A victorious display on the second stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné from Chris Froome ensured that the Team Sky leader extended his lead over Tinkoff-Saxo's Alberto Contador to 12 seconds. The British rider attacked several times on the final climb of the Col du Béal, and showed some of his best form to date this year, however, he was unable to drop his Spanish rival. He was able to hold him off on the line and take back-to-back stages wins but it was a mixed day for Froome and his team.
The British squad marshalled the peloton for the majority of the stage and expectedly set the pace on the climb to the finish. Contador, however, was a match for each of Froome’s race-splitting attacks and although the Tinkoff rider failed or was unwilling to attack, he is certainly closer to Froome than he was at this stage twelve months ago.
On top of that Team Sky also saw Richie Porte crack earlier than they would have liked, although Nicolas Portal was quick to play down the significance of the Australian’s performance.
“I don’t know about Richie,” Portal told Cyclingnews.
“We heard on the radio that he didn’t feel good but we’re disappointed for him as we know he has been good in the last few weeks. Maybe it’s something to do with the hot weather but let's wait and see but sometimes in sport this happens.”
As for Froome, he remains in control, and fended off attacks from Belkin's Wilco Kelderman and Garmin's Andrew Talansky before claiming his stage win.
“Chris is still not at 100 per cent. He still has some training to do before the Tour and some improvements to make but today was really special with hot weather. When you see half the bunch getting dropped so early on the climb with an average gradient of around four per cent you know it’s a really tough day.”
“The team are really happy because we took control today and the team deserved the stage win. Chris did nearly all the work, either attacking or riding on the front and he deserved the win.”
Froome paid tribute to his team after the stage. Although there was no winner’s press conference the team posted the stage winner’s thoughts on their official site.
“It was a really, really tough day today but the team did a really big job. It was hot out there, you could see a lot of the guys salting up, I think this is the first real hot day we’ve had this year in these kind of conditions, but the team did a really good job, so I’m really happy to be able to get the stage victory to be able to say thank you to them,” Froome said.
“It’s shaping up to be a really exciting race, when [Mikel] Nieve pulled off I thought ‘ok’, this is the first time I’ve done a mountaintop finish against my biggest rivals in a really long time now so let’s open things up and let’s see where everyone’s at and it seemed that Alberto came after me. He was able to hold my wheel, I wouldn’t say easily but I couldn’t shake him and it’s interesting to see a few other guys jumping around, Talansky, Kelderman, they put in a few good attacks there.
“I think in the final, Alberto and I coming up to the line, I think both of us were going as hard as we could. I like to think if he’d had any more he would have come around me but he’s definitely in really good condition.”
Portal admitted that Contador had looked strong and hinted that the Spaniard may try and go on the attack later in the race when the steeper climbs feature.
“Alberto was good. All I saw was that he was on Froome’s wheel and that’s probably because he was on his limit but there wasn’t a big difference. When the roads get steeper maybe we will see Alberto try something but he was strong,” Portal added.