By Gregor Brown
The strength of Sky's Chris Froome and Richie Porte was once again evident in the Critérium du Dauphiné yesterday. The two took control of the final run up Valmorel for Froome to win the stage and take the overall lead. It is a frightening omen for their rivals ahead of the Tour de France.
"Richie did a fantastic job today. He and Pete Kennaugh really controlled the final climb. They were holding me in position the whole day at the front of the peloton, bringing me to the climb in perfect condition," Froome said immediately afterwards in live TV.
"The objective wasn't to necessarily to go for the stage today, but after that work they did I feel it's the least I could do to get the victory for them because they really rode a fantastic race."
Porte guided Froome until the last kilometre. He kept at it when his former team-mate and multiple Grand Tour winner, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) broke free.
Froome kept cool and responded on his own five minutes later. He caught Contador, won the stage and the yellow jersey.
"My condition is improving every day that's the most important thing," Contador said in a press release. "I'm here to improve the condition and not to go too fast, because the real goal is the Tour de France."
Contador must be concerned, however. Before his doping ban last year, that attack would have distanced all of rivals to the point of no return. As evident yesterday and in stages like Tirreno-Adriatico's Prati di Tivo, El Pistolero is lacking bullets.
He must also consider that he is up against not one, but two Sky riders.
With his work, Porte moved into second overall yesterday. The result continues a strong season. Helping Froome win, he placed second in the Critérium International and eighth in the Tour of Romandy. Given his own chance, he won Paris-Nice.
Porte, much like Froome last year, appears ready to win the Tour de France if his leader should fail. Earlier this year, he told Cycling Weekly that he is another card to play in the Tour.
"Brad and Chris showed that you can work together and get one-two on the classification," Porte said. "As long I play the team card, and I'm there close to the podium... It's not a bad option to have a guy like me as another card to play."
The Tasmanian has come a long way since riding for Saxo Bank in 2010. He wore the pink jersey in that year's Giro d'Italia, where he finished seventh place and as best young rider. After signing with Sky, he took a step up. He helped Wiggins to the Tour win last year and this year, developed into a leader.
Porte plans to lead Sky in one of the Grand Tours next year, possibly the Giro d'Italia.
"I'm going to the Giro and try to win a Grand Tour. I'm still young, I'm still improving, mentally I'm fresh," Porte explained. "I still have a long career in front of me. I want to learn from Brad and Chris, and hopefully one day ride the Tour for myself."
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