Chris Froome (Team Sky) opened his Criterium du Dauphine with third place in the 3.9-kilometre uphill time trial in Les Gets, finishing 13 seconds down on winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and seven seconds adrift of his former teammate, Richie Porte (BMC Racing), who finished second.
The Team Sky captain had been among the early pacesetters and led for the majority of the stage before being nudged out of the hot seat by two of his potential Tour de France rivals.
There is often very little to learn from an opening prologue, but the 3.9-kilometre test certainly offered a glimpse into the form of a number of Tour de France contenders. Froome stated, even before Contador and Porte had started their efforts, that he was content with his ride but that there was still more to come. Two years ago, in a far flatter opening time trial in the Dauphine, he beat Contador into second.
“It was only a four-kilometre prologue, but that was really tough. There were gradients of 20 per cent, and I was running out of legs and just squeezing every bit out for the line,” he told reporters after the stage.
“I’m happy with the numbers and the feelings I had on the bike. I’m in good shape but I’ve still got some work to do, and we’re a month out from the Tour still. I’m glad that’s out of the way.”
Froome’s decision to set off early was matched by Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), while the majority of the overall contenders waited patiently at the foot of the climb.
“I had a look at the weather and in the last few days, it’s been raining in the afternoons here. Also, I just thought it would be easier to just get up and race, rather than wait all day. It also gives me a bit more recovery for tomorrow.”
“It’s been very different to last year, much slower of an approach this year and I’m hoping that it will bring me to the third week of the Tour in better shape than in previous years.”