12 June 2015 16:23
Vincenzo Nibali moved into the Criterium du Dauphine lead after a gruelling stage that saw Rui Costa pip him for victory on the day.
A rain-soaked stage six saw drama along the 183-kilometre route and concluded with a sprint to the line that Costa (Lampre-Merida) just edged, as the general classification race was thrown wide open.
Costa sat in the slipstream of Astana’s team leader in the closing kilometres of the day before edging in front, leaving Nibali five seconds behind in second.
Despite his second-place finish, Nibali takes the overall lead with two stages to go, the Italian holding a 29-second advantage over Costa with Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde a further second adrift.
Nine riders made an early break on the route from Saint-Bonnet-En-Champsaur to Villard-de-Lans, but it was not until a group of 19 – led by Nibali – moved clear that the stage burst into life.
As the peloton struggled in the rain, the leaders continued to eke out time and found themselves opening up a sizeable advantage, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) staying in contention on his first day in yellow.
Etixx-Quick Step’s Tony Martin was first to test the leading group with a break on his own at the front, however those in the breakaway maintained a watching brief before slowly reeling the German back in.
As the leading group dropped to five, each man enjoyed their own moment in the lead, Nibali really showing his intent on Col de Grimone.
He was eventually joined by Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Valverde, Martin and Costa – but Van Garderen found himself slipping back to the peloton.
On the penultimate climb of the day – the Col du Rousset – Nibali, Valverde and Costa pushed clear and began to work through the gears to enhance their general classification hopes.
The wet conditions saw Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) – the winner of stage five – crash, and also seemed to cause Nibali some gear problems, but the Astana rider recovered quickly and set his sights on the finish line.
Gallopin was first to set out for victory but he could not make his push last as Nibali and Costa began their battle – Valverde eventually pipping Gallopin for third.
Nibali looked to have the Portuguese rider beaten as he approached the penultimate corner, but Costa was not to be denied as he slipped through to take the win after over four hours in the saddle.