Froome and Nibali set for Critérium du Dauphiné face-off

Two of the main Tour de France contenders will take the start line on June 7, while Nairo Quintana has committed to the Tour of Switzerland

Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali, winners of the Tour de France in 2013 and 2014, will come up against each other at this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné.

Race organisers ASO have confirmed that seven of last year’s Tour top ten will be making an appearance, including Alejandro Valverde, 2014’s fourth-placed finisher and currently top-ranked rider in the UCI WorldTour standings.

The teams will be keeping a keen eye on stage five in particular, featuring 161km from Dignes-les-Bains to Pra Loup (with a summit finish) which will be replicated in stage 17 of the Tour.

But most viewers’ attention in the 67th edition of this historic event will be on the form of Froome and Nibali.

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The Briton held the lead for much of the race last year after following up victory in the opening time trial with another win in stage two after a gruelling mountain duel with Alberto Contador.

But a crash on stage six cost Froome the race lead to the Spaniard the following day, before American Andrew Talansky overhauled both in a thrilling final stage to take the overall honours.

Chris Froome crashes on stage six of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine

Chris Froome crashes on stage six of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine (Photo: Gregor Brown)

Nibali, on the other hand, was never in contention and finished seventh, before a stunning return to form at the Tour de France saw him take the yellow jersey on stage two on his way to overall victory.

The Italian has had an underwhelming start to 2015 too, with his only GC top ten coming at the Tour de Romandie, where Froome finished more than a minute ahead of him in third.

Nairo Quintana, who also beat Nibali at the Tour de Romandie, will not be on the start line in France, the Colombian having opted to ride the Tour of Switzerland instead.

However, Pierre Rolland, Tejay van Garderen and Joaquim Rodriguez will be at the Dauphiné, as will Froome’s fellow Britons Alex Dowsett, Simon Yates and Sky teammate Ian Stannard.

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