Chris Froome says he is "feeling better and better" the more race days he gets under his belt but errs on the side of caution as to whether he expects to be in Ineos' Tour de France team next week.
"I'm just going to take it one day at a time at the moment, do everything I can and see where we are in a week's time," Froome said after the finish of stage two of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"I feel as if I'm getting better and better and being at the pointy end of the race today. I wasn't able to do a huge amount for the guys today but at least being there in the final, that all adds up to the preparation and intensity towards the Tour."
The 35-year-old says he already feels an improvement from the Route d'Occitanie, which he hopes will continue throughout the week, reminding everyone he has had significantly less race days than his rivals over the past 12 months, and that he is here to ride for Egan Bernal, who finds himself fourth on GC, 16 seconds back on race leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma).
"If I look back, I've only had a handful of days racing...I mean everyone's light on race days but I've got six months less than everyone else in that respect having been out for the rest of the season last year," Froome added.
"But I'm definitely feeling better and better as the race goes on. I already feel an improvement from Occitanie, Tour de l'Ain, but yeah the whole team is here to help Egan [Bernal], he's in great shape at the moment and we're fully behind him."
Jumbo-Visma have dominated post-lockdown racing, with Wout van Aert taking Strade Bianche and Milan - San Remo before also winning stage one of the Dauphiné, while Roglič won the Tour de l'Ain before moving himself into the Dauphiné GC lead with his stage two victory.
"I don't know what their preparation has looked like," Froome said as a huge thunderclap interrupts overhead after being asked about the threat Jumbo-Visma will provide at this year's Tour. "I don't know if they're 100 per cent or whether they're still in their build-up to the Tour but they're looking very impressive.
"Roglič was looking brilliant in the Tour de l'Ain and he's on the money here as well."
While Jumbo-Visma are in the ascendancy, the road back for Froome still looks a long one, but even the more barbed questions of whether he expects more from himself at this point are met with the usual unwavering politeness.
"No. If I look at where I've come from it's been an incredible journey over the last year, this is obviously the race where I crashed out last year with multiple fractures, so I think just to be in the position I am now I can take a lot of confidence out of that."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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