Chris Froome (Sky) claimed victory on the penultimate day of the Critérium du Dauphiné at Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc although he was stripped of his prize money (€4,000) and fined a further 200 Swiss Francs after he decided to skip the post-stage press conference.
The stage winner and overall leader are obliged to attend press conferences at WorldTour races, though exceptions can be made in the event of injury, such as in the days immediately after Alberto Contador injured his shoulder in a crash at the Giro d’Italia last month.
The win was just Froome’s third of the season (he claimed a stage and the overall at the Ruta del Sol in February) and his first at WorldTour level since he won the opening two stages of last year’s Dauphiné.
Team Sky team seized control of the peloton in the final 50 kilometres of Saturday’s stage, with Philip Deignan, Peter Kennaugh, Ian Boswell and Wout Poels whittling down the group of favourites before Froome attacked with a little over 3.5 kilometres remaining. Only Tejay van Garderen (BMC) could follow and the pair worked together until Froome forged clear alone with 1,500 metres remaining to win the stage by 17 seconds.
Although Froome declined to face in-depth questions from the written press, he did speak briefly outside his team bus following complaints from journalists to his Sky team. “The guys rode out of their skin and buried themselves to make it as hard as possible. On the back of yesterday’s stage – which had a lot of the main contenders in the break – it made sense to do that. That’s one of the beauties of stage racing, you can’t give everything one day and then expect to back it up the next,” Froome said, according to his team website.
Other overall contenders, including Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) all conceded ground on Saturday, and Froome now lies second overall, 18 seconds down on van Garderen, as the Dauphiné faces into its final stage and another summit finish at Modane Valfréjus.
“Tejay has ridden a really good race and BMC did a really good time trial on Tuesday which put almost 30 seconds into us,” Froome said. “I still have a bit to make up on him. It’s not an easy stage tomorrow and the race isn’t over until it’s over. We’ll keep fighting all the way ‘til the end.”
Froome struck an optimistic note, too, about his condition ahead of next month’s Tour de France. “I’ve still got some work to do, and I’m not at my best yet, but being able to ride a stage like that shows I’m not far off and I’m really happy.”