Chris Froome (Team Sky) says that despite not hitting the imperious form he had in 2013, his build-up to the Tour de France has left him feeling confident ahead of his campaign to take a second Tour title.
And that confidence seems well founded after taking two consecutive stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné and ousting Tejay van Garderen (BMC) from the top spot overall on the final day in a masterclass of climbing.
"I definitely feel that I had a bit slower build-up to the Tour this year, I don't think that's a bad thing," Froome said after the eighth and final stage of the Dauphiné.
"I'm exactly where I need to be for this moment in time. We have under three weeks to the Tour now; I still have one or two little things to touch on in term of preparation. Things are looking good."
The Brit took a stage win and held the leader's jersey for a short time in the 2014 Dauphiné, but looked nowhere near the form he had showed when he won the race in 2013 as he lost contact with rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) before Garmin-Sharp's Andrew Talansky snuck in to take the overall win.
It meant Froome entered the Tour with more of a question mark over his form than many had expected, and eventually crashed out in the wet on stage five.
Froome had taken victory in the Tour de Romandie that year before seemingly losing form, but has switched it around this year, something he says shows better progress in the right direction.
"I knew I still had time to get myself right coming into the Tour de Romandie," Froome said, "getting on the podium in third place was a good sign.
"Then coming to the Dauphine, with the overall and two stages wins on two summit finishes, that really shows that sense of progression in the right direction."
As for his rivals, the 2013 Tour winner refused to rule out defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) out of contention after looking well of the pace for all but one stage of the Dauphiné, while he says Contador will still be a main contender despite entering the race as a somewhat unknown quantity following a successful ride at the Giro d'Italia last month.
Contador will next appear at the Route du Sud on Thursday, where other Tour favourite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will make his first race appearance since the Tour de Romandie in May.
"I don't know where Alberto is. I haven't raced against him for a few months now," added Froome.
"We saw that he was really strong in the Giro this year. I expect him to go into the Tour as one of the main contenders, one of the rivals to beat.
"Vincenzo, you can't write him off on his performance here. He was in the yellow jersey a few days ago.
Every year he manages to lift his performance when it comes to the Tour. Every rider is on a different journey to get to the Tour de France. You'll have to ask Vincenzo how he's feeling. I have no doubt he'll be at his best come July."
Mark Cavendish on the Tour de France
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