Alberto Contador put Chris Froome‘s lead to the test today in France’s Critérium du Dauphiné with an unexpected attack on a descent. He said that he wanted to try to rattle Team Sky ahead of the big weekend stages to come.
“I didn’t think to attack, not at all and not because I saw a weakness in team Sky,” Tinkoff-Saxo’s Spaniard said. “I went because it was hard day for everyone. I tried to shake things up.”
The race in the country’s southeast travelled through the Alps where Contador rode towards two Tour de France wins. Today, he followed his team-mate Sergio Paulinho on the descent of the Col de la Morte with more than 25 kilometres to race and worked to gain a 1-20-minute advantage on Froome, effectively taking over the lead by more than one minute.
“I knew that it’d be difficult to arrive to the finish line, but I thought that if I could get to the head of the race, to Simon Spilak, then maybe I’d have a chance,” Contador said. “When I saw I couldn’t do it, at that point [with 17km to race], I eased up.”
Froome did not respond immediately but turned to his team-mates Richie Porte and Mikel Nieve. Porte lifted the pace on the final Côte de Laffrey climb until Contador had no choice but to surrender to Froome.
“I said to my guys that we’ll take the descent at a reasonable pace, some of the tarmac is melting, he could probably pick up that we weren’t going to go all out and he pushed the limits,” Froome said.
“You can read his attack in two ways: he’s not so confident with the weekend to come – with the queen stage on Saturday – or he’s very confident. That’s one thing I respect about him, he’s not afraid to take the race on, not on the climbs or on the descent.”
Froome leads the race with 12 seconds on Contador and third-placed Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) with three days remaining: one relatively easy stage tomorrow and two mountain-top finish stages this weekend. He made those gains in the first day’s time trial in Lyon and the following day up the Col du Béal.
“The biggest days are to come, but on the two important days so far, Froome has already showed to be stronger than me,” Contador added. “However, my true goal, the Tour de France, is still 22 days away.”
Images from the fifth stage of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine won by Simon Spilak, by Graham Watson
The Slovenian solos to victory in La Mure a day after Yury Trofimov won in Gap; Alberto Contador fails to