stage to La Rosiere, a similar route the riders will face on the 11th stage of the upcoming Tour de France.
Valerio Conti formed part of the large escape, which survived until the last kilometres, when the Italian worked with Dan Martin to attempt to bridge the gap opened up by Pello Bilbao (Astana) and others.
Bilbao made his move late on during the demanding stage and sprinted over the line in triumph to record his second stage win of the season.
Overall leader Geraint Thomas crossed the line in second, with Martin in third.
The late move by the UAE duo saw the 31-year-old jump up 10 places in the overall classification, with the Irishman now fourth 2 mins 30 secs behind Thomas.
Martin said: “I wanted to take advantage of the good legs that I have, but it truly was a hard day.
“The final was very tactical, maybe that’s because the classification men are a little tired, and we weren’t able to pull in Bilbao like I would’ve wanted.
“Let’s see tomorrow how I am, but I’ll try to do well in the final stage, and my overall classification will benefit as a result.”
The last stage of the Criterium du Dauphine travels 136 kilometres from Moutiers to the summit finish up to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc.
Team Sky’s Welsh rider Geraint Thomas cemented his control of the Criterium du Dauphine after finishing second on Saturday’s 6th and penultimate stage won by Spaniard Pello Bilbao.
Bilbao made his move late on during the gruelling stage that is almost the same as the Tour de France stage 11, with four major climbs and a summit finish at la Rosiere.
Thomas came in second, managing to put some further valuable seconds between himself and rivals for the yellow leader.
Briton Adam Yates, riding for Mitchelton, is second in the overall standings, 1min 29sec behind Thomas, with France’s Romain Bardet jumping up to third from seventh overnight, at 2min 01sec.
Sunday’s seventh and final 136km stage ends in the ski resort of Le Bettex after five climbs.