Chris Froome (Team Sky) all but conceded victory to Richie Porte (BMC) in this year's Criterium du Dauphine after the Australian dropped him at the summit of Alpe d'Huez to extend his lead in the race with one stage to go. Froome was unable to follow when Porte, Fabio Aru and Alberto Contador lifted the pace in the closing stages of a gripping day's racing, and although the Team Sky leader only lost 23 seconds to his main rival, he now sits second overall, 1:02 off Porte's yellow jersey.
"Failing any massive drama out on the road tomorrow I think Richie has got this one wrapped up. I think he's worked incredibly hard and he's in fantastic condition. He deserves it. I'm happy for him," Froome told Cyclingnews at the finish of stage 7.
"It's going to be very hard," he added when asked if the overall win was out of reach. "As I said earlier in the week Richie is in amazing form. He's time trialling and climbing amazingly well so failing any big drama tomorrow he'll have this one fairly wrapped up."
Froome has not yet reached his peak form, and was convincingly beaten into seventh place by Porte on the stage 4 time trial. Stage 6 saw the three-time Tour de France winner rally as he and Porte made the winning move alongside stage winner Jakob Fuglsang on the Mont du Chat. However, the slopes of the Col de Sarenne and the final ascent of Alpe d'Huez saw Porte once again display his current dominance with another sterling ride.
With the Tour de France less than three weeks away, Porte is the benchmark for all his rivals. Yet while Froome was put in difficulty towards the end of the stage, his teammate Peter Kennaugh secured the stage win for Team Sky after making it into the early break and then dropping Ben Swift on the final ascent.
"That was an amazing win for Pete. That was a killer day to be in the break for him and it was a big victory for the team. For me personally it was a tough day backing up after yesterday. I struggled a little bit in the final and lost a bit of time to the main GC guys. I paid for it on the last climb. I just didn't have the legs," Froome said.
Froome lost 23 seconds to Fuglsang after the Dane was able to pull away with Porte on the final slopes, and the gap between the pair has now narrowed in the overall standings to just 13 seconds. Froome did not come to the Dauphine to finish second, but he is also here to test and improve his form ahead of the Tour de France. With one more day – arguably the hardest – remaining in the race, it's unclear how Froome's body will respond after Saturday's action. He certainly wasn't giving anything away when asked if he would try for a stage win at Plateau de Solaison.
"Let's see. It's going to be a very different kind of stage. Just over 100 kilometres but basically up and down all day with 4,000 metres of climbing. It's going to be a really tough day after a long week. It's going to be very selective I imagine.
"I'm pretty happy with the general feelings. I think that everything is heading in the right direction for me in July. I knew that I had a bit more work to do coming in here but I think that this week of racing has been just what I needed to move me on in terms of getting the race feeling back."
The Dauphine is Froome's final race before the Tour de France, where he will be hoping to win for the fourth time and third straight year in a row.
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