Despite losing ground to Alberto Contador and Chris Froome in the final two kilometres of Saturday's penultimate stage to Finhaut-Emosson, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has declared himself pleased with his condition as the Critérium du Dauphiné draws to a close.
Nibali was in the elite yellow jersey that formed on the final climb, but was unable to follow Contador when he jumped away in the finale, and he would also lose contact with Froome when he accelerated inside the final kilometre.
The Sicilian finished the stage 38 seconds down on Contador and 19 seconds behind Froome and lies in 6th place overall, 1:16 down on Contador, ahead of the final stage to Courchevel.
"My head told me to follow Contador but my legs didn’t allow it," Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport, but added that he felt his condition had improved from Monday’s summit finish on the Col du Béal.
"I have to say that I definitely feel a lot better compared to the summit finish on Monday. This stage was even more difficult, and faster. I stayed with Froome until his final acceleration, 800 metres from the finish."
Nibali is without a victory so far in a campaign that he has built exclusively around the Tour de France, and he is optimistic that he can find his best form in time to compete for the podium with Froome and Contador at La Grande Boucle, which gets underway on July 5.
"The best riders in the world are here, the differences haven’t been excessive and there are still 20 days until the start of the Tour, while it’s a month until the decisive stages," said Nibali.
Indeed, two years ago, Nibali could only manage 28th overall at the Dauphiné but then recovered sufficiently to place third at the Tour de France. "Alberto and Froome are really strong and I’m definitely missing something, but I’m confident I can find it in the time I have left," he said.
Nibali also paid tribute to the performance of Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), who came past Froome in the finishing straight and climbed into third place overall ahead of the final stage.
"There are other riders, like Talansky, who are going very well. We’ll have to see how he goes over three weeks, but he’s young and on the way up."