Chris Froome won the Critérium du Dauphiné, but how have the other Tour de France favourites performed in the build up to the big race?
The omens are good – every time Froome has won the Dauphiné he has gone on to win the Tour de France the following month and he certainly looks in the kind of shape to do it again.
Third in the mountain prologue was a solid start and in the later mountains he looked one of the most at ease. A stage win in Vaujany gave him the race lead, which he maintained until the end with relative ease.
A few attacks on the climbs let his opponents know exactly where he is in his preparations ahead of the Tour and he’ll only get fitter in the next three weeks before the Grand Départ.
In the prologue it looked as if Alberto Contador would be unstoppable in the mountains of the Dauphiné. Many thought Froome’s time of 12 minutes would be unbeatable, but Contador smashed it by a good 13 seconds in an incredible ride.
But from there the Spaniard never really looked at the top of his game, struggling to keep up with Froome on stage two and dropping more time on the stage to Vaujany to relinquish the race lead.
He took the game to Froome on the following stage, attacking halfway through the stage on the climb of the Col de la Madeleine, but ended up losing a further eight seconds to the Brit.
Contador attacked once more on the final stage, but could do nothing to shake off his rivals. He lit up the race in a time of defensive racing, but his nearest opponents had his number almost all week.
Richie Porte got one over on his former Sky teammate Froome on the prologue, beating his time by six seconds and was one of the few to keep up with his mate over the other seven stages.
On the climb to Vaujany, Porte stuck to Froome’s wheel when the latter attacked in the final kilometre, taking the Brit all the way to the line in a friendly game of cat and mouse.
His week ended on a bad note, though, getting bumped off the podium by Romain Bardet and Dan Martin when he found himself boxed in by Sky riders in the final kilometre to Superdevoluy.
He’s definitely a threat for the Tour de France, but incidences of losing time on innocuous stages – like he did on stage four – could hamper his plans.
It was an odd week for Fabio Aru, who didn’t go into the race expecting to be mixing it with the big boys in the general classification.
He pulled his usual faces on the prologue, only to finish 1-08 down on Contador and was off the pace on the next two stages as well.
Then came his moment of glory, taking a sensational win on stage three to Tournon, breaking the hearts of the sprinters by staying away on a late attack to win by just two seconds.
But it was back to business for the remaining stages, finishing well down in all three of the mountain stages to finish 45th overall.
Aru had been out of action since the Amstel Gold Race, so knew he wouldn’t be challenging for yellow, but will he be back to his best in time for the Tour?
Thibaut Pinot endured a similar week to Aru, although Pinot’s was more of a surprise given his form over the first five months of the season.
The Frenchman had finished in the top five in each of the six stage races he had entered, including second in Romandie and fourth in the Basque Country.
But at the Dauphiné, Pinot didn’t show any of that form outside of his stage win in Meribel on stage six. Of course, like every other contender he isn’t peaking for this race, but it was a bit of a surprise to see him dropping time in the mountains like he did on stages five and seven.
Romain Bardet had a great battle to finish second in the general classification at the Dauphiné, one of them with one of his own teammates.
Having finished seventh in the prologue, Bardet then crashed with one of his Ag2r colleagues on the climb to the finish on stage three and lost 45 seconds.
From there, though, Bardet clawed his way back up the leaderboard, finishing second to Pinot in Meribel to make up a minute on the leaders and into third place overall.
Then he followed Martin’s attack on the final climb of the race to snatch second place from Porte to seal what was a successful race for him and his team.
Bardet looked strong in the mountains and seemed always able to follow the attacks from the bigger name riders. A Tour de France win is unlikely, but there’s no reason why he can’t get in the top five based on his performace at the Dauphiné.
Tejay van Garderen
Riding the Tour de Suisse (June 11-19)
Riding the Tour de Suisse (June 11-19)
Riding the Route du Sud (June 16-19)