Chris Froome (Team Sky) may have taken first blood in the opening time trail at the Criterium du Dauphine but Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) talked a positive game after finishing second, eight seconds down on the British rider in Lyon.
The pair were last to set off on the 10.4 kilometre test, with Froome the last man to roll down the start ramp as the defending champion. During the day a headwind had picked up and it looked as though Bob Jungles (Trek Factory Racing) would run away with a surprise victory. However Froome and Contador had other ideas.
Although Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was fastest at the first time check atop the mid-stage climb, Froome and Contador could only be separated by a second after 4.4km of action.
After the descent of the final climb, Froome pulled out another seven seconds, as the headwind was at its strongest. On the line Nibali had faded to eighth at 13 seconds – a more than respectable time given that the majority of riders in the early part of the stage had ridden in kinder conditions.
Contador had briefly made his way to the podium after he finally knocked Jungles off the hot seat but he had barely made his way there before Froome scorched through to take the race lead and his second individual time trial of the season.
“It’s okay. For me the last part was very hard with a very strong headwind,” Contador told reports at blustery finish line in the centre of Lyon.
“I put in a small test on the climb and the feelings were good and I’m happy. You had to pay attention and not take risks on the descent of the climb because there was oil in the road but overall I feel good and I’m happy with the results.”
Contador’s time trial has certainly improved this year although he’s still not quite the force against the clock he was back 2009. Still, he believes that Lyon – the only time trial in this year’s Dauphine – will give him confidence in his battle against both Froome and the other contenders for this year’s Dauphine and Tour de France.
“My beliefs grow day by day. Yesterday in the press conference I said that this race was important ahead of the Tour and it was important to show good condition. I’m not changing my mind on what was said then. I’m happy that I near the front of the race and I’m where I want to be in ahead of the Tour