Despite being beaten into third place on the stage by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and former teammate Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Chris Froome (Team Sky) says he is happy with his form following the opening stage prologue of the 2016 Critérium du Dauphiné.
The severe 4km uphill time trial, featuring gradients of 25 per cent, was Froome’s first race outing since the Tour de Romandie at the end of April and he finished 13 seconds down on the Spaniard and seven seconds down on the Australian.
However the 31-year-old, who won the Dauphiné in 2013 and 2015 and has recently been training at altitude on Tenerife, told reporters in the cold air at the top of the steep valley outside the ski resort of Les Gets that he was pleased with how he felt.
“I’m happy with the numbers I could see on the bike and just the feelings on the bike, it feels good, it feels like I’m in good shape now,” he said after warming down and composing himself with a brief spin up the steep gravel road that continued up the mountain.
“I’ve still got some work to do for sure but I’m happy with where I’m at given that we’re a month out from the Tour.”
Watch: Highlights from the Critérium du Dauphiné prologue
Froome, who is targeting a third Tour de France title before turning his attentions to the Olympic Games road race and time trial in August, added that his 2016 training schedule differed to previous years in order to allow him to hit peak form later than usual.
The Colombian won overall in Romandie this year but is absent from the Critérium du Dauphiné in favour of building up to the Tour at the five stage Route du Sud in the south of France (June 16-19).
“It’s been good,” Froome said. “[It has been] very different to last year, a slower approach and I’m hoping that will bring me into the third week of the Tour in better shape than I have got to in previous years. I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.”
Froome is racing in France with a very strong team jam-packed full of likely Tour de France teammates including Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Wout Poels.
Team Sky have won four of the last five editions of the Critérium du Dauphiné with Sir Bradley Wiggins (2011 and 2012) and Froome (2013 and 2015), and both Froome and Rowe explained that they would be aiming to make it a fifth win this week.
“It’s no secret is it, we’ve won it four of the last five years so we’ve come with a strong team,” Rowe said.
“There are plenty of really good GC guys and strong teams here so we’ll take it on and try to win the race.”