American Andrew Talansky picked up the biggest victory of his career as he won the Criterium de Dauphine after an epic battle against Spanish double Tour de France winner Alberto Contador on Sunday.

The 25-year-old Garmin rider from Miami came home fourth on the eighth and final stage behind the day's winner Mikel Nieve of Spain, but crucially 1min 6sec ahead of Contador to snatch overall victory by just 27 seconds.

The riders covered three category climbs including a summit finish over 131.5km from Megeve to the ski resort of Courchevel.

Contador fought furiously to catch the American on the final climb and was within five seconds of regaining the virtual lead with less than 2km to run.

However at the front, Talansky proved too strong and had just enough in the tank to hold off Contador by a meagre 27secs.

Belgium's Jurgen Van den Broeck finished fifth on the stage, nine seconds behind Nieve, but enough for third place overall just 35secs behind Talansky.

“You put your life into something and make sacrifices for days like this,” said Talansky who broke down in tears when he realised he had won.

“Every bad moment, every crash, all the problems makes it all worth while for moments like this.

“It was a very hard start but (Ryder) Hesjedal went to the front and worked so hard to sacrifice for me and when we got in front, we saw the opportunity and we had to try,” continued Talansky.

When asked if he was now one of the favourites for the Tour de France, which begins in Leeds, England on July 5 and runs until July 27, he played down his chances.

“No, Im not a favourite, this is the Dauphine, the Tour de France is another race but I'll try”.

Britain's defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome struggled badly and came home over five minutes behind the leaders as he plunged down the standings and relinquished the title he won last year.

Nieve, who made it three stage wins for Sky over the eight day race, said the Kenyan-born Froome had failed to recover from his crash near the end of stage six on Friday.

“It was very, very hard today, Chris still hadn't recovered from his accident so I went for the stage win.” said the Spaniard.

“He really suffered after the crash and yesterday he still hadn't recovered and today wasn't better. I had an opportunity and went for it. – AFP