Chris Froome put himself and his Sky team-mates to the test in today’s Critérium du Dauphiné stage. After they left him, he went head to head with Alberto Contador and won the Col du Béal stage to protect the yellow jersey.
“They did a really big job,” Froome said. “Looking at the group of guys here, I imagine a good few of them will go on to the Tour de France.”
Froome mentioned the early work of Vasil Kiryienka, Xabier Zandio and Danny Pate, and the finishing touches by Geraint Thomas and Mikel Nieve.
Richie Porte, who was Froome’s wingman last year, faded from the main group with David López around 8.1 kilometres remaining.
“Richie didn’t have a good day today with the heat. It just wasn’t his day,” Froome said. “But I have a lot of confidence in him for the Tour. He’s definitely coming back up. He’s been giving me a hard time in training. I know he’s on his way up.”
Porte was due to lead Sky’s Giro d’Italia team and have a chance to win a grand tour on his own this season. Sky, however, took him off the Giro roster after he missed Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya because he was suffering with gastroenteritis.
Nieve was Froome’s last foot soldier in black and blue. His jersey was white and salt-crusted when he pulled off with five kilometres left of the 13.6-kilometre climb. Froome accelerated hard two or three times. He dropped everyone, but Contador. However, he kept the pace up and his rival behind him until the line.
Froome not only protected his leader’s yellow jersey, but he put more time into his other rivals. Contador sits at 12 seconds, Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) at 21 and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) at 33.
“By the looks of it, [Contador is] shaping up to be my biggest rival at the moment,” explained Froome, “for both [the Dauphine and Tour].”
Froome did not talk about the controversy brewing around him and Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins will race the Tour de Suisse next week, but explained that he does not think the team will select him to race alongside Froome at the Tour de France.
Already, Sky protected its yellow jersey in a hot and demanding mountain stage today. It faces six more days. If the seven men around Froome help him carry the jersey to the end, then it puts them in good position to represent team Sky the Tour de France next month.
“Will it prove the team is Tour ready? It’s hard to say. I really do get a good feeling for my team-mates around me that everyone’s reaching their top levels. It’s a test for everyone.”
Chris Froome takes second consecutive Criterium du Dauphine stage win in a mountain showdown with Alberto Contador
Images from the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, won by Chris Froome. Photos by Graham Watson