The first words Alberto Contador uttered when he crossed the line on stage 6 of the Critérium du Dauphiné at Meribel were somewhat tongue in cheek given the major efforts he made to crack Chris Froome (Team Sky), but they also gave a clear indication that he is not yet at his peak.
As he warmed down on the rollers and turned to his entourage, he simply smiled and offered, 'good training, no?'
Certainly, Contador gave a better account of himself than he did on the previous stage, even if Froome once again got the better of him and he slipped from third to fifth on GC. But for a rider with Contador's palmares, second to fifth in the Dauphine are almost one and the same. After he realised that Froome was too good on stage 5, Contador's attention turned to doing what he often does best when his back is against a wall – causing mayhem.
He pushed teammates up the road in the early break and then, although Sky were aware of the threat, attacked on the Col de la Madeleine. Had Sky not brought the Spaniard to heel the race could have been turned on its head but the British team's strength in depth saved the day.
"It was good because we climbed a lot today and I needed that for my body," Contador said as he warmed down.
"You know, I'm going okay but I continue to need that extra speed in my legs and I'll get that after the Dauphine with a bit more training.
"On the Madeleine I just wanted to put some pressure on other teams and the feelings that I got were good. Day by day I'm getting better and I have confidence because in the other years when I'm here and finishing high up I go well in the Tour. I still think I'm going to have a good Tour de France."
Contador's opportunism did not pay off and he was unable to follow Dan Martin and Froome when they went clear near the end of the stage but according to the Spaniard he saw enough during the stage to take confidence for the future.
"I needed to attack Team Sky. They have a strong team. Okay I was at my limit there at the top and they saved the day in the final but everyone has a bad day now and then, and if you don't try then you never know. Look at today, Richie had a bad day. Okay he was there until the last moment but with each day is harder and now I'll just recover."
With one more stage to come in the mountains Contador has one more attempt to crack Froome. He is unlikely to beat him in a head-to-head duel and so another long break could be on the cards.
"Tomorrow I'll give it the maximum and if I see a good moment then I will try. Froome had a hard day. We put him at the limit. I saw good things today."
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