COL DU BEAL, France (AP) British rider Chris Froome showed he is in dominant form ahead of the Tour de France, beating main rival Alberto Contador to win the second stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Monday.
Froome accelerated with 800 meters (yards) remaining and managed to hold off two-time Tour de France champion Contador on the 158.5-kilometer (98.5 mile) leg from Tarare to Col du Beal.
Wilco Kelderman was third, four seconds behind the lead duo.
''I gave everything today,'' Froome said. ''In such a climb, it became a great battle with Alberto Contador. We rode flat out. It was really tough between the two of us. I've tried to attack him a couple of times but he was very strong.
''Everyone here is almost at the same level as at the Tour de France. Today it was our first duel with the two of us in form. I'm delighted to win in these circumstances.''
It was Froome's second successive victory in the eight-stage race, following his win in the opening time trial. He has a 12-second advantage over Contador and is 21 seconds ahead of Kelderman.
Froome won the Dauphine last year and went on to capture the Tour de France title a few weeks later.
Froome's Sky team set the pace at the head of the peloton for most of the route over the five categorized climbs and it caught the break up the final ascent on the Col du Beal, which is HC or ''Hors Categorie,'' meaning it's considered too hard to classify.
Froome attacked twice with 5 kilometers (3.11 miles) remaining, splitting the bunch, with a six-man lead group making its way to the finish. The 29-year-old then made another move inside the final kilometer and this time only Contador could stay with him.
Another Tour de France contender, Vincenzo Nibali, struggled in the final kilometers and finished sixth, 27 seconds behind Froome.
Tuesday's third stage is a 194-kilometer (120.55-mile) leg from Ambert to La Teil.