Alberto Contador has sent a psychological warning message to Chris Froome during the Criterium du Dauphine - just three weeks before their expected head-to-head battle in the Tour de France.
Even though American Andrew Talansky eventually reigned in the general, Contador proved during the final stage that he is currently on much better form than Froome, who ended more than five minutes behind stage winner Nieve after struggling on the Courchevel ascent.
The reigning Tour de France champion led the race for the first six stages but was overcome by the Spaniard on Friday after suffering a heavy crash – and finally dropped out from the top ten in the general due to his nightmare last stage.
The Dauphine is considered as the traditional warm-up for the Tour the France. Froome won the race last year before conquering Paris while Bradley Wiggins won in 2011 and 2012.
Froome believes his crash was responsible for his poor outing but hopes to be ready for the Tour de France.
"I've felt completely blocked up through my front of quads since the crash and I've not been able to engage the same types of muscles that I used in the earlier stages," he said.
"Contador shown he's in great form ahead of the Tour though, and we're definitely going to have a battle on our hands in July."
1. Andrew Talansky (US/ Garmin) 31:08:08"
2. Alberto Contador (Spa/Tinkoff - Saxo) +27 secs
3. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel/Lotto) +35 secs
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned/Belkin) +43 secs
5. Romain Bardet (Fra/AG2R) +1:20"
6. Adam Yates (GB/Orica) +2:05"
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita/Astana) +2:12"
8. Mikel Nieve (Spa/Team Sky) +2:59"
9. Daniel Navarro (Spa/Cofidis) +3:04"
10. Jakob Fuglsang (Den /Astana) +3:17"
12. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) + 5:05"