Kern and Reza give it a go
Christophe Kern found his legs on Friday during the Critérium du Dauphiné's first day in the high mountains.
Two days after picking up a knock on his knee, Kern attacked after an effort from Europcar team-mate Kevin Reza but both riders were not rewarded for their efforts.
Team Europcar did not hold back as the race entered the Alps for the mountainous 186.5km stage five from Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans. Reza waited for the right moment before jumping clear of the peloton in the day's decisive break.
Pierre Rolland had already tried his luck in a thwarted break inside the first 40 kilometres but his group was swiftly reeled in by the pack. Reza's break lasted longer – much to the pleasure of delighted directeur sportif Ismael Mottier.
"We had planned to get a rider in the break that stuck but there was a collective desire from all the other teams to bring the race back together which meant it was a real battle," he said. "The route today allowed for a break to stick and we did out best to make something happen."
Alongside nine other escapees, the rider from Guadaloupe broke clear following the first of three climbs, the Cat.2 Cote de Corlier, after 57km. The ten leaders built up an advantage of five minutes but Reza soon suffered for his efforts and was dropped then swept up by the peloton.
Kern then made a counter-attack in a bid to latch on to a group of riders chasing down the leaders. The French national time trial champion showed no signs of being in discomfort following the knee injury he picked up on Wednesday – and despite claiming after Thursday's ITT that he was not at 100 per cent, Kern still managed to put on a decent show.
And an impressive show it was: first Kern caught the chasing group and then he passed them as he continued his bid to close the gap on the leaders.
But his efforts were in vain. The brutal climb of the Grand Colombier took its toll and, like Reza before him, Kern faltered. First Kern was caught by a chasing group including both Cadel Evans (BMC) and Team Europcar's young Italian Davide Malacarne; then the Frenchman was caught by the peloton containing the British race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), who in turn caught the Evans chasing group.
But Team Sky's hard work on the front of a streamlined peloton was not enough to reel in the leaders, and young Frenchman Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat) took the win after an attack inside the closing 5km. Vichot held on to cross the finish line in Rumilly 26 seconds ahead of Spain's Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), with the Kazakh Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana) taking third.
Thomas Voeckler, Cyril Gautier, Rolland and Malacarne all finished with the yellow jersey group one minute down on the stage winner. Wiggins retains a 38-second lead in the GC over Germany's Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) ahead of Saturday's second day in the Alps.
Voeckler is 28th in the GC, 6:20 down on Wiggins, while Rolland dropped to 38th position after being penalised two minutes for riding in the wake of Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) during the Thursday's time trial.
Giovanni Bernaudeau's second stint in the polka dot jersey came to an end after the Frenchman struggled on the climbs and conceded his king of the mountains jersey to Jose Sarmiento of Liquigas.
Saturday's stage 6 from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine promises to be a spectacle and features six climbs including two monsters: the brutal Cat.1 Col de la Colombiere and the infamously steep HC ascent of the Col de Joux Plane.
"Tomorrow will be a bit like today only just more difficult. We will have to ride collectively in a bid to force our way into the break and to try out luck again and again," said Mottier.