Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was the only rider in the Criterium du Dauphine field capable of riding away from the Sky 'team time trial' on the Col du Joux-Plane, attacking with five kilometres of the hors categorie climb still to contend with before mastering the descent and taking a solo win in the resort town of Morzine.
That’s what we’ve trained for. We’ve done particular things, we’ve trained as a group for a very long time, that’s what we’ve done in Tenerife: three or four guys riding uphill together like that
The 2010 Tour de l'Avenir winner bettered a host of seasoned climbers on the Joux-Plane, and further confirmed the talent that Movistar signed him for at the start of 2012.
"We’re very happy to bring Colombia back at the top of cycling," said Quintana. "With (king of the mountain José) Sarmiento, we’re two Colombians on the podium. We’re like brothers in arms. He helps me a lot. His presence in the breakaway worked as a point of reference for me."
Cadel Evans (BMC) finished second after bridging some of the gap to Quintana on the descent, putting in a gutsy show of defiance against the Sky armada.
"The tempo made by Team Sky climb after climb showed they’re a very strong team," said Evans. "Being alone in Joux-Plane made it difficult for me to attack. It was quite windy as well. In the descent, I attacked but I didn’t take risks.
"I didn’t know exactly how close I was from a possible stage win but I heard that Tony Martin had been dropped and I wanted to maintain my position on the podium. I didn’t have a lot to lose."
Evans gained eight seconds on yellow jersey holder Bradley Wiggins (Sky), but in a sign of just how strong and difficult it may prove to unseat the Briton at the Tour de France in July, Sky finished with four riders in the front group of only nine riders.
Richie Porte, Michael Rogers, and Chris Froome, were all present and accounted for, and none looked overly uncomfortable at the end of the Criterium du Dauphine's queen stage.
Along with Edvald Boasson Hagen who led for the first half of the Joux-Plane, Porte's tempo prevented any assaults on Wiggins lead, bar Quintana, who was allowed leeway being no threat overall. Wiggins was again full of praise for the team after the another superb showing.
"You might have seen on TV how strong Team Sky was, all I had to do was to hold my team-mates’ wheels. I have so much to thank them for again. They made my job easier for sure.
"That’s what we’ve trained for. We’ve done particular things, we’ve trained as a group for a very long time, that’s what we’ve done in Tenerife: three or four guys riding uphill together like that, so it was nice to be all up there today."
The one main challenge to Sky's dominance came from Jurgen Van den Broeck's Lotto-Belisol team, which came to the front at the bottom of the Joux-Plane with the intention of setting up the Belgian for the stage, or at the very least catapulting him further up the general classification.
But the Belgian never looked able, nor willing to make a move, with the pace set by Australian Porte stopping any push from the former Tour de France top 10 finisher.
The Porte show
With Froome, and Rogers still in reserve, it was Porte's tempo on the final eight kilometres of the Joux-Plane that decimated the select front group and further separated the contenders from the pretenders.
Among Porte's victims; Denis Menchov, Tony Martin, Vincenzo Nibali, Janez Brajkovic, Wilco Kelderman, Luis Leon Sanchez, Jerome Coppel, and Tejay van Garderen all struggled.
The Tasmanian put the disappointment of any under-performance in the 53.5km Stage 4 time trial behind him with a sterling show of force.
Sky and Wiggins now need only to negotiate the tricky, though not overly challenging final day, to claim the Briton's second straight Criterium du Dauphine title, which will be his third stage race win of 2012 should it happen.
"The Dauphiné isn’t over yet but we’ve done the hardest part," Wiggins said with caution. "It should be OK tomorrow but we never know. It’s too early to say that I’ve won."
Evans took some consolation by taking the points lead off Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) courtesy of second place on the stage, while the king of the mountains went to another Colombian, Jose Sarmiento (Liquigas-Cannondale).
The race for the white jersey (best young rider) will come down either Tejay van Garderen or Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank). The Dutchman holds a 25-second advantage, but conceded close to a minute to the American today.
Results: Stage 6: 167.5km, Morzine
1 Nairo Quintana (COL) Movistar 4hr 46min 12sec
2 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC +16
3 Daniel Moreno (ESP) Katusha +24
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky
5 Pieter Weening (NED) Orica-GreenEDGE
6 Christopher Froome (GBR) Sky
7 Vasil Kiriyenka (BLR) Movistar
8 Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) Lotto-Belisol
9 Michael Rogers (AUS) Sky
10 Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) RadioShack-Nissan
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBR) Sky 23hr 40min 59sec
2 Michael Rogers (AUS) Sky +1:20
3 Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC +1:36
4 Christopher Froome (GBR) +1:48
5 Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) +2:22
6 Vasil Kiriyenka (BLR) Movistar +2:58
7 Janez Brajkovic (SLO) Astana +3:07
8 Wilco Kelderman (NED) Rabobank +3:26
9 Richie Porte (AUS) Sky +3:44
10 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC +3:51