Chris Froome's back-to-back stage wins on the final two days of the Critérium du Dauphiné gave him overall victory for the second consecutive time, shortened his odds for a Tour de France victory in July and greatly boosted moral at Team Sky.
Froome turned an 18 second deficit to Tejay van Garderen (BMC) into a 10 second lead in Modane Valfréjus on the final stage, to add his name to the list of overall winners for a second time.
The 2013 Tour de France winner was pleased with his second stage win of the season, after taking victory the Ruta del Sol in February, but reiterated that his focus is fixed on July.
"The Dauphine was a big focus for me, but the Tour de France is the main objective. The team is ready, and I'm almost ready. There are a couple of things I need to work on but we're less than three weeks away now and I'm really looking forward to it," Froome said in a team statement.
Team Sky spent the majority of the final stage of Critérium du Dauphiné at the front of the peloton, controlling a 13-rider breakaway. At the base of the final climb for the day to Modane-Valfréjus, Froome had Wout Poels for company while van Garderen found himself without a teammate. It was advantage Froome and Team Sky, and when the attack was launched with 2.5 kilometres remaining, a fourth win in five years for the team it appeared inevitable.
"I can't believe it. I couldn't have expected it to go any better. My legs were really tired after and the whole team was suffering," Froome said immediately after his victory. "I don't know how they did it but everyone lifted themselves with the yellow and blue jersey in sight. They gave everything – Ian Stannard rode alone for almost 100km to control the breakaway and the rest of the team were fantastic up to that moment where I could attack and put pressure on Tejay," Froome said.
Building gradually for the Tour de France
Froome started his season with a stage win and overall success at the Ruta del Sol ahead of Alberto Contador but illness saw him miss Tirreno-Adriatico with the 30-year-old only finding his early-season form, with third overall at the Tour de Romandie, a month prior to the Dauphiné. However, he did not panic and focused on his training, completing a three-week block at altitude in May, as the foundation for his Tour de France form.
Froome is expected to stay in the French Alps to recover and check out several key stages in this year's Tour de France. He will then return to his base in Montecarlo to rest up for the Tour de France and spend time with his wife Michelle, who is expecting their first child in December.
“I’m going to switch off and rest up, I want to be fresh for the start of the Tour. I won’t train at altitude but I’ll definitely check out some important stages,” Gazzetta dello Sport reported Froome as saying.
“We’re going to have a baby in December. It’s a boy. It gives me extra motivation, it’ll push me to pedal harder. I felt it was the right moment and I’ve got the nice feeling that another important aspect of live is going in the right direction.”
The Tour de France has been described as a four-way battle between the so-called four tenors of Grand Tours: Froome, Contador, Nairo Quintana, and Vincenzo Nibali. However, Froome warns that the race route of this year’s race will play a massive factor in deciding the eventual winner.
“I don’t know how Contador and Quintana are going but they’ll be ready jut like Nibali will be,” Froome predicted. “He’s got the ability to always be at his best for the big races. However, until we start (the Tour), it’s difficult to say how’s everyone’s form really is. But it’s important to consider the route too. Look at the first part, until the first rest day. There’s the time trial, the coast on the Dutch coast, the Mur de Huy, cobbles, the Mur de Bretagne and the team time trial. Whoever survives and is well placed overall after nine stages can stake a claim for the yellow jersey.”