When your last time trial is almost a year ago, you need to seize every opportunity to race against the clock with both hands. During Wednesday's stage 4 of the Criterium du Dauphine, that's exactly what Chris Froome (Team Ineos) is prepared to do.
Usually, at the end of each stage or race, Froome warms down on the rollers before offering a customary nod to the gathered reporters as a way of inviting a mix of questions and summary of his daily undertakings. At the end of stage 3 in Riom, there was no nod, no questions, but Froome already hinted to Cyclingnews earlier in the week as to his intentions for the 26.1km time trial and the first real bonafide test between the genuine contenders at this year's race.
"It's going to be a big test. It's one of the main reasons that I'm here, to be able to a stage like that," he told Cyclingnews.
The stage 4 time trial around the town of Roanne has four pillars of significance for Froome. Firstly, it's a key indicator as to where he and is rivals sit in terms of form. Secondly, it will create the gaps that will determine how the rest of the Dauphine will unfold. Thirdly, this is Froome's first individual time trial since the Tour de France last year, and his only solo test before this year's Grand Depart. It is, therefore, a chance to iron out any flaws in strategy and decide on any last-minute commitments over kit. Finally, the course around Roanne bears similarities with the key time trial that will come towards the end of this year's Tour de France in Pau.
"Like any TT, it's about the experience, and like you said, it's very similar to the time trial we'll be looking at during the Tour. It should be an important little test."
Froome could even be in yellow when the time trial concludes. He currently sits eighth overall, 24 seconds down on current leader Dylan Teuns (Bahrain Merida), and only Jakob Fuglsang ahead of him in terms of true overall contenders. A strong performance at this stage of the season is the most important goal but a win and a yellow jersey in a race Froome has already won three times would never be sniffed at.
More to come…
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