Froome: I'm going to improve before Tour de France

Criterium du Dauphine leader unsurprised by Contador's attacks

Chris Froome (Team Sky) withstood everything his rivals were able to throw at him on stage 6 of the Criterium du Dauphine, and even managed to extend his lead with a late attack at Meribel.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) won the stage in a two-up sprint with Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondaile) but the stage was marked by a volley of attacks led by Alberto Contador and his Tinkoff teammates, after the Spaniard lost his race lead on the previous day.

Contador sent teammates up the road in the early break and then attacked on the Col de la Madeleine with over 70 kilometres remaining. He was joined by several climbers but Froome's Sky train reeled the move in by the time they reached the summit.

On the final climb Wout Peols, Mikel Landa and Sergio Henao protected Froome and limited Bardet's advantage after the French rider moved into the virtual race lead.

Froome followed a move from Dan Martin in the final kilometer, with Contador and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) unable to follow. At the line Froome put a handful of seconds into both riders, and with one stage remaining he holds a 21 second over both Porte and Bardet.

In his post-stage press conference Froome was asked if he was surprised about Contador's tactics.

"It wasn't a surprise for me. We discussed it as a team in the morning and we thought chances are, he's most probably going to attack on the Madeleine, being the longest climb of the day. It's not something new for Alberto to try a long attack like this - something to surprise everyone - so we were ready for it and I think my teammates responded extremely well to it from the beginning of the stage right until the end of the stage. I had my teammates with me and the only reason I'm still in yellow is because of the hard work they did. I'm extremely grateful for that."

Poels in particular was exceptional and kept the break at a reasonable distance before Landa and then Henao ensured that Froome would remain in yellow. The defending champion had no problems seeing off Porte and Contador once more, with only Dan Martin able to go with him.

According to Froome one of the main challenges during the stage came down to the accuracy of the time gaps they were given to Bardet. The Frenchman started the final climb with a near three-minute and moved into third overall at the finish.

"There was a bit of confusion on the road with the time gaps. One stage I think it was just under two minutes and then 5kms later we were told it was just over three minutes so there was a bit of confusion on the road. There was definitely concern. It seemed at one point we wouldn't bring the time gaps down to be able to catch Bardet and he was obviously the big GC threat in front and with three minutes coming into the last climb, we had a lot of work to do to reduce that time advantage. I can only thank my teammates: Mikel Landa, Sergio Henao, they did a great a job in the final but all my teammates did a fantastic job today."

Froome has certainly looked the strongest rider in the last two-days, although Martin was certainly able to make an impression too.

The defending Tour champion, however, stressed that he still has some work to do before he reaches his best form. Ominously for his rivals is the fact that when he has won the Dauphine - 2013 and 2015 – he has gone onto win the Tour de France.

"I still believe I can get better before the Tour. I feel as I'm still following a progression towards being ready for July. I still don't feel 100 per cent yet. I hope I can get better."

"You can't put a number on it. I just don't feel as if I'm at my best yet."

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