Canadian David Veilleux broke away to score the biggest victory of his career on the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine as Team Sky's Chris Froome led home the general classification contenders in Champery.

Europcar rider Veilleux was part of an early breakaway on the short but challenging 120km opening stage through the Swiss Alps.

He was joined by Jean-Marc Bideau, Thomas Damuseau and Richardo Garcia Ambroa in leaving the peloton behind on the first of the day's climbs as they built up a lead of nine minutes, and then made his solo break on the category 1 Col du Corbier 45 kilometres from the finish.

He would race clear to win by one minute 57 seconds as Damuseau and Garcia were swept up by a Team Sky-led peloton.

Geraint Thomas paced his team-mates up the final climb before moving aside for Richie Porte and Froome, who came home fourth and fifth after Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Gianni Meersman leapt from the pack to take second in a sprint finish from Blanco's Tom Slagter.

Froome, now free of any distractions following Bradley Wiggins' withdrawal from the Tour de France, is among several Tour contenders looking to make their mark in this final major warm-up event, with Team Saxo-Tinkoff's Alberto Contador and Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez following him over the line in the pack.

However, Garmin Sharp's Andrew Talanski struggled on the penultimate climb and finished eight minutes 16 seconds behind Veilleux to lose more than six minutes on his rivals, while there was even more woe for Vacansoleil's Thomas De Gendt, who finished 14 minutes down.

With no bonus seconds on offer Veilleux will start tomorrow's hilly 191km run from Chatel to Oyonnax with his 1min 57sec advantage and defending both the King of the Mountains and points jerseys in addition to the overall lead.