Europcar duo thwarted by Sky
Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland, both present in the day's main break, could not do anything to defy the force of Team Sky in the sixth stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Saturday.
The 167.5-kilometre stage from Saint-Alban-Leysse to Morzine was billed as the race's queen stage, featuring six climbs including the Category One Col de la Colombiere and the infamously steep HC ascent of the Col de Joux Plane.
Both Voeckler (pictured) and Rolland were keen to make a mark as Team Europcar bid to pick up a win after a hard week in the saddle. Both riders rode on the front of the race following the descent of the Col du Plainpalais, after 13 highly explosive early kilometres, until the race's tough finale inside the closing 20km on the brutal ascent of the Col de Joux Plane.
But the destructive pace set on the front of the peloton by Team Sky (who had three riders in the top four of the GC) saw the break reeled in, with first Voeckler and then Rolland succumbing to the inevitable after what was nevertheless a promising ride ahead of the forthcoming Tour de France.
Colombian youngster Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was the only rider capable of riding clear of the Team Sky train on the front of the streamlined peloton, and the 22-year-old managed to plunge down the twisting road into Morzine ahead of his pursuers to take the biggest win of his career.
Australia's Cadel Evans (BMC) broke clear on the descent and took second place, 16 seconds back, while Spain's Dani Moreno (Katusha) took third ahead of the yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), 24 seconds behind the winner.
Rolland crossed the line in 17th place, 2:08 down on Quintana, while Voeckler finished much further back (66th position at 10:36) alongside Giovanni Bernaudeau after both men had worked hard to pace Rolland up the precipitous slopes of the Joux Plane.
The work was all in vain – but Team Europcar would have learned some valuable lessons ahead of the Tour, which starts in Liege on 30th June. Voeckler may have plummeted down the overall standings to 45th place but he will be satisfied about the strong collective working ethic of his Europcar team-mates.
Sunday's final 124.5km stage seven from Morzine to Chatel features five categorised climbs including the Cat.1 Col du Corbier and will no doubt see Team Europcar back on the offensive.