Arthur Vichot, of FDJ-BigMat rider, this afternoon claimed the first stage victory by a Frenchman in this year's Critérium du Dauphiné. The 23-year-old attacked inside the closing kilometres of Stage 5 and won convincingly by 26 seconds from a chasing group of seven riders led over the line in Rumilly by Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel and Astana's Dimitri Fofonov. Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky remains 38 seconds ahead of Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Tony Martin in the overall standings as the main group rolled over the line around a minute behind the winner.
However, the race leader had to fight hard today to counter an attack on the descent of the Grand Colombier by Cadel Evans' BMC Racing team, which at one point managed to distance the group containing the British rider by more than a minute. Wiggins managed to bridge across alone, however. There are now two stages left, both in the high mountains, as Wiggins looks to win the race for the second year running.
Vichot and the riders who contested the minor placings behind hiom had got away early on in the 186.5 kilometre stage from Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans – the home of Mavic, neutral service provider to the race – and behind them in the main group there was a wave of attacks on the Grand Colombier that left the race split up into a number of small groups.
Evans, who lost getting on for two minutes to Wiggins in yesterday’s long individual time trial and slipped from second to fifth on GC, needed to do something to try and get time back, so it was little surprise when he went on the attack, possibly looking to take advantage of tiredness among the Team Sky riders, who had all ridden strongly in that time trial.
The tactic briefly seemed to work as the group, which included the Tour de France champion’s BMC Racing team mates George Hincapie, Michael Schär and Tejay Van Garderen, as well as other dangerous riders such as Europcar’s Christophe Kern and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas, pulled out more than a minute’s advantage over Wiggins.
Also in that group was Team Sky’s own Edvald Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian dropping back to join the three other members of the team – Mick Rogers, Chris Froome and Richie Porte – who were pulling the chasing group along on behalf of their leader.
Heading up the day’s final categorised climb, the Col de Richemond which was crested some 45 kilometres out, Wiggins, whose team mates had brought him up within sight of the group ahead, closed the final part of the gap on his own, slotting in close to the Tour de France champion as if to let him know that BMC Racing’s attack had been to no avail.
"We did what we had to do and once again we’ve defended the jersey," said Wiggins afterwards. "There was a bit of bluffing going on from some of the local guys as we approached the top of the Colombier, which caught us out a bit, but that was about it. They warned us that it was a dangerous descent but then went full gas and caused the bunch to split.
"Cadel and three of his guys managed to stay in that group and it was a bit of an error on our part. We rallied though and the team did an amazing job to close things down.
"Once we’d got them in sight I was feeling good so I finished the job off to ease some of the pressure on the rest of the boys. There were no problems in the end and it was a straightforward finish," he concluded.
Meanwhile, the polka dot jersey changed hands again today and now rests on the shoulders of Jose Sarmiento of Liquigas-Cannondale.
Following his victory, the biggest of his career and one that sprang from a solo attack launched off the break with 7 kilometres to go, Vichot said: “This is my first win in the World Tour, it comes at the Dauphiné, this is a mythical race in France and I’ve done it alone. This is magic! It’s a reward for all my personal efforts and those of my team.
"It’s a beautiful day for all of us at FDJ-BigMat," he went on. "We’ve had a lot of troubles this week with Pierrick Fedrigo hurting his knee, Arnold Jeannesson being in a phase of preparation and Nacer Bouhanni not having luck on his side in the sprints.
"We really wanted to do well today in an undulating stage exactly like what we like with high chances for the breakaway to be successful.
"I was scared of the pure climbers in the Grand Colombier but it went well," he continued.
"I knew that I was the fastest sprinter in that group but the cooperation wasn’t very good, so I remembered how my friend Anthony Roux won a stage at the Tour of Spain three years ago by taking the initiative. I decided to do the same.
"I was hoping to enter the circle of the world’s top cyclists, " Vichot added. "It’s a little step that I have taken today. I’m delighted.”
Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 5 result 1 VICHOT Arthur FDJ-BIGMAT 4h 42' 17" 2 MARTINEZ Egoi EUSKALTEL-EUSKADI + 00' 26" 3 FOFONOV Dmitriy ASTANA PRO TEAM 4 DI GREGORIO Rémy COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 5 SARMIENTO José LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 6 LOSADA Alberto KATUSHA TEAM 7 NAVARRO Daniel TEAM SAXO BANK 8 MEDEREL Maxime SAUR-SOJASUN 9 BOUET Maxime AG2R LA MONDIALE + 00' 46" 10 PIRES Bruno TEAM SAXO BANK 11 MATE Luis Angel COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 12 GALLOPIN Tony RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 59" 13 NERZ Dominik LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 14 BAGOT Yoann COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE 15 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 16 KOREN Kristjan LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 17 MARTIN Daniel GARMIN-BARRACUDA 18 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM 19 SCHÄR Michael BMC RACING TEAM 20 VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM Overall Standings after Stage 5 1 WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING 18h 54' 23" 2 MARTIN Tony OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 38" 3 ROGERS Michael SKY PROCYCLING + 01' 20" 4 EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 01' 44" 5 KELDERMAN Wilco RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 01' 45" 6 FROOME Christopher SKY PROCYCLING + 01' 48" 7 SANCHEZ Luis-Leon RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM + 02' 02" 8 VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM + 02' 22" 9 BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM + 02' 47" 10 COPPEL Jérôme SAUR-SOJASUN + 02' 55"