Criterium du Dauphine: Froome puts Contador to the sword in Vaujany

Today was the first real opportunity to leave everything out on the road, says new race leader

Standing at the summit finish at Vaujany you could almost sense the inevitable ending.

When it came, though, it was a breathlessly efficient and calculating dethroning of a race leader, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) crowned the new king in a Criterium du Dauphine that has already provided a number of twists and sub-plots.

Today's story started with Mikel Landa skipping away on the lower slopes of the final climb and acting as the carrot for Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff team to chase. In truth, only the metronomic pace of Roman Krueziger was up the task, with the Czech all-rounder stretching the GC riders as the road twisted and turned towards the sky.

Landa, looking back at every hairpin, would rise out the saddle each time Krueziger inched closer, thus wearing down Contador's last defences. Could the race leader not see his fate was already sealed?

As Landa toyed, Froome moved to the back of the group. It appeared that he was cracking but when Krueziger raised the pace he was only playing into Team Sky's hands.

When Dan Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) surged clear Contador, Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) were the only ones who followed. Froome, meanwhile, just moved to the front of the remaining pack and kept the tempo at a steadier pace.

The group reformed, Krueziger a spent force, and Froome, seeing Contador was on the ropes after his previous acceleration, sensed it was time to move.

He drew his key rival to the side of the road, enticing Contador and Porte onto his wheel. The attack was coming, every journalist waiting at the summit could see it coming.

At the post-stage press conference Froome, now in yellow after wining the stage and distancing Contador, played down whether he had bluffed on the climb.

"That's…" he said with a laugh, "maybe I was in difficulty there on the climb early on. Who knows? I was riding at the pace that I felt was best. It gives me confidence winning a stage like that but we’ve still got a month to go to the Tour."

"Today being the first real uphill finish, it was the first real opportunity to leave everything out on the road and see where everyone is in terms of condition."

Earlier in the press conference Froome stressed that the race was far from over and that he, Porte, who sits at seven seconds, and Contador were still all capable of winning the overall. Having lost 13 seconds to Contador in the opening prologue, though, Froome has been twitching with desire to re-write the script and he duly paid the Spaniard back at the first true summit finish of this year's race.

"It's a really nice feeling to be back in yellow and to win a stage like that. Tomorrow is another hard day but in terms of the Tour we've still got some time before the Tour. As I've said the last few days, I'm happy with how I’m feeling.

"Alberto's obviously in great shape. He was a bit off the pace today but if I've learnt anything about racing against Alberto it's that he comes back stronger after he's had an off-day.

"We saw in the prologue that he's incredibly strong and he won that quite convincingly."

One mountain stage into the race and it is Froome who has delivered his most convincing ride of the season to date.

 

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