Nacer Bouhanni won a sprint finish on the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, as Alberto Contador held onto the leader's yellow jersey.

The Cofidis sprinter beat Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal) into second with Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon18) third at the end of the 186km stage from Cluses to Saint-Vulbas.

It was Bouhanni's eighth victory of the season, which he dedicated to boxer Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday following a long battle with Parkinson's disease.

Bouhanni boxed as a child and claimed another American former heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson, was his idol.

“It was Cofidis' objective to get a stage win at the Dauphiné," Bouhanni said. "Showing my fist on the finishing line was a tribute to Mohammad Ali.

"I had told (team-mate) Cyril Lemoine that I'd do so if I managed to win a stage. He meant a lot to me. He was a true legend. In the finale, we were very close to each other, (Christophe) Laporte and (Jacopo) Guarnieri, (Alexander) Kristoff and I too, but Sam Bennett made his effort, I passed him in the last 100 metres and I resisted.

"After I resumed racing at the Four Days of Dunkirk, I rode at 70 per cent of my capacities in May. I'm particularly motivated by World Tour races like the Dauphiné and the Tour de France. This is my eighth win this year, my fourth in the World Tour. I'll do my best again tomorrow to get another stage win.”

A two-man breakaway comprised of Australian Mitch Docker (Orica-GreenEdge) and Frederik Backaert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) had spent a long time out in front but were reeled in 13km from the finish of a largely flat stage.

"The team asked me to attack today. I directly managed to get a gap on my first attempt", Backaert said.

"We need to show us every day. Today, we were three riders appointed to be part of a breakaway, Frederik Veuchelen, Dimitri Claeys and me.

"It would have been better with more riders because it was tiring."

Tuesday 7 Jun 2016