Talansky holds off Contador to win CriteriumMikel Nieve, of Spain, celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the last stage of the 66th Dauphine cycling race, in Courchevel, French Alps, Sunday, June 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
COURCHEVEL, France (AP) -- American rider Andrew Talansky was the surprise winner of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday as he held off two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador after a gripping finale on the eighth stage.
The 25-year-old Talansky was in tears after it was confirmed he had won the race, when Contador crossed the line more than a minute after him.
''You put your whole life into something,'' Talansky said. ''The sacrifices, the training, there are times you crash or you're sick, you miss your family and it's the moments like this that makes you forget all that. This is why we do this, for moments like this.
''It was a very hard start and we had Ryder Hesjedal on the front and I rode up to him. He sacrificed himself for me all day. We didn't know if it would work but it was the perfect opportunity and we had to try.''
Talansky was fourth on the day, nine seconds behind stage winner Mikel Nieve on the 131.5-kilometer (81.7-mile) trek from Megeve to Courchevel.
Nieve crossed the line in 3 hours, 20 minutes and 29 seconds, 3 seconds ahead of Romain Bardet. Adam Yates was a further two seconds behind in third.
Contador finished 27 seconds behind Talansky in the overall standings, with Jurgen Van den Broeck eight seconds further back in third.
Talansky had started the day in third place, 39 seconds behind Contador, who had an eight-second lead over defending champion Chris Froome.
Froome crossed the line more than five minutes behind Nieve, to finish the race 12th overall.
The Dauphine is regarded as the warm-up for the Tour de France, but Talansky - who finished 10th in the Tour last year - was quick to deny he is now a favorite for the prestigious race.
''I still wouldn't say that,'' he said. ''This is the Dauphine, the Tour is a different race, but I hope to have a great ride.''
Talansky was in a breakaway group which escaped on the Cote de Domancy, the first of four climbs on the stage.
Their lead stretched to more than three minutes before Froome and Contador led an attack from the peloton on the climb up the Col des Saisies
Contador made a solo attack on the penultimate climb up the Cote de Montagny and swiftly distanced himself from Froome, while slashing the gap on the leaders.
The Spaniard managed to cut Talansky's advantage to less than a minute but he had left it too late and a final burst from the Garmin Sharp cyclist on the ascent to the finish secured victory.