Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo) shrugged off the fact that he dropped outside the top 10 on GC on the final day of the Criterium du Dauphine, instead choosing to focus on the belief that the race was merely preparation for the Tour de France.
Contador insisted throughout the Dauphine that he would not go into the red during the race and that riding at his own tempo – whether in the time trial or the mountains – was key to his Tour de France ambitions. He explained, almost daily, that in previous editions of the Dauphine he had gone too deep and that his Tour condition had suffered as a result.
On the final stage on Sunday the Spaniard raised the tempo just once – when race leader Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was dropped on the penultimate climb. However, on the final ascent to Plateau de Solaison Contador sat up when a group of favourites that included, eventual stage and overall winner, Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) increased the pace. When Contador eased off, he watched as several potential Tour de France rivals overtook him. At one point he even waved Porte through, clearly not concerned with the result. Contador eventually finished the stage 4:10 down on Fuglsang, leaving him 11th overall.
"There were a lot of attacks from the start, and it was very hard. It was a beautiful day and really hot. I followed a few moments and went to the front when Richie was dropped but when we hit the final climb it was a very hard tempo, and in those moments I felt big pains in my legs," Contador explained at the finish.
Contador's Dauphine provided a contrast to his earlier season performances, where in races such as Paris-Nice, he was constantly on the offensive. Only time will tell if this new approach will suit the Trek Segafredo rider, but his camp is quietly confident that the 34-year-old is on track to challenge for his third Tour title in July, even if there is work to be done.
"I preferred to take my own tempo and decided to save my legs. The most important thing is that I've finished this race really fresh. In the last few years, I've finished tired, empty. I think that I can now recover well in the next three days and then start my preparation again. I know that I need to work on my intensity, but at the moment it's perfect. It's not about the GC here.
"I'm happy ahead of the Tour de France. Not many guys win the Dauphine and then win the Tour, but the condition is good. For me, it was better to go behind the leaders and in my own tempo so that I can go better at the Tour de France."
Click here to subscribe to the Cyclingnews Podcast.